Horse Racing Glossary

A to Z of Horse Racing Terms: Racing Jargon Explained

Have you ever wanted to bet on the horses but have been put off because you didn’t understand the betting terms? Or do you simply enjoy watching horse racing, but find it difficult to understand due to the terminology? Well, if so, your prayers have been answered, with this brand new, up to date guide which explains all the jargon used in modern day horse racing and betting.

  • Abandoned – A race meeting is known as being ‘abandoned’ when it is called off as a result of bad weather, or any other reason which would mean racing cannot take place. In the event of an abandonment, all bets are refunded.
  • Accumulator – A type of bet which requires four or more separate outcomes to occur for a return. If any of the selections fail then the bet loses. Also known as a combination bet.
  • Allowance – Novice jockeys are often allowed a weight allocation in order to make up for their inexperience in comparison to their opposition. This additional weight is known as an allowance.
  • Also-ran – A horse that doesn’t place and finishes much further back than those in the prize money.
  • Antepost Betting – For high profile races, such as the Grand National, punters are allowed to place bets well in advance of the race, often several months before. Odds available at this time are often much higher than they would normally be, as the final line up of the race has not yet been confirmed, so there is a chance that the horse may not compete in the race. That said, Non-Runner No Bet offers at the Cheltenham Festival can help guard against that.
  • Back Straight – Also known as the backstretch, the back straight is often parallel to the home straight and is the straight on the far side of the course, away from the grandstand.
  • Banker – Similar to a favourite, although a banker is a horse that is heavily expected to win.
  • Bismarck – A horse that is priced as a favourite but is widely expected to lose.
  • Bookmaker – Known as a bookie or a layer, a bookmaker is somebody licenced to accept bets on horse races. Take a look at the best racing betting sites around!
  • Boxed In – A horse that is surrounded by other horses in a race, making it impossible for it to overtake.
  • Broke Down – Also known as ‘pulled up’. When a horse is injured or is unable to finish a race that they have started.
  • Bumper – Otherwise referred to as a National Hunt Flat Race, bumpers are flat races run in the style of jumps races to prepare inexperienced jumpers before they are ready to jump over fences.
  • Checked – A term used to describe the event of another horse being temporarily blocked in progression by another horse.
  • Chute – A part of the racecourse that has been lengthened in order to create a straight start for races. Often used for shorter, sprint races.
  • Classic – A group of five major flat races in the UK, exclusively for three year olds. The five races are: the 2,000 Guineas, the 1,000 Guineas, the Oaks, the Derby and the St Leger and we’ve got betting tips and offers for them all!
  • Colours – The colours of the silks worn by the jockey, which is referenced alongside the name of the horse in the race card.
  • Colt – A male horse that is younger than five years old.
  • Course Specialist – A horse that has experience of a particular track and often has history of winning important races there.
  • Dam – The mother of a horse.
  • Dark Horse – A horse that has a lot of potential to be successful in a race, but has not yet shown this level of performance. Selections known as ‘dark horses’ are often tipped to win, despite having long odds.
  • Dead-heat – When two horses finish at exactly the same time and cannot be separated by a photo finish, either for first place or another finishing position. If a winning bet is placed on one of the selections involved, the stake will be halved and the return will be determined based on the new stake.
  • Decimal Betting Odds – Odds for a horse expressed in terms of a whole number, which represents the total return. For example, 6.0 represents a return of £6 from a £1 bet and is the equivalent of 5/1 in fractional odds.
  • Double – An accumulative bet that requires two separate selections to win for the bet to be successful.
  • Draw – A term used to describe the starting position of a horse in the stalls during flat racing. Different courses are more favourable to particular draws, with an advantageous position described as being ‘well-drawn’.
  • Drifter – A horse whose odds increase steadily prior to the start of a race as a result of not being backed by punters.
