You can be forgiven for thinking Horse Racing fans are speaking their own language sometimes, with plenty of racing-specific terms that might not be easy to understand if you’re new to the sport. To make things easier for you, we’ve created a useful glossary of terms to explain horse racing jargon.
When a race meeting gets cancelled, usually due to poor weather conditions.
A type of bet that involves four or more selections. All selections need to win (or place if you do an each-way accumulator) in order for you to be successful.
All racehorses share the same birthday – 1st January. So even if the horse is born in April, the horse’s official birthday will still be on New Year’s Day.
A weight concession given to inexperienced jockeys to compensate for their lack of racing experience. This is given to apprentices, conditionals and amateur jockeys, and usually is 3lb, 5lb or 7lb. The allowance decreases as the jockey rides more winners.
This refers to an artificial racing surface. There are three different types of surface – Fibresand, Polytrack and Tapeta.
A jockey that isn’t yet professional and does not receive a fee for riding in a race. They usually receive a weight allowance when racing against professional jockeys.
The ability to bet on future races, usually available for the bigger races, such as the Grand National or the Epsom Derby. Ante-post betting is usually available on all the big Festivals too, such as Cheltenham Festival and Royal Ascot. The odds are usually greater on ante-post betting as the horses aren’t guaranteed to line up in the race.
A trainer flat jockey linked to the stable of a licensed trainer. They usually receive a weight allowance when racing against professional jockeys.
At The Post
When the horses arrive at the starting point of the race.
A horse that is expected to win, usually priced accordingly.
The area at racecourses where most bookmakers tend to operate.
The metal part of the bridle that sits in the horse’s mouth. A jockey’s reins are attached to the bit and that is what they use to control the horse.
A term used by the bloodstock industry to identify a horse that has won or been placed in a Group/Graded/Listed race.
When horses finish so close together that you could effectively put a ‘blanket’ across them. These usually result in a photo finish to determine the outcome of who finished first.
A form of headgear for the horse, which is made up of a hood with cups around the eyes. Blinkers are used to limit a horse’s vision and to reduce the risk of the horse becoming distracted. You will notice a ‘b’ on a racecard for horses wearing blinkers, usually next to the horse’s weight. If it has a 1 next to the ‘b’ on the racecard, it indicates the horse is wearing blinkers for the first time.
A short workout that is usually done a day or two before a race, in order to clear the horse’s airways for the race.
A person or company who is licensed to take bets.
When a horse is blocked by other horses and unable to find a gap.
The equipment on the head of the horse that is used to control it.
A mare that is kept at the stud for breeding purposes. Broodmare’s tend to be racehorses but are unlikely to still continue to race.
When a horse falls during a race due to being impeded by another horse.
A flat race that is run under jumps rules. These races are used to educate future jumps horses, before they try to race over hurdles or fences.
When a horse collides with another and causes interference. This can result in a stewards’ enquiry if deemed to affect the bumped horse significantly.
Strips of sheepskin that attach to the side of a horse’s bridle. They are used to partially obscure a horse’s rear vision, which should help them concentrate in a race. You will notice a ‘p’ on a racecard for horses wearing cheekpieces, usually next to the horse’s weight. If it has a 1 next to the ‘p’ on the racecard, it indicates the horse is wearing cheekpieces for the first time.
The five historic major races for three-year-olds in the flat season in Britain. They are:
An ungelded (entire) male aged four years or younger.
A jockey in jump racing aged 25 or younger that is licenced to a specific trainer. They will receive a weight allowance for their inexperience until they ride a certain amount of winners.
The people associated with the horse – owner, trainer etc.
A horse that has proven to go well at a certain racecourse in previous races.
A horse’s mother.
A horse who is deemed to have potential but hasn’t shown his full capabilities yet. Trainers may opt to plot a horse’s campaign carefully, so they don’t have a huge weight to carry in a handicap.
When horses cannot be separated at the finish line, even with the help of the photo finish.
When a horse is confirmed to take part in a race at the final declaration stage.
When a horse causes interference or infringement, a stewards’ enquiry may result in the horse being disqualified from the race. If it isn’t deemed a major infringement, the horse may be demoted in the places instead.
How far a horse has won or lost by, which is measured in lengths.
The amount that a bet returns for every £1 bet.
A horse’s starting position in the stalls allotted to them in flat racing. So for example, a horse drawn 6 will be in stall 6.
A bet that is split into two – half the stake is on the horse to win and the other half is on the horse to finish in the places. Depending on the number of runners in the race, an each way bet usually pays a quarter or a fifth of the odds if your horse finishes in the places. For example:
This is the stage where owners/trainers submit the horse to take part in a race. During the entry stage, the horse’s details are given to the horse racing authorities to determine whether the horse is eligible to take part in the race.
When your stake returns equal winnings. For example, if you bet £10 on a horse at even money and it wins, you will get £20 for your bet (£10 winnings and your £10 stake back).
