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Learn to play trifectas

Superfecta betting in horse racing, using superfecta boxes and wheels as a betting strategy. How to figure the cost of superfecta bets, how to identify races to play the superfecta, and a system for betting superfectas.

How to bet superfectas
The 2 in 2 out Superfecta Betting System

Handicapping Data for betting Superfectas

The Superfecta is a bet made in horse racing to pick the first, second, third and fourth place horses in a race.  The winning superfecta bet will pay more than the exacta or trifecta due to the increased difficulty of correctly picking the horses. In a typical 8 horse race, there are going to be 57 possible exacta combinations, 336 possible trifecta combinations and 1,680 possible superfecta combinations. When you look at a race with a very large field like the Kentucky Derby which usually has 20 runners, you are looking at 116,280 possible superfecta outcomes! As a handicapper you know that it is hard enough to pick a winner, when you have to pick them 1,2,3,4 you realize just how difficult hitting a superfecta can be and why the payouts can be so large. Some recent $2 superfecta payouts for the Kentucky Derby illustrate the point: 2012 ($96,092.80), 2011 ($48,126) 2010 ($202,569.20). On the flip side in a small field of 6 with the 4 favorites hitting the board, the superfecta might pay only $60 for a $2 wager.

Superfecta payouts on big racing days like the Kentucky Derby or Breeders' Cup can look like lottery or slot machine jackpot payouts. The difference of course is that horse racing is not random. You can handicap a horse race and determine which horses have a better chance of winning. You cannot determine which lottery ball will come up or which slot machine is going to pay.

Types of superfecta bets
There are 3 main types of superfecta bets. Straight, box, and wheel. A straight superfecta is extremely difficult to hit and requires a single bet in which you pick the exact order of finish. A 1,2,4,7 straight superfecta is a winner when horse #1 finishes first, horse #2 finishes 2nd, horse #3 finishes 3rd and horse #7 finishes 4th. If the outcome were 2,1,4,7 your ticket would be real close, but it would still be a loser and return nothing. If you boxed the four horses (1,2,4,7) they could come in in any order and you would be a winner. A $2, 4 horse superfecta box will cost $48 since there are 24 combinations at $2 per bet. If you add another horse to your box (1,2,4,7,9) your coverage increases. Any combination of those 5 horses in 1st through 4th will be a winner, but your cost goes up too. A $2, 5 horse superfecta box will cost $240 (120 combinations at $2 per bet). Refer to the table below to see the costs of superfecta boxes or use the wager calculator to figure them out.

Cost of Superfecta Boxes  - Superfecta Calculator
Number of Horses $.10 Box
$1 Box
$2 Box

Most race tracks now offer the dime superfecta, that costs only 10 cents to play. This allows you to cover a lot of horses for relatively little money but you are going to win only 5% of the $2 superfecta payout. A $1 dollar superfecta bet will get you half of the $2 payout. As you can se from the table, boxing superfectas gets very expensive very quickly. The superfecta box is is not the best way to play the superfecta if you are looking to make money. As a handicapper, you have to realize that most players are probably going to include the 2 or 3 top betting choices in their 4 horse superfecta box. If it hits, the superfecta pool is going to be divided up among several winning tickets and result in a small payout. The big paydays occur when you include a longshot or two in your wager, and hold one of the few winning tickets on that race. The way to accomplish more coverage with a better chance at a big win is through using the superfecta wheel.

Superfecta Wheel
In a superfecta wheel bet, you are keying one or more horses to finish 1st with a group of other horses. Let's say that you have handicapped the race and feel that horse #2 is certain to win. You also think that horses 1,4,7 & 8 are the only ones with a chance to run 2nd, 3rd and 4th. You would construct a superfecta wheel that would look like this:

Superfecta wheel: 2 / 1,4,7,8 / 1,4,7,8 / 1,4,7,8

The bet above would cost $24 for a $1 bet, and allows you to cover 5 horses in your ticket. The#2 horse has to win the race, but you have 4 horses that could fill out the remaining 3 spots to make your ticket a winner. Normally you would also key your top choice in 2nd place (1,4,7,8/ 2 /1,4,7,8 / 1,4,7,8) in case he ran 2nd. Using a superfecta wheel allows for greater coverage at a reduced cost when compared to boxes, but requires your "key" horse to hit the board in the spot in which you keyed him.

In a part wheel you would key 2 or more horses in a spot with other likely contenders. For example:

Superfecta part wheel:
1,4 / 1,4 / 5,6,7,8 / 5,6,7,8

The above bet would be made if you think that horses 1 & 4 will run 1st or 2nd, and the 3rd and 4th place spots would be filled by horses from the 5,6,7,8 group. This type of bet would be made if you think there are 2 standout horses and are somewhat unsure of the rest of the field. This bet would cost $24 for a $1 bet since there are 24 betting combinations.

2 in 2 out Superfecta Betting System
Given that superfectas are so hard to hit, even for the most experienced handicappers with deep pockets, it is critical that you only bet superfectas in races where you have a very strong opinion about which horses are contenders and which horses are not. In this discussion we will be relying on data created by BetMix, which ranks horses based on over 30 handicapping factors. It is not necessary to use that system in order to follow this method, but you do need to use some reliable method to handicap horses from best to worst. In superfecta betting, knowing which horses do not have a chance is as important as knowing which ones do.

