Horse Racing Terms

A collection of popular horse racing and betting terms in an easy-to-use A-Z format:

Across the board

A bet on a horse to win, place, and show (it is actually three separate bets)

Allowance race

A race other than claiming for which the racing secretary establishes certain conditions to determine weights. It is the level of race between claiming and stakes

Also -eligible

A horse entered for a race but not allowed to run, usually due to the size of a starting gate or maximum capacity of a course, unless there is a defection from the main body of the field

Apprentice

A new jockey that has not ridden a certain number of winners in a specified time period

Backstretch

The straight on the far side of the track, between the turns. It can also refer to the stable area of a track

Bar shoe

A horse shoe with a rear bar to protect an injured foot

Bit

The bar in a horse’s mouth that allows the rider to guide them

Blacktype

Designation for a stakes winner or stakes -placed runner in sales catalogues. It refers to the bold, black font that distinguishes such races

Blinkers

A hood worn by a horse that limits their field of vision. Usually used to help the horse focus

Board

Totalisator board on which betting odds and pools are displayed

Break maiden

The first win of a horse’s career

Breeze

A horse’s workout that is done without maximum effort

Bridge jumper

A person who bets large amounts on a horse with very low odds. The name implies that the sum of money bet is so large the person will jump off a bridge if they lose

Broodmare

A female horse used for breeding

Bullet

The best workout for a given day at a specific distance

Bull ring

A small racetrack

Chart

A numerical composite of a race that provides winning times and positions of each horse throughout the race. It also includes a written description of each horse’s journey

Checked

When a jockey must pull up a horse suddenly because he is shut off or in tight quarters

Claiming race

A race in which all horses can be purchased for a predetermined price. Buying a horse this way is known as making a claim

Clocker

A person who times workouts and races

Closer

A horse who comes from behind in a race

Clubhouse turn

The first turn on a racetrack. Generally the one closer to the clubhouse

Colt

Male horse under 5 years of age

Condition book

A list of races written by the racing secretary to be run during a set period of time

Coupled

Two or more horses comprising the same betting entity

Daily double

A wager in which the bettor must select the winner of two consecutive races

Dam

The mother of a horse

Damsire

The sire of the broodmare (or the horse’s maternal grandfather)

Dead-heat

Two or more horses finishing in a tie

Distaff

Female. Or a race for fillies and mares

Dwelt

reaking very slowly from the starting gate

Eased

A horse that is pulled up in a race

Entry

Two or more horses forming the same betting entity in a race, usually because they share the same owner

Exacta

A wager in which the bettor must select the first and second -place finishers in a race

Exercise rider

A jockey that rides a horse during workouts

Farrier

A blacksmith, primarily responsible for the shoeing of horses

Field

The horses in a race

Filly

A female horse under the age of 5

Firm

The designation of a turf course when there is a minimal amount of moisture in it

Foal

A newborn horse

Fractions

The internal times of a race, usually the first quarter -mile, half -mile, and three -quarters, depending on the length of the race

Furlong

One -eighth of a mile

Gallop

A type of gait faster than a canter

Gate

The starting gate of a race

Gelding

A castrated male horse

Granddam

The grandmother of a horse

Grandsire

The grandfather of a horse

Groom

A person who cares for a horse in a stable

Halter

Similar to a bridle. Used in the handling of horses around the stable

Hand

The unit of measurement used to determine a horse’s height (from their withers to the ground). A hand equals four inches

Handicap

The process of determining a winner based on past performances. It is also a race in which horses are assigned varying weights to carry

Handle

The amount of money wagered on a race, a card, a meet or a year

Homebred

A horse bred by his owner

Horse

Can broadly refer to any thoroughbred but is more specifically a male 5 years or older

Hotwalker

A person that cools off a horse by walking them after a workout or a race

Hung

A horse that appears as if they might win but ostensibly doesn’t have the desire to pass another horse

In foal

A pregnant mare

In the money

A horse that finishes first, second, or third

Infield

The inner portion of a track inside of the racing surfaces

Inquiry

A review of a race conducted by the track stewards to determine if an infraction occurred

Irons

Stirrups, where the jockey places their feet while riding

Jumper

A steeplechase horse

Juvenile

A two -year -old horse

Lasix

A common raceday medication that is given, typically to prevent a horse from bleeding

Length

Measures the distance between horses in a race. A length is the distance from a horse’s nose to their tail, or about eight feet

Maiden

A horse who has not yet won a race. Also the type of race for non -winners

Mare

A female horse 5 years or older

Morning line

Odds established ahead of time by a morning-line oddsmaker that are meant to approximate the final odds of a race

