We have put together a list of major horse racing terms in alphabetical order for your convenience and hope the you’ll find this glossary of Horse Racing Terminology useful and informative.
Racing Glossary ‘A’
Across the Board: A bet placed on a single horse to win, place and show. If the horse wins the player collects three ways, if second two ways, and if third one way, losing the win and place bets.
Action: A horses manner of moving.
Acceptor: Big race acceptors, this is a heading seen in the newspapers, below this you will find a list horses remaining in a big race after a forfeit stage.
Added Money: Money added by racecourse executives and/or sponsors to the prize money.
Age: All racehorses share the same birthday irrespective of the exact date of birth. This is fixed to facilitate the framing of races according to age groups, this date is 1 January in the Northern Hemisphere and 1 August in the Southern Hemisphere. The majority of flat races are for 2 year olds only or 3 year olds a horse before it’s first birthday is known as a foal, between that date and it’s next birthday a yearling.
Aged: A term that refers to horse who are past the age of 6 years. Most racehorses have finished their careers by the time they are 5 though some horses continue way past this.
All Weather: A term that describes racing on synthetic surfaces at Lingfield, Southwell and Wolverhampton, while Lingfield uses a surface called polytrack while Southwell and Wolverhampton use Fibresand, further courses intend to use all weather tracks.
Also Eligible or AE: Means when horses entered into the field that will not run unless other horses are scratched.
Ante Post Betting: Normally this term is used to describe a bet placed at least the day before the race and sometimes several weeks before.
Apprentice Allowance: An allowance in weight to offset the inexperience of apprentice jockeys, the weight is subtracted from the weight the horse was due to carry. There is a set scale 7lbs until the apprentice has won 20 recognised races, 5lb until they have won 50 such races thereafter 3lb up to a limit of 95 winning races. No apprentice are allowed under the age of 16 and over the age of 24.
At the Post: Refers to when horses have arrived at the point from which a race is to be started.
Auction Race: Specifically for 2 yo horses which have never before won and are bought as yearlings at specified public auctions.
Autumn Double: Refers to the Cambridgeshire Handicap 1mile 1 furlong and the Cesarewitch 2miles 2 furlongs both these races were first run at Newmarket in 1839 taking place at an interval of about two weeks in October. Both these races attract big fields and an attempt to nominate the winner of both races bringing about the term autumn double.
Racing Glossary ‘B’
Bad Legs: A common ailment amongst race horses forlegs, particularly among jumpers take a real pounding this can also affect horses who run on hard ground. A protective measure that does seem to work is the wearing of bandages.
Betting Exchanges: A relative newcomer to the betting scene allowing the punter to bypass the traditional bookmaker.
Betting on the Rails: Bookmakers are not allowed into members enclosures at racecourses so to get round this most bookmakers set up pitches next to the railings separating the members from Tattersalls.
Betting Ring: These are the enclosures on the course where betting takes place mainly Tattersalls ring where admission charges also cover admission to the paddock and the lower priced silver ring, so called because bookies would take bets with silver coinage.
Betting Shop: A shop on the high street that caters for placing of bets.
Black Type: When an horse has had some success in a pattern race or listed race they are said to have achieved black type to draw attention to the horses importance for breeding purposes their name appears in bold black type in pedigrees featured in bloodstock sales catalogues.
Blinkers: A device consisting of a hood which fits over the horses head with shield at the eye holes which restrict the horses peripheral vision. the aim is to concentrate the horses attention ahead by cutting out what might have been seen on either side. Horses who are wearing blinkers for the first time are worth noting.
Blow Up: A horse which has blown up has for some reason lost it’s place in a race after going well.
Bookmakers: A person who sets a price and accepts bets on a race or other event.
Box Walker: A horse that will not settle in a loose box and persistently walks round and round causing it to lose weight and being difficult to train.
Breeze Up: A form of bloodstock sale taking place at a racecourse where the horse is put through it’s paces.
British Horseracing Board: The governing body and administrative body for racing.
Bumping and Boring: Sometimes in the final stages of a race a horse by tire and the Jockey may be unable to prevent the horse from veering off a straight line thereby bumping an opponent and ‘boring’ them off it’s intended course. This usually leads to a stewards inquiry.
By and Out Of: Expression indicating the parentage of a horse he or she is usually described as being BY a sire OUT OF the Dam whose origin will often be indicated in turn by brackets giving the name of her sire.
Racing Glossary ‘C’
The Calendar: Term for the racing calendar.
Came Again: Form book term that indicates a horse that renewed it’s efforts after dropping off in a race.
