How to bet the quinella

November 7th, 2019

All of the different wager types in horse racing, one of the most underappreciated is surely the quinella.

The quinella requires bettors to select the top two finishers in a race, but without identifying the exact order of finish. For example, if you bet #1 and #3 in a quinella and they run first and second in either order, you’ll cash a winning ticket.

As a result, some folks view the quinella as a redundant wager. It’s similar to the exacta, which requires bettors to select the top two finishers in the correct order. If you play a boxed exacta—betting your preferred choices both ways—isn’t it the same as playing a quinella?

Playing a $1 exacta box with #1 and #3 costs $2 since you’re betting two tickets—1 over 3 and 3 over 1. Betting a $1 quinella with #1 and #3 costs $1, because the order of finish isn’t important and both outcomes are covered with a single wager.

While only a few racetracks in North America offer quinella wagering, such as Aqueduct on races 2 & 4, the bet is commonly offered on overseas racing, including the competitive action at Sha Tin and Happy Valley in Hong Kong. If you’re interested in betting on international racing, it pays to have a few quinella wagering strategies up your sleeve.

Quinella wagering strategies

So how should you play the quinella? If you feel two horses in a race are clearly best, but have no opinion on which is superior, the quinella is good bet to play. You can spend your wagering budget on a single ticket, which maximizes your return on investment without spending a dime on backup combinations.

You can also use more than two horses in a quinella. If you use four runners—say, #1, #3, #7 and #8—you’ll cash a winning ticket if any combination of your four horses finish first and second. The only problem with this strategy? Costs balloon quickly. In this example, you’re actually betting six quinellas (1/3, 1/7, 1/8, 3/7, 3/8 and 7/8), so to place $1 tickets you’ll have to shell out $6, which cuts into your profit margins.

An alternative strategy, if you like one runner better than the rest, is to key your preferred runner in the quinella. If you think #1 will definitely finish in the top two, you can play 1 with 3,7,8, which requires playing just three combinations (1/3, 1/7 and 1/8) for a more reasonable cost of $3.

When shouldn’t you play the quinella?

The quinella comes up short if you believe one horse is a near-certain winner and simply want to play another runner or two for second place. Betting a clear standout (say, #7) in the quinella with a logical runner-up (say, #10) doesn’t make much sense, because the design of the quinella means you’re covering the possibility of the standout running second.

You’ll be sharing the pari-mutuel pool with bettors who preferred #10, but were fortunate enough to play the quinella with #7. In this example you would be better off playing a straight 7/10 exacta for the same cost. The payoff will almost certainly be higher, because you won’t be splitting the the pari-mutuel pool with bettors who preferred #10 on top.

The next time a big international race day comes along, consider giving the quinella a try. Under the right circumstances, it can be a simple and appealing wager to play.

Good luck!