What is a Trifecta and How To Bet It?

You might have asked yourself, what is a trifecta? In short, it’s one of the most popular, lucrative, and exciting horse racing wagers. This bet is considered one of the “exotic” wagers. These also include other more complex bets such as the Superfecta and Pick 5.

The major reason the Trifecta bet is so popular is due to its potential for a big payout. For the 2016 Belmont Stakes, a correct $2 Trifecta wager brought back $2,751.


A Trifecta bet requires the bettor to correctly select the first-, second-, and third-place finishers of a race in the exact order. The minimum bet for a Trifecta is usually $0.50 or $1. The wager is available for almost all horse racing events throughout the world.

The potential winnings for Trifecta bets are big, with the amount being determined by the pari-mutuel system. This means that all winning tickets receive a divided portion of the money collected. Now that you know what is a Trifecta, let’s look at how to bet them.

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How to place a Trifecta Bet

First, you want to find a race with runners with higher odds that could place in the top three positions. This will result in a bigger payout. Betting on three horses with very low odds means the payout will be fairly small, no matter the result. The best-case scenario is for horses with higher odds to finish first and second, while the favorite takes third.

You will then fill out the bet slip. This can be online with a top online racebook or at the track. You’ll select finishers for the first, second, and third spots. 

This is also when you will decide the amount to wager. The higher you wager, the bigger the payout potential. 

When you are placing a Trifecta bet, there will also be the option to box the wager. By boxing a Trifecta bet, you still need to select the first three finishers. 

But, they can finish in any combination. Because of this, you are also able to select more than three runners. 

For example, a boxed Trifecta with three selections is a total of six bets. If you make four selections, it’s 24 bets. Five selections is 60 bets, and so on. 

The downside to boxing a Trifecta is that the cost of the bet will rise. So, that $1 Box with three horses would cost $6. Accordingly, four horses would cost $24, and five horses would cost $60. 

Trifecta Key Box

There is still one more option, and that is a Trifecta Key Box. This Key Box allows you to focus on one selection, which is the “key.” You can combine it with other “non-key” horses in a box bet. 

This wager is often used when there is one specific horse that you like, like at the Kentucky Derby for example. It allows for more options while keeping the price of the bet low compared to boxing all selections.

For example, you can place a $1 Trifecta Key Box on 1/2, 4, 5, 9. This wager would cost $18. 

The 1 is the “key” and is required to finish in the first three positions. The other two positions must be filled by the 2, 4, 5, or 9. 

As you can see, this type bet can be played many different ways. What is a Trifecta is a great question to ask when starting to bet the horse. It can be a straight bet, boxed bet, or the Trifecta Key Box. No matter which you choose, it is one of the most exciting wagering options available in horse racing.