Camera Patrol: Cameras originally photographed the closing stages of a race from different angles, including head on later the coverage was extended to provide a visual record of the whole race. Newmarket was the first official venue to use camera patrol on 30 june 1960.
Card: Abbreviation for racecard, the official programme of runners on sale on racecourses.
Carpet: Is a slang term for 3 months imprisonment and is used by bookies to signify odds of 3/1.
Cast in his/her Box: Refers to horses who have lain down in their stable loose-box, or travelling horse box and have difficulty in getting up again off the straw.
Chalk Jockey: Also Chalkie refers to unsuccessful jockeys or apprentices who haven’t ridden enough races to have their name painted on the board but are chalked on instead.
Championships: Jockey and trainer championships are decided by greatest number of winners ridden and in the case of trainers by the largest amount of win prize money earned in a season.
Chase: Abbreviation for steeple chase, this term is derived from the fact that in 1752 in Ireland Mr Edmund Blake, was challenged by Mr O’ Callaghan to race their hunters four and half miles across country from Buttevant Church to that at St Leger the latter steeple being the winning post.
Claiming Race: A race in which any runner may be claimed after the race for an advertised sum or more. Should the owner of any runner wish it to carry less than the maximum weight the price at which it may be claimed is reduced accordingly.
Class A etc: Flat races are classified in terms of prize money from class A to class H.
Classics: Generally refers to the top races for three years olds and in England there are five these are: Newmarket, Rowley mile course spring 2000 guineas colts and fillies first run 1809, Newmarket, Rowley mile course spring 1000 Guineas fillies only first run 1814, Epsom 1 1/2 miles summer Derby colts and fillies first run 1780, Epsom 1 1/2 miles summer Oaks fillies only first run 1779, Doncaster 1 3/4 miles Autumn St Leger colts and fillies first run 1776.
Cleverly: A horse that wins with something in hand. Jockeys often let the horse do just enough to win the causes problems for the handicapper and is a useful betting term, other phrases to watch for are ‘not extended’ won with his head on his chest.
Condition Races: All races other than handicaps.
Conditional Jockey: An inexperienced National Hunt rider who must be under 26 years and may claim allowances.
Courses: A race track is referred to as a course in Great Britain there are 59 racecourses 15 courses stage flat and jumping while 17 are devoted exclusively to flat and 24 cater for jumping only.
Racing Glossary ‘D’
Dead Heat: This happens when even with the aid of photo finish the judge is unable to determine an outright winner.
Declarations: When entering an horse for a race a new plan provides for a 48 hour declaration stage for group one races.
Distance: This is a point 240 yards from the winning post, however there is no mark on a racecourse to indicate it, but is frequently referred to in form and race summaries. However all courses are marked with furlong markers to indicate how many furlongs to the winning post and the distance is 20 yards before the one furlong post is reached.
Can also mean the distance of the race usually referred to as furlongs or miles i.e. a. 5 furlongs, b. 1 1/4 mile. Can also refer to the winning distance.
Doll: Hurdles singly used to mark direction in National Hunt Racing usually when part of the course is waterlogged or unusable for some other reason then that part of the course is said to be dolled off.
Draw: The draw for which position a horse shall occupy the stalls at the start of a race
Drifter: A horse who’s odds lengthens noticeably or ‘drifts’ in the betting.
Dwelt: A horse that hangs around in the stall when they open is said to have dwelt at the start. Abbreviated to dwlt in the form book.
Racing Glossary ‘E’
Each Way Bet: An each way bet is to stake equal amounts for a win and for a place.
EBF: European Breeders Fund originating in 1983 when breeders in Great Britain, Ireland and France agreed to create a fund into which stallion owners would pay an annual contribution.
This is equal to the annual covering fee for each sire being nominated by the scheme and from which only the progeny of those participating stallions would be eligible to benefit.
Entire: A male horse that hasn’t been castrated (gelded).
Entries: Entries for almost all races are made five days before the race to Weatherbys, weights for these races are allocated the following day according to the published conditions of the race or in the event of an handicap race by the official handicapper.
Racing Glossary ‘F’
Favourite: The horse or horses with the shortest odds (price) in the Betting offers.
Racing Glossary ‘G’
Gelding: A colt or male horse that has been castrated. There are several reasons for castrating horses they become easier to train and in the case of National Hunt horses they suffer less when jumping stiff fences.
Going: A term used for the state of the ground at race meetings there are several official categories these are: Hard, Firm, Good to Firm, Good, Good to Soft, Soft, Heavy, in muddy conditions the form book may state soft with heavy patches.
