How to bet vertical wagers at the Breeders’ Cup

Profile Picture: Keeler Johnson

October 28th, 2019

Multi-races wagers might be among the most popular betting options at the Breeders’ Cup, but if you have a strong opinion about the probable outcome of a single race, "vertical" wagers are the way to go.

What are vertical wagers? The term is a catch-all description for exotic bets like the exacta, trifecta and superfecta, which are based on the outcome of a single race. Successfully pick the top two, three or four finishers in a race, and you’ve cashed a vertical wager.

Strategies abound for playing vertical wagers. The right approach for one race could be the wrong approach for another—it depends on the horses involved and your opinion of the probable outcome.

If you’re just getting started and feel confused by terms like “exacta box” and “trifecta part-wheel,” BetAmerica has you covered. Our step-by-step guide to building exacta tickets is a good place to start, and if you want to dive deeper into the fundamentals of wagering strategies, our "How to bet the exacta" and "How to bet the trifecta" guides will jumpstart your learning process. We even tell you why hitting the “all button” can be a viable strategy in some cases.

Vertical wagers can be a great way to boost the payoff generated by a winning favorite. When European superstar Goldikova won her third consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) in 2010, the typical $2 win bet returned $4.60—hardly worth playing. But if you keyed Goldikova on top in the $2 superfecta and correctly identified the second-, third- and fourth-place finishers, you were rewarded with a return of $1,179.20. Now that’s a payoff worth pursuing!

A negative opinion of a short-priced contender can be just as valuable. Consider this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), in which Whitney Stakes (G1) winner McKinzie is the expected favorite. Since he’s just 2-for-6 this season and has never won over 1 1/4 miles, some handicappers consider him a vulnerable favorite. If he finishes out of the money, the payoffs could be huge, in which case playing a trifecta or superfecta excluding McKinzie could be a lucrative strategy if you’re skeptical of his chances.

Need proof? Just look back at 2012 and 2013, when favored Game On Dude finished out of the money in back-to-back editions of the Classic. Even though the results were otherwise perfectly logical (not a single runner starting at 10-1 or higher cracked the top four either year), the $2 trifecta and superfecta payoffs were $613.80 and $3,526.60 in 2012 and $608.80 and $3,832.40 in 2013.

The main takeaway? Don’t be afraid to bet your opinions. Fortune favors the bold. It can be easy to waste your wagering budget covering too many possible outcomes. How many times have bettors said “I love this horse on top, but I’d better play her for second place too,” or “I don’t like the favorite, but I should use him defensively underneath”?

Try to avoid these pitfalls and structure your wagers to reflect your opinions. With a little handicapping skill and a bit of racing luck, you might even make a life-changing score. It’s the Breeders’ Cup, after all, when top-class horses square off in large, competitive fields. Anything can happen.