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A Closer Look at the Show Bet

The Show Bet is a simple little bet that's very popular in the USA but not so much in the UK where win bets and multiples tend to prevail. It's a bet on whether or not your horse comes in the first three or four in the betting. Now the odds for show bets are considerably smaller than for win bets because the odds that your horse will come in the first four are much higher.

The show bet is actually a derivative of the each-way bet in the UK. The show bet odds will usually be featured at the bottom of the race card and are often 1/4 to 1/5 of the win odds. If you keep in mind that a show bet is actually a variation of an "each-way" bet then you really can't go far wrong.

Remember that a "show bet" is a bet for your horse to come in the top three or four and not to win. This is what makes it different to the "each-way" bet. If the show odds are 1/5 then you'll win one-fifth of your stake if your horse places. So, a $100 bet would return $120.

Which Horses to Choose

There are certain races and certain horses that are perfect for "show bets" and we'll examine which ones they are. Sometimes a show bet can be so good compared to other betting systems that it's almost like stealing money. Let's say that you've picked your horse blindly, if you do this then your horse may be a poor jumper for all you know. It may also be drawn poorly on a track where the draw is very important.

This is why it's important to make sure that you have the conditions in your horse's favour. Remember that you need your horse to run well and finish in the first three or four. To achieve that, your horse needs to be a contender and so here we have your first logical step before betting.

Remember that your show odds are only a fraction of the win odds and you will need a much higher strike rate to be profitable.

Where does your horse stand in the betting?

While it may seem obvious that a horse priced at 33/1 would be far less likely to show than a horse priced at 4/1, you would be amazed at just how many bettors will select fancy sounding names and not pay attention to what chance the horse has of winning or placing.

Is the race competitive?

Competitive races mean that the event will have numerous horses that are either in contention for first place or in contention for the minor placings. The more competition that your horse has to get placed then the less chance your horse has to provide you with a winner. The key to making show bets pay is to carefully select your horses and your races.

If you have numerous horses priced between 5/1 and 16/1 then this is a clear sign of a competitive race. It's also a sign of a race that should be avoided for a show bet.

Is your horse a consistent performer?

A quick look at the horses form line will indicate what type of performer it is. If it wins and then falls or comes well down the field then this is a clear sign that the horse isn't a consistent runner. Some horses can drift in between winning and losing badly and this isn’t the type of horse that you want for a show bet.

Let's take a look at some example form lines.

Take Hoorah Henry with the following results in his previous ten races.


Hoorah Henry might have four victories but his six poor performances are worrying if you are looking for him to finish in a place. Now, compare that to another horse called Mustang Sally.


Although Mustang Sally hasn't recorded a win, this horse has never placed lower than fifth and only finished twice outside of the top three. While Hoorah Henry may be a more successful horse in terms of titles, race wins, and prize money, it's Mustang Sally that represents a better proposition for betting.

Why is Horse & Race Selection so Critical

The key to finding winning bets in horse racing is to not only find horses that will perform well but that will also perform with the proper frequency. The odds of our horse placing are much lower than of them winning. This is why show bets are so popular because you get a much higher percentage of winners. This even applies if your horse fails to win, remember that your horse doesn’t have to win the race for you to win.

Because the risk is much greater than the return with show bets, our ratio of wins to losses needs to be correspondingly high. This means that it's vital that our bets are carefully selected. Stick to the following criteria before you place a show bet:

  • Don't pick races with too many runners
  • Stay away from competitive races
  • Only go with consistent performers
  • Is your horse favoured to do well in the race

Show bets are a great way to increase your win percentage, but your bets do need to be thought out logically. If you stay with our recommended tips then you can't go wrong making these types of bets.