Good Walker: A horse that walks well will usually gallop well, something to check for in a pre race paddock inspection.
Greys: All thoroughbred grey horses trace back to the Alcock Arabian, foaled in 1704 and imported to England via Constantinople by Sir Robert Sutton.
Group Races: Races are divided into groups group one includes the classics group two are races below championship standard, group three only have domestic significance.
Racing Glossary ‘H’
Handicap: An handicap is a race in which horses are allocated different weights in order to give them an equal chance of winning.
Handicappers: Generally the official BHB team who frame handicaps and also refers to horses that run in handicap races.
Head Lad: Doesn’t actually refer to a lad but the second in command of a racing stable who is responsible for organisation, feeding the horses and running the yard.
Hanging: Tired horses in a finish sometimes ‘hang’ in towards the rails or worse towards an opponent should be corrected by the jockey showing them the whip.
Hobdayed: An operation of the larynx for horses which are unsound in wind. Timeform will say if an horse has had this operation. Named after Sir Frederick Hobday who pioneered the treatment.
Homebred: A horse that has been bred at the owners stud.
Hunter Chases: These are races confined to horses which have been regularly hunted during the season in which they compete in hunter-chases, they must have a certificate signed by a master of foxhounds to that effect.
Hurdles: Horses starting out in the national hunt scene usually begin over hurdles no horse can race over hurdle.
Racing Glossary ‘I’
In the Frame: Means an horse has won or been placed, it’s number had been placed in the winning frame on the racecourse numbers board.
Irons: A term used for stirrups, if a jockey becomes parted from his stirrups he will be said to have lost his irons.
Racing Glossary ‘J’
Jockey Club: The world’s oldest turf authority originating at the star and garter Pall Mall in 1752 and until recently the sole governing body of British Horseracing.
Joint: A bookmakers temporary ‘establishment’ on the racecourse.
Racing Glossary ‘L’
Lads and Lasses: Stable boys and girls without whom no stable could function.
Leg: This phrase has several meanings from suffering a leg injury to stages in a multiple bet and finally blacklegs disreputable forerunners of your modern bookie.
Levy Board: Abbreviation for the Horse Racing Betting Levy Board, established in 1961.
Limited Stakes: Race restricted to horses which have been awarded handicap ratings at or below a figure specified in the race conditions.
Listed Race: A race whose importance ranks immediately after the group races.
Racing Glossary ‘M’
Maiden: Despite what most people think maiden doesn’t reflect the sex of an horse, the term is used to refer to any horse colt, filly or gelding who has not won a race. There are specific races set aside for maidens the national hunt races are usually called novice hurdles and novice chases.
Maiden Handicaps: This is an handicap restricted to maidens who have run at least four times in Britain.
Makes a Noise: Horses with respiratory troubles will make a noise they are sometimes referred to as roarers the condition can be alleviated by an Hobday operation or by passing a tube past the obstruction in the larynx.
Mare: Female thoroughbred who is five years or older, is she is retired to the paddocks for breeding purposes she becomes a broodmare.
Match: Is a race between just two horses each being the property of different owners on terms agreed by them. Matches used to be common events in the early days of racing but more recently they have been confined to charity events.
Monkey: Betting term for £500.
Morning Glory: Horse that performs well at home in his early morning gallops but never produces that form on the track.
Museums: No not some fancy racing term but exactly what you would expect them to be places where you can visit to learn more about the fascinating world that is horse racing, the most famous being the National Horse Racing Museum in Newmarket High Street.
Racing Glossary ‘N’
Names: Under rule 40 of the rules of racing no owner shall make no use of an assumed name for the purpose of entering or running horses, this rule was brought in after some very dubious characters. The same applies to horses in that no horse can run until it has been named which when you look back into the early days of racing you will see several examples such as the winner of the 1797 Derby recorded as Duke of Bedford’s brown colt by Fidget out of sister to Pharamond.
National Hunt: This term embraces all steeplechases and hurdling and is descriptive of courses which exclusively stage these events and those that though devoted to the flat in the summer months stage these events in the winter.
National Hunt Flat Race: Yes it is a contradiction in terms but it represents the revival of a type or race popular in Ireland called the ‘Bumper’ a reference to the style of amateurs who were often the sole contestants. The idea was to run potential jumpers on the flat to give them valuable experience of racing without the added distraction of clearing hurdles.
