To Box Your Horses Or To Key A Horse


January 31, 2011
Written by: Richard Reese

I Have The Key

I have been handicapping horse races for half of my life now and I can honestly say that you should. . .

Well, I don't want to tell you what you should or shouldn't be doing, instead I'll tell you what I do, and you can decide what to think.


The very definition of a box is that you are protected from losing if the horses in your box come in, and it doesn't matter who wins, as long as they were protected within your box.

If we look at it mathematically or in terms of how much it will cost to make a certain bet, then if we were betting trifecta boxes:

A 4-horse trifecta box would cost [1,2,3,4] $24 bucks if based on $1 bet.

In other words this wager basically represents 4 separate bets including:

(1/234/234) & (2/134/134) & (3/124/124) & (4/123/123).

As you can see each bet costs $6 and you have four separate bets, so that equals $24.

Let's look at how this bet is different using a KEY HORSE instead.

Let's assume you like the #3 horse best out of that group of 4 horses. So #3 becomes your key horse.

You can now bet-

(3/124/124) & (124/3/124) & (124/124/3)

So as you can see, you bet your key horse in the win slot, place slot, and show spot.

The total cost of the bet would be $18, saving you $6 over the 4-horse box or savings of 25%.

If we added another horse to our bet, then the 5-horse box now costs $60.

If we keyed the horse, and bet the key in the win, place, and show spots, the cost is only $36 or a savings of 40%.

But there is another point that needs to be raised when discussing whether one should bet a box or a key. And that namely is confidence.

To me, when somebody boxes a group of numbers they are saying that they don't have any idea who will win the race, but hope that their numbers come in. No confidence

A person that keys a certain horse is displaying confidence in their bet because they have a strong opinion.

My whole thing with handicapping is that we bet when we have an understanding of who will win the race or who will most likely contend in the race.

Stay away from races where you can't narrow down the field.

If you look at a box from another perspective, surrounded on all sides, no room to maneuver or escape. And costs more money to boot, why would you ever make this bet again.