A show bet in horse racing is one of the lowest-risk ways to make wagers in horse racing, making it a popular bet for newcomers. If your horse finishes first, second, or third, your show bet is a winner.
While the payout is usually lower, betting a horse to show gives you more opportunities to cash a wager since your horse only needs to finish anywhere in the top three. Show betting is one way to get down some action on the Belmont Stakes this weekend.
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Show Betting: An Overview for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes
A show bet is one of the traditional basic wagers in horse betting, the other two being a win bet (where you pick a horse to finish first) and a place wager (where you bet a horse to finish either first or second). You can pair all three wagers together and make a bet “across the board” which means you bet a horse to win, place, and show. If the horse wins, the bettor collects all three payouts. If the horse is second, you win place and show money. If third, you collect the show money alone.
If your horse finishes outside the top three, you do not win. In horse racing, though, you always get another shot to hit a bet!
What is the Minimum I Need to Wager for a Show Bet?
Typically, the minimum amount you need to bet at most tracks is $2. Some tracks offer lower minimums, but most of those involve more exotic wagers like 50-cent Trifectas or a $1 Exacta Box.
When is a Show Bet a Good Idea?
In addition to being a low-risk way to place a wager, a show bet can be a good option if you like a horse that is a longshot on the odds board — meaning they are not considered among the favorites to win the race — but you have confidence that race circumstances and their running style may allow them to finish in that top three.
A show bet can also offer a bettor a way to earn more money in a race when there is a horse in the race that is considered an overwhelming favorite on paper and, thus, offers very little in the way of value. For instance, when American Pharoah completed his Triple Crown sweep in the 2015 Belmont Stakes, he paid just $3.50 to win. If you had a show wager on the race’s third-place finisher Keen Ice you would have collected $4.60 on your $2 investment.
Show Betting in the Belmont Stakes
While betting favorites have won at a 42.86% clip in 154 editions of the Belmont Stakes, the 12-furlong classic has provided good value overall in recent years.
Since 2010, nine of the third-place finishers in the Belmont Stake have gone off at double-digit odds and only one show finisher in that span – Orb in 2013 – going off shorter than 5-to-1. The 2014 Belmont Stakes was especially profitable for show bettors as the presence of heavy favorite California Chrome allowed the top three finishers to all go off at odds of 9-to-1 or higher. If you had placed a show bet that day on race winner Tonalist ($7 to show), runner-up Commissioner ($13.20), and third-place finisher Medal Count ($13.20), you would have cashed for $33.40 total.
In 2012 when favorite Union Rags prevailed, he paid out a respectable $7.50 to win on a $2 wager. Still, a show wager on third-place finisher Atigun would have boasted the best return as the 20-to-1 shot paid $10.60 for his efforts that day. Similarly, when Justify became the 13th Triple Crown winner in annexing the 2018 Belmont Stakes, he paid $3.60 to win while a show bet on runner-up Gronkowski yielded $7.
When Should You Not Use a Show Bet?
Because show bets offer the best probability of cashing, they offer the lowest payouts. Hence, 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 third place may only yield a few dimes of profit.
In the 2021 Belmont Stakes, the top three finishers in Essential Quality, Hot Rod Charlie, and Rombauer represented three of the top four betting choices in the eight-horse field. None of them paid more than $3.50 to show.
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