An Exacta bet is one of the most popular wagers in horse racing. It is tougher to hit than a traditional Win, Place or Show wager, but the windfalls can be much greater.

The Exacta wager involves correctly selecting the top two finishers in the race, in the exact order. A common way horseplayers attempt to select the top two finishers is to play an Exacta Box.

A $2.00 Exacta Box wager on two horses would cost $4.00. A $2.00 Exacta Box with three horses would cost $12.00. In the case of a three horse box, as long as two of the three finish one-two, the wager is a winning one.

Boxing four horses in a $2.00 Exacta starts to get expensive, costing $24.00. A five horse Exacta Box would cost $40.00.

Another popular way to make Exacta wager is an Exacta Key. That involves selecting one horse to finish first and several others to finish second.

A $2.00 Exacta Key with one horse on top with four horses selected to run second would cost $8.00.

Exacta payoffs are based on how many other horseplayers also have the winning combination. An Exacta payoff with two favorites could pay less than $10.00, and hitting an Exacta with a couple of longshots could pay in the thousands.

In the 2012 Kentucky Derby 15-1 longshot I’ll Have Another topped the betting favorite Bodemeister (4-1) and the $2.00 Exacta paid $306.60.

There was a similar payoff in 2011 when Animal Kingdom (21-1) topped Nehro (8-1), with the $2.00 exacta paying $329.80.

Exacta payoffs generally are going to be larger in races with fuller fields. The more horses involved the more combinations are possible.

The takeout rate for exactas range from track to track. New York tracks (Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga) offer one of the lowest rates at 18.5%. Churchill Downs and Keeneland offer Exacta wagering with a 19% takeout.