How to Box an Exacta in Horse Racing

Horse Racing

Bob Thomas/Getty Images

When it comes to betting on horse racing, boxing an exacta can be an easy way to add some strategy to your bets. The exacta requires you to select the first two finishers in order. Boxing lets your selections come in any order and still win. The exacta usually offers higher payoffs than win, place, or show wagers, but less than the trifecta, superfecta, high-5, or multi-race bets involving 3 or more races.

Note that some tracks may still call it the Perfecta. Canadian tracks call it the Exactor (short for "exact order"), while in foreign countries it may be called the straight forecast.

Here's How

  1. Select the horses that you think have the best chance to finish in the top 2 positions
  2. Go to the betting window and tell the clerk which track and race you wish to bet on
  3. Tell the clerk you'd like exacta box 1, 2, 3 (or whichever horses you selected). Most tracks have a minimum price for exactas.
  4. Make sure your ticket is correct before you leave the window.
  5. Take your ticket and watch and cheer for your selections.


  1. The more horses you put in your box, the better chance you have of cashing your ticket, but your ticket will also be more expensive.
  2. A dollar is generally the minimum wager on an exacta box but some tracks still require a two dollar or more minimum. You can always wager a larger amount if you like.
  3. For value, you do not want a result where the winning exacta involves the favorite and the second choice. This combination is always overbet.  You need a mid to long shot, preferably on top, to make the investment in the box worthwhile. If your handicapping of a given race gives you an odds on choice winning with the second choice on the bottom, the exacta box represents very poor value indeed.  Find longshots that could sneak in and find a way to eliminate one of your short priced selections, or pass the race. In this age of simulcasting, you have hundreds of races available every day that you can bet on.
  4. If you can narrow a large field, like the 20-horse Kentucky Derby or 24-horse Melbourne Cup, down to 3 contenders with confidence that two of them will finish 1-2, this is where the exacta box is a recommended play. You might also make additional bets, perhaps in the Trifecta pool, to try to "amplify" your potential winnings if you handicapped it correctly, or place a "saver" win wager on your top choice (preferably not a favorite) so you are still cashing if your top pick finishes on top but your other horses don't show up.