Non Trier: A horse which doesn’t give it’s best when racing. Often used in the past to fool the handicapper in to giving the horse a lower weight, this then allowed the horse to have something in hand in a race. Rule 151 deal quite strictly with this behaviour with quite serious fines for offending trainers.
Numbers Board: Not all racecourse today have a numbers board but it is a valuable resource of information. It is a metal frame usually about 20ft high often situated opposite the stand on the course beyond the far running rails and worked by a system of pulleys and counter weights it gives the name of each jockey taking part in the race.
The numbers carried on the saddlecloth of each horse corresponding to the numbers on the racecard and morning papers, appear on the left of the name of the jockey, black on white except when the jockey is a claiming apprentice who’s numbers will appear so 7lb allowance red on white, 4lb (steeplechase, Hurdles, and National hunt flat races) or 5lb (flat races) black on orange 3lb white on blue, on the right of the jockeys name appears the draw for start place. Underneath the jockeys names are separate boards which give the state of the going, details of overweight and colour changes.
Nursery Handicap: A handicap confined to two year olds, there used to be a rule that no nursery could be run before September but now they are usually run in August and sometimes in July.
Racing Glossary ‘O’
Odds: Price at which a bookie lays bets, prices are Odds Against, Even Money or Odds On.
Off: The off is the start of the race, officially timed off course bookies will not usually take bets after this time but with betting exchanges you can usually get a bet right upto the winning post.
Off the Bit: Or off the bridle, horses in the earlier stages of a race are held hard by the jockey and travelling well they are said to be ‘on the bit’ or ‘on the bridle’ when given their head or ‘let down’ and urged for an effort they are said to be off the bit or off the bridle.
On: Betting term meaning that a bet or sidebet has been struck.
Overweight: If a jockey can’t get his weight down to the weight due to be carried the difference between that weight and the weight shown on the weighing room scales is called overweight.
Racing Glossary ‘P’
Paddock: Before each race horses are led round the parade ring in the paddock area this is a good opportunity to assess them for looks, temperament and fitness.
Pattern Races: The most important flat races have been formed into coherent ‘pattern’ throughout the season to give suitably space opportunities for the best horses according to age, sex and racing distance.
Penalty: This term refers to extra weight added to a horses original weight in a race as a consequence of it having won a race in the period between having entered for this race and actually taking part in it. This penalty is usually applied when the handicapper has not had time to assess the original weight allocation.
Photo Finish: First used in Epson in April 1947 a camera is installed in line with the winning post which then photographs the finish of a race and where several horses cross the winning line together allows the judges to decide which horse crossed the line first.
Pitch: Where the bookmaker places his pitch this is not a random choice there is a system in place for each course. The best pitches are in the front rank of Tattersalls Ring.
Place: A horse that wins, is second or third or in big race fields finishes fourth, or sometimes fifth and sixth is a placed horse.
Point to Point: Amateur races run over fences under the auspices of individual hunts also known as racing between the flags.
Pony: In Betting terms a stake of £25.
Pressure: A horse that when off the bit has to be driven to keep his place or to make further effort is said to come under pressure.
Prize Money: This is the sum total of the fees paid in entries, forfeits and declaration by the owners and a sum added by the racecourse executive commercial or other sponsors.
Racing Glossary ‘Q’
Quarter Pole: A post on the infield rail that indicates two furlongs to the finish line.
Racing Glossary ‘R’
Racecourse Officials: Racecourse officials are all licensed by the jockey club, the officials are The Clerk of the Course, Runs the racecourse is responsible for all routine from ensuring the racecard gets to the printers to ensuring the stables are properly cleaned and disinfected, more importantly they must attract sponsors and frame the races he/she will make or break a racecourse. The Clerk of the Scales, responsibility for weighing jockeys and their equipment in accordance with the rules, as well as promulgating information on the numbers board and furnishing the starter with a list of runners.
The Starter, responsible for starting the race from the stalls (flat only) responsible for calling the roll of jockeys at the start, seeing horses are either loaded into the stalls or lined up properly for the start. when all is ready the field will ‘come under starters orders’ after this if an horse fails to start he is deemed a runner.
Stewards, three stewards for each race meeting are appointed by the racecourse executive and approved by the stewards of the jockey club, stewards are in overall control of a race meeting, including disciplinary matters, they may order stewards enquiries or hear evidence of objections, they may impose fines or suspensions or if warranted refer a matter to the stewards of the jockey club, if the weather is bad the stewards have the responsibility of deciding wether the meeting shall go on.
