A place bet in horse racing is one of the simplest wagers to make, as you are picking a horse you think will finish either first or second in the race. Betting a horse to place offers more flexibility and opportunity to cash than placing a win bet, which pays out only if a horse finishes first, something to keep in mind as you place your bets for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes.
The odds will not pay out as much as a win bet, but place betting is an easier way for new bettors to cash a ticket and celebrate.
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Place Betting: An Overview Ahead of Saturday’s Preakness Stakes
A place bet is one of the traditional basic wagers in horse betting, the others being a win bet and a show wager, where you bet a horse to finish anywhere in the top three.
You can pair all three wagers together and make a bet “across the board”, which means you bet on a horse to win, place, and show (essentially, you are making three separate bets). If the horse wins, the bettor collects all three payouts. If the horse finishes second, you collect place and show money, and if third, you collect the show money alone.
If your horse finishes outside the top three, you do not win, but there’s always another race!
How Do I Make a Place Bet in Horse Racing?
Whether you are betting at the track or through a mobile app, the basics of making a wager are the same. First, you choose the track and race you want to place a wager on. Then, you check the program number of the horse you want to bet on. Next, select the dollar amount you want to bet and the type of wager you want to make.
For example, if you wanted to make a place bet on race-favorite Mage in the Preakness Stakes, you would bet Race 13 at Pimlico Race Course and wager $2 to place on No. 3.
At the track, say to the teller, “$2 to place on number 3.”
Typically, the minimum amount you need to bet at most tracks is $2. Some tracks offer wagers less than that, but most of those involve getting more exotic wagers like 50-cent Trifectas or a $1 Exacta Box.
When is a Place Bet a Good Idea?
Because your horse does not have to win in order to cash, making a place bet can be a lower-risk way to wager while still being profitable. It is a good wager if you like a horse that is not considered among the favorites to win the race but still has a good chance to be in the top two.
A place bet can also offer a bettor a way to earn more money in a race when there is a horse that is considered a heavy favorite and offers little value even if they win. In the 2015 Preakness Stakes, eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah was an overwhelming favorite and only paid $3.80 to win. Tale of Verve, the horse who finished second in the race, went off at 28-to–1 odds and paid $19 for place alone, more than what American Pharoah paid out for win, place, and show combined.
Place Bet: A Preakness Stakes Example
One of the most profitable editions of the Preakness Stakes in regards to Place Betting came in 2008 when Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown was bet down to 1-to-5 odds.
When he prevailed that day, Big Brown returned $2.40 to win as the lowest-priced winner since Spectacular Bid paid $2.10 in 1979. Those who had place money on runner-up Macho Again at odds of 39-to-1 were also celebrating as he returned $17.20 and $10.40 for place and show.
The 2019 Preakness Stakes was another that gave Place Bettors ample rewards. While race winner War of Will paid $14.20 for the victory, a place bet on him would have returned nearly as much profit as he paid $7.40 and $5.40 for place and show. When runner-up Everfast nosed out Owendale to get second at 29-to-1 odds, those who backed the long shot with a Place Bet were the real winners as Everfast returned $32 and $14.40.
When is a Place Bet Not Worth It?
If you have a horse who is already considered a very short price on the odds board — such as a 1-to-9 favorite — betting it for place may yield only a meager profit.
When eventual Triple Crown winner Justify won the 2018 Preakness Stakes, he paid just $2.80 for place and $2.60 to show. On that day, the better bet would have been to put a couple dollars on 15-to-1 shot Bravazo as he got his neck down for second-place honors, returning $7.60 and $4.80.
For Pimlico Race Course on Friday: Black-Eyed Susan 2023 betting guide