10 Horse Racing Phrases You Need To Know

Features | 16th May 2022

To the outsider, racing can sometimes appear to have its own language.

Here’s some explanations of ten racing phrases you might have heard and were wondering what they meant.

Black Type

Horses, especially fillies and mares, are often referred to as having gained some black type. This means they have won or finished placed in a Listed or Group race. The term comes from how these horses’ names appear in bold text in the pedigree pages of sales
catalogues, so the better horses are easier to spot.

Bumper Races

These aren’t like fairground dodgems but are National Hunt races without any jumps. They are designed to give young horses racing experience before they graduate to hurdles.

To qualify to run in a British bumper race a horse must be no older than six‐years‐old and cannot have run on the Flat or over hurdles.

The term ‘bumper’ comes from the early days of racing when they were restricted to amateur riders, who tended to bump around in the saddle.

Come On For The Run

After a race a horse is often described as likely to ‘come on for the run’.

Horses that are returning from a lengthy break might well be referred to as this because they might be short of peak fitness.
It means they are likely to improve their fitness for having run in a race.

Sometimes, before a race, a horse might be called ‘backward’. This means he/she appears from paddock inspection to be likely to come on for the run.

A bumper race at Newbury

Get The Trip

It might sound like the horse is going on holiday but that’s way off the mark.

When a horse is trying a longer distance for the first time there are discussions of whether he/she will ‘get the trip’.

In these instances ‘trip’ is just shorthand for the distance of the race.

Maiden Races

From the name, some might think these are races restricted to female horses.

They are, in fact, for horses of either sex that are yet to win a race.

A horse that wins for the first time is sometimes referred to as ‘breaking his/her maiden’.

On The Bridle

A bridle is the collection of leather straps that fits around a horse’s head connecting the mouth bit and the reins so a jockey can control his mount.

To be ‘on the bridle’ is when a horse is travelling through a race without the jockey having to push from the saddle to ask for extra effort.

A commentator will sometimes be heard to say a horse is on the bridle as a race enters the closing stages and it is often – but not always – a sign of spotting the winner from some way out.

Other ways of saying the same thing are ‘hard on the steel’ and ‘on the snaff’ both referring to the bit that goes in the horse’s mouth.

A jockey on the bridle

Selling Plater

It might sound like a sale of kitchenware but a ‘selling plater’ is actually a low‐grade horse that runs in selling races.

After those races, the winner is put up for sale in an auction held in the winner’s enclosure.

The horses are known as ‘platers’ as, historically, the winning owner was given a plate rather than a trophy that was traditionally presented following higher‐quality races.

Spread A Plate

When a race is delayed it is sometimes because a horse has ‘spread a plate’.

This has nothing to do with what’s served up for lunch but it means a horse has an issue with the aluminium shoes they wear.

Sometimes they can be ripped off on the way to the start or shift around on their feet. The course farrier is called to fix the issue.

Turn Of Foot

When a horse appears to change gear and go faster in the finish, he/she is often referred to as having a good ‘turn of foot’.
That ability to quicken when a jockey asks can be a potent weapon but usually, especially in fast‐run races, appearances can be deceptive.

The weakening horses often make the fast‐finishers look like they have quickened more than they actually have.

Well Handicapped

A trainer or jockey will often describe a horse as being ‘well handicapped’.

Every horse is given an official rating when it has run three times and those ratings determine what weight a horse carries when racing in a

When a horse is referred to as being ‘well handicapped’ it means it is thought to be better than the rating it has been allotted and, therefore, is likely to have an excellent chance of winning