The “sure thing,” but as you’ve likely heard, there is no such situation in horse racing.
The correct answer is that there is no single best bet in racing. Wagering is an expression of your personality and how you approach the sport. Some players love going deep on individual races by playing exactas trifectas and superfectas, which require picking either the top two, top three or top four finishers. Others love multi-race bets like the Pick 3 or Pick 6. Still other say that betting to “win” is where it’s at.
That said, when you’re considering making a bet, you should know the takeout – the amount that the track withholds from the total amount wagered to pay its overhead. Betting to win, place or show generally are advantageous in this regard, as the takeout generally ranges from 15-20 percent whereas multiple-leg and vertical wagers can have takeouts of 25 percent or higher.
The tracks often aren’t always forthcoming with this information, though you can usually unearth it on the website of the state horse racing board that oversees that track. The best one-stop shop for this information is the Horseplayers Association of North America (horseplayersassociation.org), which lists takeout for individual bets on its “Track Ratings” list.
Another good piece of advice is to check the “will pays” for various bets to look for advantageous opportunities. The tracks generally flash payoffs for exactas and multi-race wagers entering the final leg. For example, the payoffs for a $1 Pick 4 are shown after three races have been run, at which time the track knows how many live tickets remain for each interest in the final race. You can also access this information on the websites of most advance deposit wagering (ADW) providers.