Jargon Buster

Our glossary will help you find and understand a huge array of horse racing terms, varying from common sayings to technical terminology.

Table of Contents



A race meeting which has been cancelled due to bad weather. All bets placed on abandoned races are fully refunded.

Accumulator Bet

A bet involving more than one horse/race. Each winning selection then goes on to the next horse (bet). All selections must be successful to win any money back.

Act (on the ground/on the track etc)

Describes a horse’s suitability for different conditions e.g. going, racecourses etc. If a horse ‘acts on soft ground’ it means that horse has shown previous ability to handle soft ground.


All thoroughbreds have their birthdays on 1 January.


Inexperienced riders (apprentices, conditionals and amateurs) are allowed a weight concession to compensate for their lack of experience against their colleagues. The ‘allowance’ is usually 3lb, 5lb or 7lb, with it decreasing as the young jockey rides more winners.

All-Weather (AWT)

An artificial racing surface. There are five all-weather racetracks in Britain (Chelmsford, Kempton, Lingfield, Southwell, Wolverhampton) and one in Ireland (Dundalk), and they stage race meetings throughout the summer and winter. There are three types of surface – Fibresand, Polytrack and Tapeta.


A horse that finishes ‘down the field’ in a race (i.e. out of the prizemoney).


A non-professional jockey who does not receive a fee for riding in a race, denoted on the racecard by the prefix Mr, Mrs, Miss, Captain etc. Some races are restricted to amateurs-only.


For many major races you can place your bet well in advance of the day. In the case of the Classics or big National Hunt races such as the Grand National this could be a year or more before the race takes place. The price of the horse you bet on is usually bigger than you would expect to see on the day as it reflects the fact the horse is not guaranteed to line up in the race. You can place an antepost bet until the final declaration stage of the race.


A trainee Flat jockey connected to the stable of a licensed trainer. Apprentices have a weight allowance when they ride in races against professional jockeys and can compete for the annual Apprentice title, given to the winner of the most races during the season.

At the post

When all the horses have arrived at the start before a race, they are said to be ‘at the post’.

Auction maiden

For two-year-olds sold at public auction as yearlings or two-year-olds, for a price not exceeding a specified figure.



Type of auction, usually for two-year-olds, at which the horses for sale run for a short distance to allow prospective buyers to assess them.


The equipment on a horse’s head used to control it.

Bridle, won on the

Won easily, without being hard ridden or challenged by other horses.

Broke down

When a horse sustains an injury during a race.


Mare kept at stud for breeding, and not usually raced, although likely to have done so when younger.

Brought down

A horse that falls during a race when impeded by another horse.


A Flat race run under Jump Rules, used to educate young prospective jumps horses before they tackle hurdles or fences. Officially called National Hunt Flat Race.


Interference during a race where one horse collides with another. Often results in a Stewards’ Enquiry, particularly when interference takes place in the closing stages of the race

Burlington Bertie

The tic-tac bookmaking term for 100-30.


Betting term used to describe a favourite that bookmakers expect to lose and are therefore happy to lay.


Metal part of the bridle that sits in a horse’s mouth. The reins are then attached to the bit and used by the jockey to control the horse.

Black (horse colour)

The horse is a uniform black colour (except possible white markings on its head and lower legs).

Black type

Term used by the bloodstock industry to denote a horse that has won or been placed in a Pattern/Listed race. Horses ‘going for black type’ are attempting to win or be placed in a Pattern/Listed race to improve their breeding value.

Blanket Finish

When the horses finish so close to the winning line you could theoretically put a single blanket across them.The Judge usually calls a photo to decide the official placings.


A horse that tends to break blood vessels during a race.


Another name for blinkers.


A form of headgear worn by the horse, consisting of a hood with cups around the eyes. They are use to limit a horse’s vision and reduce distractions, with the aim of making it concentrate.A horse wearing blinkers is denoted on a racecard by a small b next to the horse’s weight (b1 indicates that the horse is wearing blinkers in a race for the first time).

Bloodstock sales

The sale of horses at auction.


A short workout, usually a day or two before a race, designed to clear the horse’s airways before the race.