Mudder

Horses who perform well on muddy or wet racetracks

Neck

A unit of measurement, about the length of a horse’s neck or a quarter of a length

Nose

The smallest unit of measurement a horse can win by

Odds-on

Odds that are less than even -money (or 1 -1)

Off-track

A wet racing surface

On the board

Finishing among the top three

Overlay

A horse whose chance of winning is greater than his odds suggest. In other words, a good bet

Paddock

The area where horses are saddled before a race. Can also refer to a field for horses

Parimutuel

The system of betting used for horse racing. In parimutuel wagering every bet of a particular type is grouped together in a pool, of which the track takes a percentage

Past performances

A list of past races for a horse, including important pieces of information for each race. It is the main means by which a handicapper analyzes a race

Photo finish

A result so close that a finish -line camera must be used to determine the winner

Pick-3 (or more)

A wager in which the bettor must select the winner of three consecutive races

Place

Second position at the finish, or a type of bet in which a horse must finish either first or second to win

Pole

Markers around the track denoting how far the horses are from the finish line. There is typically a pole for every sixteenth of a mile

Pool

The total amount wagered on a specific type of bet

Post parade

The procession of horses coming out on to the track and past the stands before a race

Post position

The starting position for a horse within the gate

Post time

The time a race is intended to begin

Purse

The prize money of a race

Quinella

Like an exacta, it is a type of wager in which the bettor must pick the first and second -place finishers in a race. The main difference is that in a quinella except the order of the horses doesn’t matter

Rabbit

A horse that is entered in a race without the intent of winning but to ensure a fast pace, usually for a better regarded stablemate

Ridgling

A horse with one or two undescended testicles

Roan

The coloration of a horse with white and red (or brown) hairs

Route

Refers to races at one mile or longer

Router

A horse who performs best at route distances (a mile or longer)

Saddle cloth

The cloth under the saddle that displays the horse’s number for a race

Scratch

To be removed from a race, whether it be by the trainer, stewards, or veterinarian

Shadow roll

A roll worn halfway up a horse’s face to prevent him from seeing his own shadow

Shank

A rope attached to a horse’s bridle or halter by which they are led

Show

Third position at the finish, or a type of bet in which a horse must finish first, second, or third to win

Silks

The jacket and cap worn by a jockey to signify who owns the horse

Sire

The father of a horse

Sloppy

A condition of a dirt racetrack in which the surface is wet with a firm bottom

Sophomore

A three -year -old horse

Stake

The highest level of competition for racehorses. There are Grade 1, 2, 3 and ungraded stakes races

Stallion

An intact male horse

Starter race

An allowance race restricted to horses who have run for a specific claiming price or less

Starting gate

The mechanical device in which horses are entered prior to the start of a race and that springs open once it commences

State-bred

A horse that is bred in a particular state and thus eligible to compete in races restricted to horses bred in that state

Stayer

A horse who excels at longer distances

Steadied

A horse being taken in hand by his rider, usually due to being put in close quarters

Stewards

Racetrack officials responsible for enforcing the rules

Steeplechase

A race in which horses must jump over obstacles such as hedges

Stick

A jockey’s whip

Stretch

The final straight portion of a racetrack to the finish

Stud

A male horse used for breeding

Swayback

A horse with a dipped backbone

Takeout

The portion of a betting pool that the host track takes as commission for conducting the race

Tout

A person who gives out picks, or the act of giving out a pick

Track bias

A racing surface that favors a particular running style or path

Trifecta

A wager in which the bettor must select the first, second, and third -place finishers of a race

Trip

A horse’s journey around the racetrack

Triple Crown

Name given to the series of three races for 3-year-olds beginning with the Kentucky Derby. The Preakness Stakes is the second leg and the Belmont Stakes is the last

Turf

Grass

Underlay

A horse whose chances of winning are less than what the odds suggest. In other words, a bad bet

Under wraps

A horse that wins while under restraint from the jockey at the end

Valet

The person who attends a jockey to make sure their equipment is in order

Walkover

A race in which, due to scratches, there is only one horse. By rule the horse must gallop around the track at the specified distance

Warm up

Galloping a horse before a race to get them ready to run

Washy

A horse sweating nervously before a race

Weanling

A horse that is less than one -year -old that has been separated from its dam

Work

A formal exercise for a horse leading up to a race

Yearling

A one -year -old horse

Yielding

A condition of a turf course with a lot of moisture in the ground

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