The horse that has the shortest odds in the race.
The number of horses in a race.
A female horse aged four or younger.
A stables main fancy in a race if they have two or more runners in the same race.
Used to describe a horse from birth up to 1st January the following year.
The horse’s race record. Numbers represent the finishing person in their recent races, with the form read from read to left. For example, a horse whose form reads 243751 would have won on his most recent start.
A horse that likes to race up towards the front of the runners, setting the tempo of the race.
The measurement for a distance of a race. A furlong is the equivalent to an eighth of a mile or 220 yards. The numbers seen on posts at racecourses count the furlongs back from the winning post.
The part of the training ground where the horses are exercised.
The section of the stalls that opens up to release the horses and start the race.
A male horse that has been castrated.
The condition of the ground at the racecourse. It can vary from firm to heavy ground.
When horses are making their way onto the racecourse to the starting point of the race.
A term used to describe when a horse shows signs of inexperience in a race.
The top tier of racing, with Group/Grade 1’s being the most important. Group races are run in flat racing, whilst Graded races are jumps races.
The traditional currency used when purchasing racehorses. One guinea worked out as one pound and one shilling, or £1.05 in modern day money.
A type of race where horses carry different weights, depending on their handicap rating. This is to ensure the race is run on a fair and equal basis.
The official rating given to a horse once it has raced at least three times. The rating determines how much weight they have to carry in a handicap race, and will go up when the horse runs well. If it runs poorly, their handicap rating will drop.
The official responsible for allocating handicap ratings to horses. They also set the weights to be carried by the horses in handicap races.
When a jockey puts full effort into getting the most out of the horse, usually using the whip to do so.
A unit of measurement in a race finish about the length of a horse’s head.
The straight part of the racecourse from the final bend to the finish line.
A horse that runs over hurdles.
The smaller of the two obstacles on a jumps racecourse. Horses tend to start off their jumps career over hurdles before eventually progressing to fences (chasing), although some horses do remain over hurdles their entire career and some opt to go straight over fences.
Events that occur during the race.
A two-year-old horse. Each horse turns two on January 1 in the second full calendar year following its birth – for example, a horse born in 2023 will turn two on 1st January 2025.
If two horses at the head of the betting have the same odds, they are considered joint-favourites.
The racecourse official that is responsible for declaring the finishing order of a race, and the distances between the runners.
To take a bet on. Essentially you are betting on a horse to lose.
A racecourse where the horses run in an anti-clockwise direction.
A unit of measurement for the distance between horses at the finish of a race. A length is the measure of a horse from head to tail. .
When all horses in the race are carrying the same weight.
A class of race that is just below Group/Graded level.
A horse that is big odds and is considered to have an outside chance of winning.
A horse that is yet to win a race.
A female horse aged five or older.
A middle distance race in flat racing is deemed anything beyond a mile (1m) and up to one mile six furlongs (1m 6f).
The shortest race distance. For flat racing it is five furlongs, and for jumps racing it is two miles.
A nap is the tipster’s best bet of the day.
Another name for jumps racing, so any race held over hurdles or fences.
A unit of measurement in a race finish about the length of a horse’s neck.
When a horse is withdrawn from a race before it starts, for any reason, it is declared a non-runner.
A unit of measurement in a race finish about the length of a horse’s nose. It is the shortest winning distance a horse can win by.
When a horse is in the early stages of its career and after it has won its first race, it is called a novice.
A handicap race that is run on the flat for two-year-old horses.
When the potential winnings are higher than the stake. For example, a horse that wins at 5/1 (6.00), you would win £5 for a £1 stake, so you would get a total return of £6 (your £1 stake plus the £5 winnings).
When the stake is higher than the possible winnings if the bet wins. For example, a horse that wins at 1/2 (1.00), you would have to risk £2 to win £1, so you would get a total return of £3 (your £2 stake plus the £1 winnings).
Off The Bridle
When the horse is asked for it’s effort, it is pushed along and loses contact with the bit in its mouth.
Off The Pace
When a horse is some way behind the front runners in a race.
A term used to describe a horse who fails to change it’s pace in the closing stage of a race.
On The Bridle
A term used to describe a horse that has won easily, where he wins without having to be asked for a full effort.
A type of jump in National Hunt racing that has a ditch on the approach side of the fence.
Out Of The Money
When a horse fails to finish in the places, thus failing to win any of the place money.
A horse that isn’t fancied to win and is usually a big price in the betting.
When a horse is entered in a race, they must be declared to run, which usually occurs the day before the race. At this stage the horses left in the race are known as ‘overnight declarations’.
When a horse carries more than its allocated weight, due to the jockey being unable to make the weight.
A horse that enters a race to set the pace for another horse for the same connections.
The area of the racecourse which includes the parade ring and the winner’s enclosure.
The place where horses due to race meet their jockeys and parade in front of racegoers.
When a horse wins a race, it can have a penalty for their following race, where he will have to carry extra weight.
