Betting Horses to Show in Horse Racing

Betting Horses to Show
by Kenneth Strong

When you bet to show your horse must finish first, second or third in order for you to cash a ticket.

The problem with show betting is that while your risk is reduced (you cash a ticket if your horses finishes anywhere in the top three positions), the payoffs are often very small when compared to win or place betting. This is because the show pool (all money wagered to show on a race minus the track takeout) must be divided equally and paid out to the holders of show tickets on the first three finishers in a race.

Additionally, the payoffs on show bets are dependant on which horses finish in the top three positions. If the favorites run out of the top three positions the show payoffs will normally be higher than if the favorites finish in the first three positions.

There are a few situations however, when show betting can be either justified or just plain fun.


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The first situation occurs when a race includes one short-priced favorite and ALL other runners in the race are longshots. In this scenario the favorite will sometimes pay as much to place and show as it does to win.

The second situation in which show betting can offer a good payoff is when you really like a horse to win and you think the favorite or favorites can finish out of the money. In this case you have reduced your risk by betting to show while also having the opportunity for a decent payoff. In this scenario, betting your selection across the board (win, place and show) might also be a reasonable option.

One of the most popular low risk show wagering strategies (and the most fun), is to play a show parlay. Starting with whatever amount you are comfortable with, you play a horse to show. If your horse finishes in the first three, you take all the winnings and bet them back on the next race to show. You’d be surprised how quickly this can add up to a substantial amount.

For example:

In the first race of your parlay you bet a horse to show and it finishes in the top three and returns $3 for a $2 show bet. If you had wagered $10 to show, you would now have $15.

In the second race you bet your $15 to show and your horse finishes in the first three, returning $2.80 for a $2 show wager, and increasing your bankroll to $21 (7.5 * 2.80). You have now doubled your original $10 stake.

In the third race you bet your $21 to show and your horse finishes in the first three and returns $3.60 to show. You now have $37.80 (10.5 * $3.60).

In the fourth race you bet $37 to show and your horse again finishes in the first three. You’re on a roll! This time your horse pays $3 to show for a $2 wager and you have increased your original $10 to $55.50 (18.5 * $3). If you keep going it won’t be long before you have increased your initial stake of $10 to over $100.

The best way to play a show parlay is to set a reasonable goal of how much you want to win and to keep betting the show parlay until you get there. You then start over. If you don’t make it to your goal on the first try, you have only lost $10.

Show parlays are affordable, fun and can be lucrative. They give you action on every race at a very low cost and the closer you get to your monetary goal, the more the tension and excitement builds.

Limited bankroll? Enjoy yourself by betting to show!