Board prices

The generally available odds displayed on the boards of on-course bookmakers. It is from these that the starting price (SP) is derived. ‘Taking the board price’ means taking the last price shown against your selection at the time you strike the bet.


A record of the bets made on a particular race or other sporting event. A bookmaker ‘makes a book’ by determining the likelihood of each possible outcome in a race and presenting this in the form of odds or prices. The book is adjusted according to the amount of money and bets struck on each possible outcome.


A person/company licensed to accept bets. Also known as a bookie.


The tic-tac bookmaking term for 2-1.

Boxed in

A horse that cannot overtake another horse because it is blocked by other horses.


A horse that constantly walks around its stable and doesn’t settle.

Break (a horse) in

Teaching a young horse to accept riding equipment and carry a rider.


Restraining or easing off on a horse for a short distance to permit him to fill his lungs during the race.


Someone that breeds racehorses. They own the dam (mother) at time foal is born.


Galloping a horse at a moderate speed.

Backed / Backed-In

A ‘backed’ horse is one on which lots of bets have been placed. A horse which is backed-in means that bettors have outlaid a lot of money on that horse, with the result being a decrease in the odds offered

Backstretch / Back Straight

The straight length of the track on the far side of the course from the stands


A horse that is either too young or not fully fit.


The horse expected to win – usually a short priced favourite. The strongest selection in a multiple selection.


Term used when describing bookmakers’ prices. e.g. ‘4-1 bar two’ means that you can obtain at least 4-1 about any horse except for the first two in betting.


Horse colour – any brown horse with a black mane/tail and legs.

Betting market

A market is created, according to demand, by the prices offered for each runner by bookmakers.

Betting Ring

The main area at a racecourse where the bookmakers operate.



Jacket (‘silks’) worn by jockey to identify a horse. A horse runs in its owner’s colours which are registered with Weatherbys. The colours to be worn by each jockey are shown on racecards.


Ungelded (entire) male horse below five years of age.

Combination bet (accumulator)

A bet involving more than one horse with the winnings from each selection going on to the next horse. All selections must be successful to get a return. Combination bets must be placed with the same bookmaker.

Conditional jockey

A Jump jockey, under 26, who receives a weight allowance for inexperience until he has ridden a certain number of winners. A conditional jockey is licensed to a specific trainer. Some races are restricted to conditionals-only.

Conditions race

A race in which horses are allotted extra weight according to factors including sex, age, whether they are a previous winner etc. This is a better-class race for horses just below Group or Listed level.


A horse’s build and general physical structure; the way he is put together.


People associated with a horse, such as the owner and trainer.

Course specialist

A horse that is proven at a track in previous races.

Covered up

When a jockey keeps a horse behind other runners to prevent it running too freely in the early stages of a race.


The mating of horses.

Cut in the ground

A description of the ground condition where the racing surface has been softened by rain.


The tic-tac bookmaking term for 10-1.


A horse that shares its position at the head of the betting market with at least two other horses.


The tic-tac bookmaking term for 3-1. Double carpet is 33-1.


A horse that takes part in steeplechase races.


When a horse’s run during a race is momentarily blocked by another horse or horses.


Strips of sheepskin that are attached to the side of a horse’s bridle. They partially obscure a horse’s rear vision, with the aim of getting the horse to concentrate on racing. Horses wearing cheekpieces are denoted on a racecard by a small p next to the horse’s weight.


Horse colour varying from light, washy yellow to dark liver orange, and in between are red, gold and liver shades.


Extension of racecourse, usually at the top of the home straight, to allow straight run from the start.

Claimer (jockey)

An apprentice Flat jockey.

Claiming race / Claimer

A race in which each horse’s weight is determined by the price placed on them by connections. The lower the claiming price, the lower the weight. Horses can be ‘claimed’ (bought) by other owners/trainers for the specified price after the race.


Group of historic major races for three-year-olds in the Flat season. In Britain the five Classics are (in running order) the 2,000 Guineas, the 1,000 Guineas, the Oaks, the Derby and the St Leger – most European countries have their own versions of these Classics. A Classic contender is a horse being aimed at one of these races or is regarded as having the potential to compete at that level.

