What Are Forecast & Exacta Bets?

First and second place in horse racing

mikle / Bigstockphoto.com

One of the time-honoured ways that punters have tried to squeeze value out of sporting events is by attempting to guess the finishing order. For some, that has meant going for elaborate bets involving four or more finishers, but for the most part, simply guessing the first two has been the way to go. This sort of betting is synonymous with horse racing, but is now used on many sports. The two main options to discuss are the Forecast and the Exacta.

Forecast: Who Finishes First & Second

The forecast in betting is often referred to also as a ‘straight forecast’. This is a bet on who will finish first and second in a sporting event in the correct order. Generally speaking, forecasts can be placed on various sporting events as long as they have a defined first and second place, such as a Formula One race or a football league tournament, such as the Premier League. In the main, forecasts have been and remain chiefly the domain of horse racing and greyhound racing.

A forecast is a very similar bet to place. When you bet, you simply look at the event, for example a horse race, and choose two horses: one to finish first and one to finish second. They will need to finish this way in the correct order for you to be paid out.

If you’re betting on forecast with a fixed-odds bookmaker, then you’ll know what price you are getting when you place the bet. If you are betting on the Computer Straight Forecast (CSF), then a compute algorithm is used to calculate winnings after the race is run.

Exacta: Same, But Available at the Tote

Tote betting stand at racecourse

The word Exacta can be confusing to racing fans if they happen to watch both UK/Irish and North American racing. In the UK and Ireland, the Exacta is available on the Tote, though in the States, it is the accepted name for what we know as a forecast as all on-course betting there is based on a tote system.

Any Tote-syndicated bookmaker can take an Exacta bet, the principles of which are exactly the same as the straight forecast in that you are tasked with picking the first and second horses home in the right order. In this case, fixed odds can’t be used and the computer algorithm isn’t required either. As all Tote bets are pool bets, the potential payout for any two horses on an Exacta can be shown live before a final number is confirmed at the off.

The vast majority of the time, Tote odds very closely mirror fixed odds anyway. Occasionally, however, you may get a healthier price on the Tote for an Exacta versus a forecast as there may simply be more money in the pot than normal, divided between more tickets on more horses. You can place your Exacta at the racecourse, at a betting shop, direct with the Tote or with any online bookmaker that is Tote-syndicated.

Forecasts Versus Exactas

In essence, these two bets are one and the same thing. The only main differences really are who you place the bet with and how your winnings are worked out. Either way, you need to pick the first and second in the right order. Key commonality lies in:

  • Both bets being reliant on a 1st and 2nd being picked in the right order
  • Both bets being placed mostly on horse racing and greyhounds
  • The fact you won’t know the final returns until after an event (unless you place a forecast with a fixed-odds bookie)

Given that both bets are so similar, does it matter which one you place? Well, as always, there is a reason to pick one over the other. In some cases, players don’t have access to Tote bets. In others, the Tote is the only option. If you’re stuck between the two options then maybe it’s best to consider which one you believe gives you the better potential payouts over time for what is exactly the same bet.

Which One Pays More?

There is research out there offering pros or cons for both forecasts and Exactas in terms of their value. For our part, we show you six examples here of horse races from Britain at various tracks during the same week, along with the related forecast and Exacta payouts:

Forecast & Exacta examplesThese examples were all taken from the same week, but from very different races ranging from novices to low-grade handicaps and eventually to the Stewards’ Cup, a major betting race on the Saturday of Glorious Goodwood. Here’s how the stats stack up:

Payout CSF Exacta
Aggregate Payout £357.07 £492.20
Average Payout £59.51 £82.03
Median Payout £11.61 £11.75
No. of Times Highest 0 6

That seems pretty conclusive, albeit by using a very small sample. Sometimes the two figures were very close indeed, though in our sample the Tote Exacta paid out more money than the computer straight forecast every time across a number of different horse races.

Reverse Forecasts & Combination Exactas

Reverse arrow graphicIt’s important to mention that if you feel like you’re confident that you know who the first two will be in a race, be it Formula 1, the dogs or at Royal Ascot, but you don’t which order, then you can pay more to cover that off. In the States this is called ‘boxing’. So, a ‘boxed Exacta’ is a bet in which you pick two horses, pay double to place the bet, but win out as long as your horses finish first and second in any order.

In Britain, this is usually called a ‘reverse forecast’ or ‘reversed forecast’. On the Tote, this is a ‘combination Exacta’. Just to confuse you even more with the terminology, you can also place a ‘combination forecast’.

The word ‘combination’ in this case simply means picking multiple horses, but with the first two places paying out. So, the Tote sticks to a ‘combination Exacta’ no matter whether you’re picking two or three horses. Elsewhere, picking two is a ‘reverse forecast’, picking three is a ‘combination forecast’. We hope that’s clear!

In a reverse forecast, you simply pay double as you are betting on two different results; horse A to beat horse B and horse B to beat horse A. In a combination, naturally you pay more again. This time, there are six possible outcomes: A-B, A-C, B-A, B-C, C-A and C-B. This means a £1 combination forecast will cost you £6 in total.