Triple Crown 2018: What are trifectas and superfectas?

LEXINGTON, KY - APRIL 14: My Boy Jack /

‘Trifecta’ and ‘superfecta’ are terms for the most complicated and lucrative types of bets that you can make on horse races, but what exactly are they?

There are two major ways to make a lot of money betting on horse races. One is to (correctly) pick a long shot to win a race. That is a bit more complicated in big races such as those in the Triple Crown. These horses are so closely watched, and all have fairly well-known reputations that there is no such thing as a true unknown in a race like the Kentucky Derby.

However, there are two factors with Triple Crown races that are hard to predict, and correctly figuring that out could lead to favorable betting circumstances. The first is the atmosphere. All of the horses in the Derby field are young (three years old to be exact) they won’t even mature physically for another year or two (or three or four). And anyone who has been around children/adolescents/young adults can tell you that physical maturity usually comes before emotional maturity.

Horses are no different, and none of these youngsters will have seen anything like the atmosphere or the pressure that goes along with Derby Day. They are also super highly trained athletes, essentially programmed to be explosive and highly strung. Now, some horses can deal with that activity, and some cannot. They are as individual as humans are. And this will impact the amount of focus and energy they can put into the race.

The other way is to use the more complicated betting pools: exacta, trifecta, and superfecta. The EXACTA pool predicts the top two finishers in the race, and the order in which they finish. The TRIFECTA does that with the top three, and the SUPERFECTA with the top 4. As you can imagine, those betting tickets get harder and harder to predict as you go down, and thus more and more rewarding.

An Example

To see what a trifecta or superfecta can do, let’s take a look at last year’s Derby ticket.

The Derby winner was favorite Always Dreaming. He paid out $11.40 on a $2 bet to win

Second was Lookin at Lee, who paid $26.60 to place (come in second)

Third was Battle of Midway, who paid $20.80 to show (third)

Those seem ok, but it could be much better. The exacta paid $336.20 for a $2 bet, and the trifecta a whopping $8,297.20 on a $1 bet. And you’d be set for a while with the superfecta, which paid out over $75,000 per dollar bet.

Next: 20 short stories about the 2018 Kentucky Derby horses

For more from the Triple Crown, starting with the Kentucky Derby, make sure to follow FanSided and stay tuned to our horse racing hub for all the latest news and results.