Jul 8 2013

Boxing Bets – Doesn’t Always Make Sense

In a prior article we introduced Exacta and Trifecta (Triple) wagers as a type of Intra-Race wager.  Click here for a review of that article. Today we’re going to expand on these two wagers and discuss a very common question relating to them.  Should I box my bets?  No doubt, if you’ve been to the track more than once, you’ve witnessed the circumstance where a newbie bets an Exacta of 4-2, only to have the result come in 2-4 … and then get hammered by his/her more experienced friends.

  • Why didn’t you box them?
  • You should have boxed them!
  • What were you thinking?

Well, after reading this article … you can tell your friends that you know a better way!

Boxing horses is just another way of playing multiple wagers on a single ticket.  Let’s say you like the #2 and #4 horse.  Instead of saying $2 exacta 2-4 and $2 exacta 4-2 … you say $2 exacta box 2-4.  In both cases you get 2-4 and 4-2 for $2 each.  Below is a diagram describing some boxing examples and the resulting combinations.  The dollar totals represent the total for $2 wagers.

Boxing Bets Example

The left example (2-Horse Exacta Box) is the one described previously. The middle example shows the possible results if you want to Box three horses for the Exacta.  This results in 6 combinations, at $2 per wager, the total cost of the ticket will be $12.  You’d make this wager by saying “$2 Exacta box; 2,4,6.”  Your ticket will not list all the possible combinations, but they are implied.  Below is an example of what your ticket might look like.

Exacta Box 3 Horses

The example to the far right extends the same idea to a Triple box using three horses (#2, #4, #6).  You’d make this wager by saying “$2 Triple box; 2,4,6,.”  Making this wager automatically gives you all of the combinations listed above.

So, with this fairly simple example, you can see how easy it is to cover the required combinations with a simple Box wager.  But, does that make boxing bets a wise wager?  To be honest, the way most people play it, not really.  Let’s use the Triple play from above to demonstrate.  The following table describes the three horses we’ve included in this box wager example.

Horse Odds Thoughts On Each Horse
#2 5-2 Favored choice in race, with highest marks on Class, Distance, and Form.
#4 5-1 Up and coming horse, stepping up in class, untested – but improving with every start.
#6 15-1 Found some positive Trainer angles, but Speed Figures are less than #2 and #4.

Based on these thoughts, do you really feel that #6 has as good a chance of winning as #2?  Well, the Box play assumes that all three horses have an equal shot of winning.  That’s the fundamental weakness of Box wagers.  Each combination is played for an equivalent amount.  Let’s consider another type of wager called a Part Wheel.  The diagram below compares the Box to the Part Wheel.

Boxing Bets vs. Part Wheel

The left side shows the original Triple Box described earlier. The right side shows an alternative Part-Wheel strategy using the same three horses. Instead of making the same $2 wager on all the combinations, this strategy weights the wagers based on the opinion that they have unequal chances of winning. The top wager is for $3 using #2 over #4 and #6. The middle wager is for $2 using #4 over #2 and #6. And the bottom wager is for $1 using #6 over #2 and #4. Notice that the sum of the three wagers ($6 + $4 +$2) equals the same $12 as the Box play. But now, if the #2 finishes in front of #4 and #6 … you will be paid 1.5 times the $2 Triple price … rewarding you for your expert handicapping!

We will be covering more complex Part Wheel wagers in future articles, but from this example you can see that it opens the door to many more possibilities than the simple Box wager.  For example, what if there were a #8 horse at odds of 30-1, and you feel he has no chance of winning the race, but maybe he can manage to clunk up for 3rd place.  Part Wheels allow you to structure a bet to include him in the “lower rungs” of a Triple (or maybe Superfecta) wager.

So, now when you’re friends ask, “What were you thinking?”  You can reply, “No, I didn’t box them, but I hit the Triple on a Part Wheel ticket that paid more.  Ka Ching.”


The Article Sponsored By ADIRONDACK BEVERAGES (A Favorite Cooler Drink Of Racing Fans at Saratoga)

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By Neal Benoit

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