  • Each-way – A popular ‘insurance bet’ in horse racing. Half the stake placed goes towards the horse winning the race, whilst the other half of the stake goes on the horse to place. If the horse wins the race, the bet is settled with half the stake being returned at the full odds, with the other half returned at a predetermined fraction of the full odds. If the horse does not win the race, but manages to place, half the stake will be returned at this fraction, whilst the other half of the stake will be lost.
  • Evens – A horse with odds of 1/1. A successful winner at evens is essentially doubling the stake. Otherwise known as even money.
  • Favourite – The horse that is most likely to win a race and has the shortest odds, based on factors such as previous form and the conditions of the course
  • Fillie – A young female horse, generally aged four years old and below.
  • Flat Racing – Horse racing run over a flat surface without jumps. Traditionally run during the summer months, but more recently run throughout the year due to the introduction of all weather courses.
  • Forecast Bet – A bet which requires the punter to predict both the winner and the runner-up in a particular race. There are two separate types of forecast bet. A straight forecast is predicting the winner and the runner-up in the precise order, whereas a dual forecast is correctly predicting the winner and the runner-up in any order.
  • Form – The recent racing record of a horse listed on the race card, which is identifiable by a series of numbers. A ‘1’ denotes first place, ‘2’ equals second place and so on.
  • Fractional Betting Odds – Odds for a horse expressed in the terms of a fraction. For example, odds of 5/1 indicate a stake of £1 will have potential winnings of £5, generating a £6 return.
  • Furlong – A unit of measurement used regularly throughout horse racing. There are eight furlongs in one mile and a furlong is just over 201 metres.
  • Going – The condition of the racecourse on the day of a meeting, as determined by an official steward prior to racing. Going can range from ‘hard’ to ‘heavy’, although hard surfaces are rarely used as it is dangerous to both the horses and the jockeys.
  • Grade 1 – The most prestigious category of jumps racing in the UK, which includes all championship races such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
  • Group 1 – The most prestigious category of flat racing in the UK, which includes all the Classics, among other traditional races.
  • Guineas – The currency that horses were traditionally sold in. In modern day currency a guinea is £1.05 and some companies still use it to this day. Two of the Classics – the 1,000 Guineas and the 2,000 Guineas – are named after their original prize fund.
  • Handicap – In order to make a race as even as possible, each horse is allocated a specific amount of weight to carry, based on a predetermined handicap rating.
  • Home Straight – The straight on the course in front of the grandstand, leading into the winning post.
  • Hurdles – A branch of National Hunt racing that requires horses to jump over fences. The fences are smaller than those used in steeplechase race and hurdles races are generally aimed at more inexperienced horses, to get them used to jumping over obstacles.
  • In-play Betting – Betting on a horse to win or place whilst the race is taking place. Odds change dramatically as horses change position on the field. Also known as in-running betting or live betting.
  • Jackpot – A type of tote bet which requires the punter to predict the winner of the first six races at a particular race meeting.
  • Left-handed Track – A racecourse that is run in an anti-clockwise motion, with the rails on the left hand side of the jockeys.
  • Length – A measurement used to determine the distance between horses in a race. A length is the distance from a horses head to its tail.
  • Level Weights – A race which requires all horses to carry the same amount of weight.
  • Listed Race – A prestigious class of race but one which is not as highly regarded as those of Grade or Group standing.
  • Long Shot – A horse with very high odds that has an outside chance of success.
  • Lucky 15 – A type of accumulator that consists of 15 separate bets based on four horses. The 15 bets are made up of four singles, six doubles, four trebles and a four-fold accumulator. This bet has less risk than a regular accumulator as there is still a chance of success even if one or more selections lose. The Lucky 15 is said to have been invented by Betfred. Take a look at our weekly Lucky 15 betting tips.
  • Maiden – A horse that has so far been unsuccessful in efforts to win a race. Specific races cater for these horses, known as maiden races.
  • NAP – The best tip of a day from a tipster and an almost certain winner, similar to a banker. NAP is an abbreviation from a board game called Napoleon.
  • National Hunt – Horse racing which involves horses having to jump over fences, ditches and obstacles. Split into two sections in the UK: Hurdles and Steeplechase.
