How Trifecta Bets Work in Horse Racing

Backing Winners

Trifectas in Horse Racing

A trifecta is a wager that requires the punter to pick the exact finishing order of the top three horses in a race. Trifectas are very popular because they give the punter a chance to turn a small wager into a big payout. Also, these bets can be made on every race, giving bettors multiple chances at five and six figure wins every day.

There are three types of trifecta bets that can be made. These are straight trifectas, trifecta boxes, and trifecta wheels. Each type of trifecta has its time & place, and proper betting strategy is key to making long term profits.

Trifecta payouts are based on the odds of the top three horses. For example, if a longshot wins, followed by two favourites, the payout will be larger than a race where the three favourites take the top 3 spots.

Straight Bets

In a straight trifecta bet, punters can wager as little as £1 or £2 depending on track minimums. In this type of bet, the punter must select three horses to finish in first, second, and third in exact order. If the horses finish in any order different from what you selected, the bet is lost.

Trifecta Box

In a trifecta box, the selected horses can finish in any order as long as they finish in the top three. For example, a trifecta box of 1, 4, 7 could finish in any of the following orders: (1, 4, 7) (1, 7, 4) (4, 1, 7) (4, 7, 1) (7, 1, 4) (7, 4, 1). Depending on the track or racebook, the minimum wager amount will be £1 or £2 per combination. So, the minimum trifecta box will be £6 or £12. Trifecta boxes are popular because they’re simple bets for casual punters to make, but they’re not always the best value.

To make long-term profits with trifectas, punters need to be as efficient as possible, which means eliminating potential winning combinations that provide the least value. In trifecta boxes, punters are paying for six potential winning combinations when they might believe that only 2-5 combinations have a realistic chance of winning. In this case, 1-4 of those combinations are not providing value and costing the punter money. On the bright side, since so many punters bet this way, trifecta prize pools tend to be larger than they would be if everyone knew what they were doing. Sharp punters can take advantage of the larger prize pools because they give their trifecta bets more value.

Trifecta boxes should be utilized when a race clearly favours three horses over the rest of the field, or when the punter likes two of the favourites and one longshot.

Boxes with Multiple Horses

Punters can choose to add multiple horses to a trifecta box ticket, with an additional cost of £1 per possible winning combination. With a fourth horse added to a trifecta box, there are 24 possible winning combinations, making this a £24 minimum bet.

Possible Winning Combinations & Cost

  • 5 Horses: 60 combinations – £60
  • 6 Horses: 120 combinations – £120
  • 7 Horses: 210 combinations – £210
  • 8 Horses: 336 combinations – £336
  • 9 Horses: 504 combinations – £504
  • 10 Horses: 720 combinations – £720


The trifecta wheel allows a punter to be more efficient with their betting because it focuses on a particular horse (or horses), combined with other horses likely to finish somewhere in the top three. Unlike a trifecta box, it doesn’t require the punter to bet on possible outcomes they do not believe will happen.

For example, if you feel strongly that horse #4 is going to win, but unsure about which horses will place & show, you can do a trifecta wheel that allows you to ‘key’ horse #4 to win, then a combination of horses to finish 2nd and 3rd. To simplify this even further, you could select horse #4 to win, and any combination of all the remaining horses in the race to finish 2nd & 3rd. So, this ticket would look like this: #4 – All – All. In this scenario, all you need is horse #4 to win, because it doesn’t matter what the rest of the field does. The best time to do this is when you’re picking a horse other than the favourite (a horse with much greater odds) to win. Another way to do this would be to key your horse in 2nd or 3rd, giving you a ticket that would look like: All – 4 – All, or All – All – 4.

To calculate the number of possible winning combinations (and cost of the wager) in the example above, the math is easier than it first sounds. First, take the number of horses in the race minus one. Then, take the number of horses in the race minus two. Multiply those numbers to get the number of possible winning combinations. To calculate the cost of this wager, multiply that number by the amount of each bet.

Example: 8 horse race.
8 minus 1 = 7
8 minus 2 = 6
7 X 6 = 42 possible winning combinations
£1 trifecta X 42 possible winning combinations = £42
£2 trifecta X 42 possible winning combinations = £84

Selecting the entire field is not the most efficient way to fill the empty selections in your trifecta. Of course, the more horses you can eliminate from the wager, the less the wager will cost you. So, if you’ve identified your key horse to win, then horses 1, 2, 6, 7 to finish in the top three, your ticket would look like this: 4 – 1,2,6,7, – 1,2,6,7.

Yet another way to bet a trifecta wheel is to key two horses. An example of this would be when you like two horses in a race to compete for the win. For this example, let’s assume those are horses 3 & 6. You like horses 1,4,7 to finish third. Your ticket would look like this: 3-6-with 3-6, with 1,4,7. Once again, the best payouts come when you’ve keyed a longshot into the wheel.

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