What is a World Pool, and how does it work?

June 28th, 2023

Once in a while, you might hear the term “World Pool” pop up in reference to international horse racing. Have you ever wondered what it means?

To explain it simply, a World Pool is a pari-mutuel wagering pool where betting dollars from around the world are commingled into a single pool. According to the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which hosts the World Pools, this commingling provides “liquidity, stability, and smaller fluctuations in odds.”

These benefits mark significant improvements from betting into regional pools, which can be small if interest in a specific international event is limited. If you’re betting a nondescript race in South Africa, the regional pool might be small enough where a $100 win bet significantly shifts the odds.

This is much less likely to occur in a World Pool like the one available for the five-day Royal Ascot (UK) meet. The 2023 Royal Ascot World Pool drew over £154 million (approximately $196 million) in wagers. On closing day at Royal Ascot, the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee (G1) set a record for the highest amount wagered on a single World Pool race, drawing £6.6 million (approximately $8.4 million).

Two other Royal Ascot races, the Commonwealth Cup (G1) and the Ribblesdale (G2), attracted £5.1 million (approximately $6.5 million) in wagers.

These large pools are helpful for win bettors, but they also make exotic wagers more viable. When there’s only $500 in a trifecta pool, you know that’s the maximum you can win. Wouldn’t you rather bet a trifecta where there’s $200,000 up for grabs?

World Pools are offered on many of the biggest races around the globe each year. In addition to Royal Ascot, the 2023 slate has included Dubai World Cup (G1) day at Meydan in Dubai, which drew approximately $40.2 million in wagers; Derby (G1) day at Epsom (UK), which attracted approximately $31.8 million in bets; and 2000 Guineas (G1) day at Newmarket (UK), which sparked approximately $34.4 million in betting.

It should be noted that the World Pool betting menu looks a little different than your typical U.S. offerings. As of 2023, the World Pool offers the following seven wager types:

  • Win: You cash if your horse finishes first. The takeout rate is 17.5%.
  • Place: In races featuring 4-6 starters, you cash if your horses finishes in the top two. In races featuring 7-20 starters, you cash if your horses finishes in the top three. In races featuring 21 or more starters, you cash if your horse finishes in the top four. The takeout rate is 17.5%.
  • Quinella: Pick the top two finishers in either order. The takeout rate is 17.5%.
  • Quinella Place (Omni/Swinger): Pick two of the top three finishers in any order. The takeout rate is 17.5%.
  • Forecast (Exacta): Pick the top two finishers in the exact order. The takeout rate is 19.5%.
  • Tierce (Trifecta): Pick the top three finishers in the exact order. The takeout rate is 22%.
  • Treble (Pick 3): Pick the winners of three races. The takeout rate is 25%.

In U.S. horse racing, it’s rare to see more than 14 horses start in a race, with the 20-horse field for the Kentucky Derby (G1) standing as the upper limit. But some international races—for example, certain handicaps at Royal Ascot—feature more than 30 starters, offering an abundance of possibilities for bettors to pursue.

In the past, there was a 24-horse limit to the number of betting interests that could be offered to U.S. bettors, with all horses numbered #24 and higher coupled together in the betting, resulting in low odds on those runners. But those days are gone; TwinSpires now offers as many as 48 betting interests, which means horseplayers can bet any horse in a large field individually and receive odds accordingly.

TwinSpires bettors will have an opportunity to participate in a World Pool this Sunday, when the Curragh Racecourse in Ireland hosts the Irish Derby (G1). The entirety of the eight-race card is part of the World Pool, so there will be plenty of chances to bet into lucrative pools.

Other notable World Pool offerings on the 2023 agenda tentatively include the following:

  • July 29: King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) day at Ascot, UK (all races)
  • Aug. 1: Goodwood Cup (G1) day at Goodwood, UK (all races)
  • Aug. 2: Sussex (G1) day at Goodwood, UK (all races)
  • Aug. 3: Nassau (G1) day at Goodwood, UK (all races)
  • Aug. 23: Juddmonte International (G1) day at York, UK (all races)
  • Aug. 24: Yorkshire Oaks (G1) day at York, UK (all races)
  • Aug. 25: Nunthorpe (G1) day at York, UK (all races)
  • Sept. 9: Irish Champion (G1) day at Leopardstown, IRE (all races)
  • Oct. 21: British Champions Day at Ascot, UK (all races)

The next time you see a World Pool on the agenda, be sure to take advantage and place a few wagers. Thanks to the large betting pools, you might cash a hefty payoff.