If a race has an extremely close finish between two or more horses, the result is determined by examining the photo taken when the horses cross the finish line.
A type of tote bet which involves the first six races of a meeting. You need to pick out a selection to finish in the places in each of the first six races on the racecard in order for the bet to win.
When a horse drops out of a race and fails to finish.
When the horse pulls against its bridle. This usually happens early on in a race, and is due to the horse using too much energy.
A term to describe someone who places a bet.
When a horse is ridden, but isn’t asked for it’s full effort by the jockey.
The hind part of the horse, measured from the horse’s hip to the tail.
A programme that shows all the information for the race meeting. It will show the runners, riders and times for each race, as well as plenty of other essential information, such as form and the horse number.
White plastic rails are used to mark out the track on the racecourse. A stands rail is the rail closest to the grandstand, whilst the far rails are the opposite side of track from the grandstand.
The way horses are measured on their ability. The best flat horses tend to reach a peak rating of 130+, whereas jumps horses can reach 180+.
A type of bet where you aim to find the winner and runner-up, in any order. Essentially, you pick two horses, and if they finish 1st and 2nd, your bet will win.
A racecourse where the horses run in a clockwise direction.
A term used to describe training a horse for jumping.
A stables second choice in a race if they have two or more runners in the same race.
A low-class race where the winner is offered at auction following the race. Other horses entered in the race can be claimed for a fixed sum.
The jacket (silks) worn by the jockey to identify the horse. The silks design/colour is chosen by the owners of the horse.
The father of a horse.
A unit of measurement in a race finish, when a horse finishes ahead by less than a head but more than nose, it is classed as winning by a short head.
The condition of the ground when the rain has left the ground soft.
A horse that specialises in running over the shortest distances in flat races (5-6 furlongs).
A male breeding horse.
A type of machinery used at the start of flat horse races. Horses go into their numbered stall, which is pre-assigned to them in a draw. The stalls are used to ensure races are started in an orderly and fair manner.
The racecourse official who is responsible for starting the race.
Starting Price (SP)
The abbreviated term for Starting Price, which is the odds the horse is when the race starts.
A horse that specialises in longer distance races. For flat racing, this would be two miles or further. For jumps racing, it would be three miles or further.
When a horse finishes the race strongly, which tends to highlight good stamina.
A type of race that involves horses jumping fences, open ditches and water jumps, that is run over a distance of two miles or further.
A hearing held in the Stewards’ room to discuss whether the stewards feel the rules have been broken in a race. If they feel the rules have been broken, a horse can be disqualified or demoted.
A type of bet where you aim to find the winner and runner-up in the correct order.
A farm where horses are mated. There is usually at least one stallion living on the stud farm.
When a horse pays an additional fee to get into a race at a later stage, if they haven’t qualified for the race. This tends to be for major races, such as the St Leger.
A breed of horse developed for horse racing.
A strip of material that is tied around a horse’s tongue and lower jaw to prevent the horse from swallowing its tongue. You will notice a ‘t’ on a racecard for horses wearing a tongue tie, usually next to the horse’s weight. If it has a 1 next to the ‘t’ on the racecard, it indicates the horse is wearing a tongue tie for the first time.
The person in charge of training the horses. A trainer must hold a license or obtain a permit to be allowed to train.
A term used to inform the distance of a race.
A series of races for thoroughbreds that if won, is considered one of the greatest accomplishments in racing. There are different triple crowns for colts and fillies:
How a horse looks when presented in the paddock. Racecourses usually have a ‘best turned out’ award for the best looking horse in the paddock.
Turn Of Foot
The acceleration of a horse when asked for its effort in the closing stages.
Under Starters Orders
The moment a race is about to begin. The jockeys are waiting for the race to start, either in the stalls for flat racing, or lined up at the start of a jumps race.
When a horse isn’t expected to win.
Similar to blinkers, but with a slit in the eye cups, which allow some lateral vision. You will notice a ‘v’ on a racecard for horses wearing a visor, usually next to the horse’s weight. If it has a 1 next to the ‘v’ on the racecard, it indicates the horse is wearing a visor for the first time.
A race that involves one horse. Even though it only involves one horse, the horse and jockey must still pass the winning post to be declared the winner.
The official confirmation after the race that the jockeys have raced at the correct weight. Once this is done, the racecourse commentator will announce “Weighed in. Weighed in”.
A cloth that is placed under the saddle with pockets to add lead weights. This ensures the horse carries its allotted weight.
When a horse is deemed to be favoured by the weights.
A surgical procedure which assists with a horse’s breathing.
The stick used by jockeys to encourage/steer their horse.
A multiple bet on four selections in different races. A yankee consists of 11 bets:
So you will need at least two selections to win to get a return.
The trainers premises where their racehorses are trained.
A foal from January 1st – December 31st of the year following its birth.
An Irish term to describe the condition of the ground, which essentially equates to the British ‘good to soft’.