Clerk of the Course

Racecourse official responsible for the overall racecourse management, including the preparation of the racing surface.

Clerk of the Scales

Racecourse official whose chief duty is to weigh the riders before and after a race to ensure proper weight is carried.



When a horse is demoted in the finishing order due to an infringement of the Rules following a Stewards’ Enquiry.


The margin by which a horse has won or has been beaten (e.g. a horse might have a winning distance of three lengths) OR in Jump racing, if a horse is beaten/wins by a long way (more than 30 lengths) it is said to have been beaten/won by a distance.


The amount that a winning or placed horse returns for every £1 bet.


Consists of one bet involving two selections in different events. Both selections must be successful to get a return, with the winnings from the first selection going on to the second selection. The return is calculated by multiplying the odds on the two selections: e.g. a £10 double on a 2-1 winner and a 7-1 winner pays £240 (£10 on a 2-1 winner = £30, then that £30 on a 7-1 winner = £240).

Double carpet

The tic-tac bookmaking term for 33-1.


A horse’s starting position in the stalls allotted in races on the Flat. Stall numbers are drawn at random by Weatherbys (except in a handful of top races that allow each horse’s connections, having been randomly selected, to choose the stall number for their horse). A horse with a seemingly advantageous draw is said to be “well drawn”. Stalls are used for Flat racing only.


A horse whose odds get bigger just before the race due to a lack of support in the market. Often referred to as being “on the drift”.

Drop in class/trip

A horse racing in a lower class of race than he has recently run in/running over a shorter distance.

Dual forecast

A bet where the aim is to select both the winner and runner-up in a race in either order.

Dwell/dwelt (at the start)

To start slowly.


A horse’s mother.

Damsire (broodmare)

The sire of a broodmare; in human terms, the maternal grandfather of a horse.

Dark horse

A horse regarded as having potential but whose full capabilities have not been revealed. A trainer will plan a horse’s campaign carefully so that it does not carry too much weight in a major handicap. Punters often perceive these types of horses as a ‘dark horse’.


A tie between two or more horses for first place, or for one of the other finishing positions. In the event of a dead-heat for first place, when a winning bet has been made, half the stake is applied to the selection at full odds and the other half is lost. If more than two horses dead-heat, the stake is proportioned accordingly.

Decimal odds

Used on the Tote and betting exchanges, instead of fractional odds. Decimal odds are expressed as a figure (in round or decimal terms) that represents the potential total winning return to the punter. So, 4 (or 4.0) in Tote or decimal odds is the same as the conventional 3-1, as it represents a potential total winning return of £4 to a £1 stake.

Declared (runner)

A horse confirmed to start in a race at the final declarations stage.


When a horse is scratched from a race after the betting market has already opened, deductions are taken out of the win and place bets at a rate in proportion to the odds of the scratched horse.



A bet where half the total stake is for the selection to win and half is for the selection to be placed (usually in the first three, but in big handicaps the places may extend to fourth or fifth).If the selection wins, the win portion is calculated in the normal way, while the place portion of the bet is settled at a fraction of the win odds. This fraction, and the number of places allowed by the bookmaker, depends on the type of race and the number of runners in the race. If the selection is placed but fails to win, the win portion of the stake is lost but, again, the place portion of the bet is settled at a fraction of the win odds.

Enquiry – Stewards’ Enquiry

Review of the race to check into a possible infraction of the Rules made by the Stewards. If the enquiry could affect the result of the race, an announcement will be made on course.

Entire horse

An ungelded horse.

Evens/Even money

A price of 1-1. When your stake brings equal winnings e.g. £10 staked at evens wins £10 (total return £20).

Exacta / Straight forecast

A bet picking the first and second in a race in the exact order of finish.


Fixed-odds betting

Staking a set amount to win a set amount by multiplying the stake by the odds. As opposed to spread betting, where the amount that can be won or lost on a single bet may vary.


