What are coupled entries, and how should you bet them?

November 10th, 2021

Coupled entries are among the more confusing aspects of betting horse races. But once you dig into the details, they’re not quite as complicated as they seem.

We’re ready to answer all your questions about coupled entries:

What is a coupled entry?

A coupled entry is when two are more horses are coupled together to form a single betting interest. In other words, if you bet one of the horses in a coupled entry to win, you get its entrymate(s) thrown in at no extra cost.

When do coupled entries occur?

Rules on coupled entries vary across different racing jurisdictions, but horses might be coupled if they share the same trainer or owner, for example.

Races with abnormally large fields (like some events in Europe) can also lead to coupled entries. Since the U.S. pari-mutuel wagering system can only support 24 betting interests, races featuring more than 24 horses must offer all horses numbered 24 and higher as a single betting interest. If the race features 33 horses, and you want to bet #24, your win bet will cover horses #25 through #33 as well. If any of them win, so do you.

How are coupled entries designated?

Coupled entries are designated by letters following the betting number. For example, two horses racing as coupled entrymates might be listed as #1 and #1A, with the common number indicating they are a pair.

A coupled entry, as seen in Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances.

For races featuring more than 24 horses, you might see a common letter instead, such as 24F, 25F, 26F, etc.

Advantages of betting coupled entries

The main advantage of betting a coupled entry is the fact you get more bang for your buck. If your top choice #1 gets caught up in a destructive speed duel, perhaps entrymate #1A can rally and save the day.

Here’s another example—if you’re looking for the right horse(s) to round out the bottom of a trifecta or superfecta ticket, a coupled entry can be enticing, since you’re able to include multiple horses for the price of one and increase your likelihood of winning without increasing the cost of the ticket.

Disadvantages of betting coupled entries

Getting two horses for the price of one is appealing to many bettors, so the odds offered by a coupled entry may be lower than the odds you would receive if able to bet either horse individually.

Suppose you love #1A, who would normally be a 20-1 longshot. If his entrymate #1 is an obvious favorite, the final odds on the entry might be 6-5, and the payoff will be modest even if #1A beats his more heralded companion to the finish line.

Coupled entries can also make handicapping a race in advance a bit tricky. Sometimes, you’ll see a trainer enter two coupled horses with one jockey named to ride both. This is often a sign that one of the two entrymates will scratch, but until race-day changes are announced, it’s hard to know which.

An important quirk of betting coupled entries

When betting coupled entries, it’s important to remember the involved horses represent a single betting interest. This means when betting exotic wagers like the exacta, trifecta, or superfecta, it isn’t possible to bet coupled entrymates #1 and #1A to run first and second, or first and third, or first and fourth. The coupled entry can only occupy one position.

This has important implications for betting. The key to remember? Only the highest-finishing member of the entry matters when determining the order of finish. For example, if the top five finishers in a race are #1, #1A, #3, #7, and #4, the runner-up finish from #1A will be ignored, and payouts will be determined as though the order of finish were #1, #3, #7, and #4. If you bet an exacta playing #1 to win and #3 to finish second, congratulations—your ticket is a winner!

Now that you’re up to speed on coupled entries, you can make knowledgeable betting decisions whenever and wherever they arise.