Sometimes in betting, we have such a strong view on a horse race that we can go beyond simply backing the selection we think will win.
Occasionally, we will be confident in two particular runners in a field – be it with a feeling that they will finish 1-2 in some combination, or specifically if we think one named horse will win and the other will finish second.
To help maximise our returns on our investment, we can look to the three main types of forecasting bet – straight forecast, reverse forecast and exacta – to make the most of our strong feelings on a race.
What is a Straight Forecast Bet?
One of the things that punters enjoy about forecast betting is that there are no complex rules or thought processes that go into them.
For example, the straight forecast requires you to pick the winner and the runner up of a race in the exact order – it’s as simple as that.
Your chosen betting site/app will often have the forecast option listed separately to the main race winner market. All you have to do is designate the first and second positions to the two horses, add the selections to your betslip and then place the wager at the combined odds shown.
For instance, if we back a horse to finish first at 5/2 and another to finish second at 9/2, we can score straight forecast odds of 13.85/1 – you can see the possibilities that are available with this bet type.
What is a Reverse Forecast Bet?
While very similar to a straight forecast bet, the reverse forecast lets you wager on two horses but they can finish 1-2 in either order.
The difference is that we have to place two stakes to account for either possibility, but we’ll score decent odds and have a pair of potential outcomes to cheer.
If we backed the same two horses listed above at odds of 5/2 and 9/2 respectively, we would notch odds of 13.85/1 if the favourite wins and the next best finishes second, or 15.97/1 if the reverse plays out.
Note that we lose half our stake for the combination that doesn’t land, and obviously if a different horse or horses take the 1-2 spots then we lose the lot.
What is an Exacta Bet?
An exacta bet is essentially the same as the straight forecast – the object is to pick two horses to finish 1-2 in the defined order.
The difference here is that you are betting with the Tote, so your stake is added to the pool with every other bettors and you are paid out your winnings from the kitty – the amount returned is determined by your stake size comparative to the amount in the pool.
Deciding whether to place a straight forecast or an exacta will depend largely on the size of the Tote pool – which in turn is dependant on the popularity of the race meeting and the individual race.
You won’t have to pay a bookmakers’ overround on the Tote (although they do take a percentage commission from the pot), but small pools will mean that you may return less on your bet than you would with a bookies’ fixed odds.
Understanding the Computer Straight Forecast Formula
While the exacta pays out based upon your stake in the pool, your winnings for a straight forecast – or a computer straight forecast (CSF) to give its long name – are calculated using a mysterious formula that is known only to the bookmakers.
Nobody from outside the bookmaking inside circle is quite sure of what the CSF formula entails, although some have tried to replicate it – FlatStats have their own calculator into which you can plug in some numbers.
If you want to know more about the CSF calculation, which is a nine-page document of mathematical equations and formulae, you can request a copy from the Betting and Gaming Council.
Should You Bet Straight Forecast or Exacta?
For the most part, the betting community is of the opinion that the exacta bet pays out more than a CSF.
But there are some caveats to that, because the exacta tends to work best for small stakes punters who will get the right return on their investment. But when scaling up our stakes there can be issues – there might not be enough in the pool to pay out on more sizable exacta bets, and so your return can be something of a disappointment.
To that end, if you plan on forecasting with large stakes, taking the bookmakers’ forecast options is perhaps the savvier way to play it.
To offer you a guide, we took the results from a meeting at Lingfield and compared the CSF return to that of the exacta:
|12:30 | 9 ran |16/1 won, 11/4 2nd||£59.63||£75.40|
|13:00 | 14 ran | 18/1 won, 7/2 2nd||£81.60||£94.70|
|13:30 | 7 ran | 6/1 won, 18/1 2nd||£83.34||£69.90|
|14:00 | 7 ran | 7/2 won, 11/4 2nd||£13.57||£14.70|
|14:30 | 5 ran | 5/2 won, 3/1 2nd||£10.26||£11.50|
|15:00 | 12 ran | 7/2 won, 7/2 2nd||£17.39||£21.60|
|15:30 | 7 ran | 7/4 won, 11/1 2nd||£19.79||£21.10|
We’ve highlighted which bet type returned the best profit per race, and as you can see it was almost a clean sweep for the exacta over the CSF return.
While this doesn’t quite replicate the average returns across the whole season, it’s estimated that the exacta offers a stronger return from almost 70% of races when compared to the bookmakers’ straight forecast odds – those are stats that are hard to ignore.