At the track, different bets have different difficulty levels.

Win: You win if your horse finishes first
Place: You win if your horse finishes first or second
Show: You win if you horse finishes first, second or third

As you can see, it is much easier to successfully bet a horse to show than it would be to cash a win bet. In pari-mutuel wagering, the riskier the bet, the higher the potential payoff.

If Silver Charm goes off at 5/1 and wins, you get a $12 return on your $2 win ticket. Depending on where the money was bet in the place and show pools, you may only get a $5 return for your $2 place ticket, and a $3 return on your $2 show ticket.

The bottom line: If you would like to win more races, bet horses to place or show. If you want to go for a big payoff, bet on a horse to win - or venture into the exotics.