  • Non-runner – A horse that has been scheduled to take part in a race but withdraws before the race takes place, potentially affecting the odds of the other horses.
  • Novice – A young horse that has already won a race.
  • Odds-on – Odds that are very likely to be successful. The potential winnings are not as high as the amount staked, that is to say a horse whose odds are lower than evens.
  • Pacemaker – A horse that is owned or trained by the same people as another horse in the race, that is entered into a particular race purely to set the pace of the other horse.
  • Patent – A type of accumulator that consists of seven separate bets, based on three different selections. The bets involve three singles, three doubles and one triple. Only one horse needs to be successful in order to generate any sort of return.
  • Penalty – Additional weight added to a horse based on its handicap. A penalty often occurs when a horse has won a different race after being entered so there has not been an opportunity to re-evaluate the handicap of the horse.
  • Photo Finish – If the winner of a race is too close to be determined at pace by the naked eye, a judge will analyse a photograph of the finish line to work out the final result of a race.
  • Placepot – Similar to the jackpot, a placepot is a type of tote bet that requires a punter to predict a horse to place in the first six races of a particular meeting.
  • Price – The odds offered on the chances of a horse winning.
  • Pulling – The term used to describe the stage early on in a race during which a horse is distracted and unfocused, so subsequently pulls against the bridle.
  • Punter – A member of the public that places a bet.
  • Race Card – A programme issued for each race meeting, with a list of each race outlining each horse, the jockey and their form.
  • Return – The total amount of money given to the punter in the result of a successful bet. The amount of money returned is the stake and winnings combined.
  • Right-handed Track – A racecourse that is run in a clockwise motion, with the rails on the right hand side of the jockey.
  • Short-price – Very low odds for a horse, meaning any return will generate little profit.
  • Single – One bet that is settled simply on the odds provided.
  • Sire – The father of a horse.
  • Sprint Race – Shorter flat races run at a faster pace, generally over distances of between 5f and 8f.
  • Starting Price – The last price available for a horse before a race starts and the odds that bets are settled at, unless a punter takes specific odds when backing a horse. Generally shortened to SP. Best Odds Guaranteed is a great offer that helps you avoid deciding which odds to plump for. Some bookies now even offer BOG Plus!
  • Steeplechase – A branch of National Hunt racing that requires horses to jump over fences and water jumps, as well as various other obstacles.
  • Steward’s Enquiry – Often shortened to just ‘enquiry’, a steward’s enquiry is a hearing which takes place after a race has finished to make sure no racing rules have been broken during the race.
  • Stud Farm – Occasionally based on location at some racecourses, a stud farm is a centre where horses are mated.
  • Tic-tac – A branch of sign language used to communicate changing odds to the bookmakers at a racecourse. The use of the sign language is seldom used at modern day racing due to the prominence of modern day technology.
  • Tote Bet – Tote bets are pool bets where the return is not fixed by predetermined odds but rather by the total amount of money bet on the race or races in question and the number of people who backed the winner, with a cut taken to cover expenses, taxes and the operator’s profit margin.
  • Treble – An accumulative bet that requires three separate selections to win in order to generate a return.
  • Triple Crown – In the UK, winning the 2,000 Guineas, the Derby and the St Leger as a colt in the same season is known as the Triple Crown. The Triple Crown for fillies consists of 1,000 Guineas, the Oaks and the St Leger. Winning all three is a rare and remarkable achievement, with Nijinsky the last horse to achieve the feat in 1970, though Camelot was on for the treble in 2012 but finished second in the St Leger.
  • Trixie – A type of accumulator consisting of four separate bets based on three horses. The bet involves three doubles and one treble. At least two selections must win in order to generate any return.
  • Unfancied – A horse with long odds that has not been backed well and is not expected to win.
  • Walkover – A race that, for whatever reason, only consists of one horse.
  • Yankee – A type of accumulator involving 11 bets, based on four separate selections. The bet involves six doubles, four trebles and one four-fold accumulator. A minimum of two selections must win in order to achieve any return.
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