The 2 in 2 out system works when you are handicapping a race in which you can clearly identify 2 very strong contenders and 2 very weak contenders. In a typical 8 horse field, if you can find 2 in and 2 out, you will be able to construct an affordable superfecta wager that will give you an opportunity to make a profitable bet.

Using data from BetMix.com
  1     3 100.00  
  2     2 96.08  
  3     4 79.72  
  4     7 74.12  
  5     5 63.11  
  6     6 60.35  
  7     8 40.87  
  8     1 39.11  

In the above example we can see from the data that 2 horses are clear standouts from a Speed/Class perspective. Horses 3 & 2 have rankings that are at least 10 points higher than the 3rd place horse, and the bottom 2 horses in the ranks (8 &1) are clearly inferior to the rest of the field as they are nearly a full 20 points below our 6th ranked horse. This race is a perfect example of the 2 in 2 out superfecta method since we have two very strong win candidates and 2 horses that appear to be hopelessly overmatched. In this scenario we would construct our Superfecta tickets using part wheels in this way:

Ticket 1: 3,2 / 3,2 / 4,7,5,6 / 4,7,5,6 - $1 superfecta ticket cost $24.00
Ticket 2: 3,2 / 4,7,5,6 / 3,2 / 4,7,5,6 - $1 superfecta ticket cost $24.00

We constructed the ticket to take advantage of the superior numbers earned by horses 3 & 2, and used the 2nd tier horses (4,7,5,6) to fill out the rest of the ticket. The actual outcome of this race was 3,6,2,7. The 3 ran as expected and won, while the 2 was passed late by the 6 horse. The outcome was good since the 3 & 2 were the shortest price horses in the field and the 2 was the 5th betting choice. The $1 superfecta paid $560 for a $2 bet, so our $1 ticket earned $280. Our total bet was $48 so the profit was $232. In this superfecta system you are looking for 2 standout horses who are at least 10 points better than the rest of the field, as well as two horses you can toss who are at least 15 points worse than the rest of the field.

Most races will not be as clearly defined as the one above and will have a tighter spread. This can be good from a betting perspective and allow you to still wager as long as the odds are favorable. Consider the following race, which also uses data easily generated at Betmix.com.

Using data from BetMix.com
  1     8 85.56
  2     6 82.08
  3     1 79.80
  4     7 78.12
  5     5 75.11
  6     3 73.35
  7     4 72.33
  8     2 70.21

The final numbers for the race indicate that it is too close to call from a handicapping perspective, and should probably be passed. However, races like this often produce some of the biggest superfecta payouts. No horse is a standout and no horse is a toss. In this case we have included the actual odds for the contenders in the final column. Note that horse #1 who is ranked 3rd in the system has odds of 13:1 and is the longest shot on the board. He has a chance! To take advantage of his high odds we would want to construct a bet using him as a key horse. In this adaptation of the 2 in 2 out system we are going to use the two horses with the highest odds from the top half of the rankings as our "2 in" horses, and toss out the two horses with the lowest odds from the bottom half of the rankings as our "2 out" horses. It is risky to bet a race in which the horses are so evenly matched, but if the odds suggest you have a potential bomb scenario, you might feel it is worth the risk.

Using the two horses with the highest odds from the top half of the rankings (6 & 1) and the two horses with the lowest odds from the bottom half of the rankings (5 & 3).

Our ticket would look like this:

Ticket 1: 6,1 / 6,1 / 2,4,7,8 / 2,4,7,8 - $1 superfecta ticket cost $24.00
Ticket 2:
6,1 / 2,4,7,8 / 6,1 / 2,4,7,8 - $1 superfecta ticket cost $24.00
Ticket 3: 6,1 / 2,4,7,8 / 2,4,7,8 /
6,1 - $1 superfecta ticket cost $24.00
Ticket 4: 2,4,7,8 /
6,1 / 6,1 / 2,4,7,8 - $1 superfecta ticket cost $24.00

We're adding 2 more tickets since the race is so unpredictable and we want to make sure that we extend our coverage using the longshots in an evenly matched race. We have our "2 in" horses in 1st and 2nd in the first ticket, 1st and 3rd in the 2nd ticket, 1st and 4th in the 3rd ticket, and 2nd & 3rd in the 4th ticket.

The actual race result was 6,7,1,4. The two favorites ran out of the superfecta resulting in a very nice $1,450 pay off with the longest shot on the board, the 1 horse, running 3rd.

2 in 2 out Superfecta System rules:

1. The 2 key "in horses" will be the 2 horses that are at least 10 points better than the 3rd ranked horse.
2. The 2 "out horses" will be the 2 lowest ranked horses who are at least 15 points worse than the rest of the field.
3. Pass races in which you do not have clearly defined "In" and "Out" horses, UNLESS:

"2 in 2 out" longshot scenarios:
1. One of your top 3 selections must have the highest odds in the field.
2. The point difference between the highest ranked horse and the worst ranked horse cannot be greater than 25 points.
3. If the above conditions are true, your "2 In" horses will be the two horses with the highest odds among the first half of the field ( in races with an odd number of horses, for example 9, use horses 1-4 as the top half and 5-9 as the bottom half).
4. The "2 Out" horses will be the two horses with the lowest odds among the bottom half of the field.


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