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What is a trifecta bet in horse racing and how it works?

A trifecta bet requires a bettor to select the top three finishers in order in a single horse race. You can wager as little as one wagering unit – usually 50 cents – by picking one horse to finish first, one to run second and a third to round out the top placings.

If your selections finish in a different order, you can tear up your ticket. To improve their odds of hitting trifectas, most horseplayers use one of two strategies: “boxing” horses so that you cover different placing orders or “keying” the horse you think will win and then using multiple horses in the second and third slots.

The cost of such a ticket can be determined by figuring out how many individual combinations are on your ticket. If you box three horses for $/£1, for example, each horse has two combinations using the other horses to fill out second and third. In other words, if you’re base bet was $/£1, the cost of the ticket will be $/£6.

Just remember that adding more horses to a box quickly increases the number of possible combinations. A four-horse trifecta box for $/£1 costs $/£24. Add a fifth horse and the cost jumps to $/£60.

The process is very similar for determining the cost of a trifecta “key”: Multiply the number of horses you used in the first leg, by the total number of horses in the second slot, by the total of horses, minus one (assuming that all the second tier horses are included). So a $/£1 trifecta key constructed like this – 1/2,3,4,5/2,3,4,5 – would consist of 12 possible combinations, calculated as 1 x 4 x 3 = 12.

There are a number of online calculators that can help with the heavy lifting, or you can simply enter your selections and base bet unit and let your preferred online wagering platform do the job.