Introducing the Imperfecta

Horse RacingA few weeks ago I outlined why jackpot wagers are bad for horse racing and why a shift towards easier to win bets would be beneficial to the horse racing industry.  While all horseplayers want to hit a bet that is life-changing most, if not all, would agree that a steady diet of winning bets is the most important factor keeping them in the game.  There are currently a few options that are easier to win then many of their counterparts and because of that they produce a steady stream of winning bets for many horseplayers.

Existing Options

The easier to win bets include the Grand Slam, Place Pick 6 and one that has been around for quite a while, the Place Pick All.  Each of these bets provides some margin for error because it is not required to pick the winner in every race in the sequence in order to win.  Another thing they have in common is they are all multi-race bets and as of now there are no easy to hit exotic bets that only cover a single race.  This is where the Imperfecta comes in.

The Imperfecta

The Imperfecta is similar to an Exacta (or Perfecta as it is called in some locales) except that instead of requiring the horseplayer to correctly select the first and second place finishers the horseplayer need only pick two of the top three finishers.  The Imperfecta would therefore produce three winning combinations in each race: first and second, first and third and second and third.

In terms of betting the Imperfecta is more like a Quinella than an Exacta in that the horses can finish in any order so long as they finish in the top three.  The cost of the bet is $1.00 which covers the three possible combinations (1st-2nd, 1st-3rd and 2nd-3rd).

To further enhance the Imperfecta the takeout rate would be set at 10%, the lowest takeout rate of any bet in the country.  With a higher probability of winning, a lower cost and a lower takeout than all other exotic bets the Imperfecta markets itself.


The Imperfecta will have an immediate positive impact on several fronts.  First and foremost it will increase the churn rate because by nature it is much easier to win then all of the other exotic options on the current wagering menu.  By expanding the number of winning combinations from one to three it will put money in the pockets of horseplayers that would otherwise be tearing up their tickets.

How many times have you bet an Exacta and watched your horses run first and third?  For me that scenario played out countless times each year.  In fact I rarely bet an Exacta now because I am tired of being split by a horse I gave little or no chance to.  With the added margin for error the Imperfecta creates I would definitely consider it when plotting out my bets for the day.

Another upside that goes hand-in-hand with those mentioned above is a less intimidating introduction to exotic bets for new horseplayers.  Rather than being burdened by having to be perfect to cash a ticket a new horesplayer will be greeted with a bet that pays better then Win, Place and Show but is much easier to win then an Exacta or Daily Double.

The biggest obstacle the horse racing industry faces is not attracting new horseplayers it is retaining them.  Many people will give the sport a chance but a couple of losing trips to the track often pushes them away.  Introducing new horseplayers to exotic bets like the Imperfecta will put more money in their pockets and keep them around long enough to expose them to the more lucrative exotic bets.


While the Imperfecta has many upsides there is one downside.  With the lower degree of difficulty of winning the bet comes lower potential payoffs.  This may deter serious horseplayers but this is not a big problem because this bet is aimed towards new and casual horseplayers.


The Imperfecta with its low cost, low degree of difficulty and low takeout rate is the perfect (no pun intended) way to address two problems in the horse racing industry: a declining churn rate and an inability to retain new horseplayers.  By introducing new horseplayers to exotic bets that offer a less intimidating prospect of winning than the current wagering menu offers the horse racing industry will put itself in a position for positive growth for years to come.

What are your thoughts?  Would you recommend this type of bet to potential new horseplayers or casual horseplayers?


  1. Don Swanson says:

    “the Imperfecta is more like a Quinella than an Exacta in that the horses can finish in any order so long as they finish in the top three. ”

    3 horses with 2 in any order looks to me something like:
    1,2,- / 2,1,- / -,1,2 / -,2,1 / 1,-,2 / 2,-,1
    1,3,- / 3,1,- / -,1,3 / -,3,1 / 1,-,3 / 3,-,1
    2,3,- / 3,2,- / -,2,3 / -,3,2 / 2,-,3 / 3,-,2

    Would be 18 possibles. If one of the 3 is dark it might pay fairly well. Could be the answer to the BC Mile problem where Court Vision jumps up and the other two are gettable.

  2. Don,

    Glad to see someone had positive feelings about the idea because most of the responses I received on Twitter were negative. I feel that the best way to attract and retain new fans is to show them it is possible to win. While this bet won’t provide monster payoffs very often it can still pay well if the favorite runs out of the top three.

  3. I like the idea! I also think that tournaments are a good way to bring in new players as they can pay one time and enjoy a race card. Would you mind if I use the Imperfecta as a tournament on my site?

  4. wonder what the payoffs would look like when the two favorites run together?

    • Franklin,

      The payoffs would most likely be very low if the two favorites run in the top three but so would the Exacta if the favorites ran 1-2. Its a low risk/low reward bet.

  5. pete newell says:

    Nice bet for the casual fan and as noted above could pay very nice on big days like the Derby and Breeders Cup. It seems so logical that no track will ever do it.
    Maybe NYRA???, they did come up with the Grand Slam but who knows.
    Any way, I like the idea, I’ve also seen a lot of 1st and 3rd.

    • Pete,

      Thanks for the positive feedback and I agree on big days this type of bet would be a good way for new fans to have a chance of cashing a decent payoff since the fields are so big and the favorites often run out of the money.

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