Racing Calendar: Name of the official and expensive weekly publication which gives entries in full for future races, weights allocated in handicaps as well as other information such as details of the official findings of inquiries, fines imposed, etc.
Racing Plates: These are the special light weight horseshoes specially fitted for racing.
Rails: The white post and rails which mark out a racecourse on either side and are known as the running rails, also refers to the rails which separate the different betting rings.
Rated Stakes: A handicap for which the range of weights shall be limited to not more than 14lb.
Ratings: This is the expression of an horses ability in figures, each year there is an international handicappers meeting which includes in its findings the seasonal order of merit in europe on the flat.
Record Sequences: This is the sequence of wins by racehorses, check out the Guiness Book of records Horse Racing Records book.
Result: The outcome of a race. For Bookmakers ‘we got a result’ will mean that an unfancied horse won.
RHT: The Racecourse Holdings Trust a non profit making company whose main purpose is to preserve racecourses for horse racing. course belonging to the trust are: Aintree Grand National, Carlisle, Cheltenham, Epsom, Haydock, Huntingdon, Kempton, Market Rasen, Newmarket, Nottingham, Sandown, Warwick, Wincanton.
Ringer: A name given to older horses illegally running in a race in the name of a younger one.
Racing Glossary ‘S’
Selling Race: A race in which the winner must be offered for sale at auction on the racecourse, and will sometimes appear abbreviated to (S) Race in the title.
Spread a Plate: This expression means that an horse has lost or damaged it’s racing shoe before the start, which will then be delayed while a farrier repairs or replaces it.
Spread Betting: Started by Betfair in 2000 this is a form of betting that covers every kind of sporting activity, the main difference with spread betting and normal betting when it comes to horse racing is with traditional betting you must bet on a specific horse or horses to win or to be placed or have forecasts, placepots, jackpots and more but they all have one thing in common the horse must be successful.
Spread betting is a ‘spread’ of numbers which represent the firm’s idea of the outcome of an event, backers, can buy if they think the result will be an higher number than the one quoted or sell if the this the result will be lower. This way you can oppose the favourite in a race without having to actually nominate a winner.
Sprinter: The term given to horses which specialise at racing the minimum distances on the flat which is five or six furlongs.
Starting Price: Usually shown as just SP these are the prices you usually see in your newspaper results columns, are broadcast on TV and Radio and form the basis from which the bookies etc will payout.
Stayer: Term given to horses which specialise at racing over the longest distances on the flat which is two miles plus.
Stuffy Horse: A horse that needs a lot of work to keep his breathing clear.
Racing Glossary ‘T’
Tic Tac: Sadly being replaced by modern technology tic tac was the semaphore of the race track, each bookie would have it’s tic tac man and he would signal all the betting moves who was putting what on where, each bookie had his own code so it was difficult to break down.
The Tote: The horse totalisator board. The Tote is also known as the nanny from the cockney rhyming slang for nanny goat. Instituted by an act of parliament in 1928 one of it’s stated aims was to generate money to support racing and still today makes substantial payments to racecourses based on a percentage of turnover, sponsorship and levy payments. The tote also provides an alternative means of betting to the bookmakers.
Trip: Is the course followed by a horse and rider during the running of a race and describes the ‘trouble’ encountered. A horse that had a ‘good trip’ did not encounter any unusual difficulty. A ‘bad trip’ might involve racing wide, or being boxed in by other horses.
Triple Crown: Should you win the 2000 guineas, Derby and St Leger you will have won the English Triple crown, the equivalent races for stayers are Ascot gold cup, Goodwood Cup, and Doncaster Cup. The American version is the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
Turn of Foot: Refers to an horses capability for speed.
Racing Glossary ‘V’
Virus: Fortunately nothing to do with your computers but a term used for a number of highly infectious flu like ailments which can spread quickly through a stable and virtually put it out of racing for a while. Symptoms are dry cough, temperature, and nasal discharges, horses usually take quite a while to recover their best form after such an attack.
Racing Glossary ‘W’
Weatherbys: Dating from 1770 when James Weatherby an attorney from Northumberland was invited by the Jockey Club to move to Newmarket and become the Keeper of the Match Book, Stake Holder and Secretary to the Jockey Club. Usually referred to as racings civil service. For over two hundred years this post was held by a succession of Weatherby’s nine in all, today they are under contract with the BHB to supply the complex administration required to run racing in Great Britain.
Weight for Age: This is a scale originally devised by Admiral Rous which lays down how horses of differing ages improve month by month throughout the season, differences being expressed in terms of weight. This scale is the foundation stone for handicappers in the UK.