The race meeting

Flat racing

Racing without jumps. The centrepiece of the Flat racing season is the Turf season, which runs from late March to early November. Races are run over a minimum distance of 5f up to a maximum of 2m6f. However, the birth of All-Weather racing in 1989, has allowed Flat racing to continue year-round, and the official Flat racing season now runs for a calendar year to include those Flat races run on all-weather surfaces.


A horse from birth to January 1 of the following year (when it becomes a yearling).


A bet where the aim is to select both the winner and runner-up in a race. A straight forecast is the winner and runner-up in the correct order. A dual forecast is the winner and runner-up in either order.


A horse’s race record. Denoted by figures (and letters) next to its name on a racecard i.e. 1=first, 2=second etc. The form figures are read backwards from right to left – ie a horse’s latest run is denoted by the figure nearest to its name on the racecard.


A horse whose running style is to attempt to get on or near the lead at the start of the race and stay there as long as possible.


220 yards (one eighth of a mile). The numbered posts on British racecourses count the furlongs back from the winning post.


When a horse is expected to win or at least to be involved in the finish.


The horse with the shortest odds in the race.


The number of horses in a race or, in betting, all of the horses in a race except the favourite.


Female horse four-years-old or younger.

First string

Where a trainer and/or owner has more than one runner in a race, the horse considered to be the stable’s main fancy is referred to as the stable’s first string. Clues to which horse this is can be whether it carries the owner’s first colours, is ridden by the stable jockey and/or is shorter odds in the betting than a stablemate.


Group / Graded races

These races form the upper tier of the racing structure, with Group/Grade 1 the most important, followed by Group/Grade 2 and Group/Grade 3. Group races are run on the Flat; Graded races are run over jumps (the most important Flat races in the United Statesare also Graded).

Guineas (currency)

A guinea was one pound and one shilling (£1.05 in decimal currency) and, traditionally, the prices of horses sold at publicauction were given in guineas. Some sales companies still use guineas, though most have changed to pounds.

Guineas (race)

Shorthand for the 1,000 Guineasand/or 2,000 Guineas. A ‘Guineashorse’ is one that is considered capable of running in one of these Classic races.


Top gait for a horse – the speed they race at.


Training ground where horses are exercised. The major training centres in Britain are Newmarket and Malton (mostly Flat), and Lambourn (mostly Jump) with the Curragh in Ireland. Many trainers have private gallops of their own.


The national centre for information, advice and practical help with regard to the social impact of gambling .


The front section of the starting stalls, which open at the start of a Flat race to release the horses. Used as another term for starting stalls.


A male horse that has been castrated. Most male horses that compete over jumps have been gelded, and a Flat horse may be gelded. Geldings are not allowed to run in some of the top Flat races, such as the Derby, that are important for identifying potential breeding talent.

General Stud Book

Register of all thoroughbred horses, maintained by Weatherbys.

Get the trip

To stay the distance.


The condition of the racing surface. Ranges from heavy to firm.

Going down

When horses are on their way to the start.

Go through the card

To have the winner of every race at a race meeting, either as a trainer, jockey, tipster or punter.


Used to describe an immature or inexperienced horse.

Group 1 (Flat) / Grade 1 (jumps)

The highest category of race. The Classic Flat races in Britain, as well as other historic races such as the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, are Group 1. The major championship races over jumps, such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup, are Grade 1.


Hacked up

Describes a horse winning easily.


When two horses have the same mother (dam), they are half-brothers/sisters. Horses are not referred to as half-brothers/sisters when they share only the same father (sire).


A race where each horse is allotted a different weight to carry, according to the official handicap ratings determined by the BHA Handicappers. The theory is that all horses run on a fair and equal basis – the ‘perfect’ handicap being one where all the runners finish in a dead-heat.

Handicap mark / Rating

Each horse, once it has run a few times (usually three), is allocated an official handicap rating by the BHA, which is used to determine its weight if it runs in a handicap. If a horse does well, its handicap rating will go up; if it performs poorly, its rating will go down.


Official responsible for allocating a handicap rating to each horse that has qualified for one, and for allotting the weights to be carried by each horse in a handicap. Employed by the British Horseracing Authority.

Hard ridden

Used to describe a horse whose jockey is expending full effort on the horse, and using his whip.


Newmarket, traditionally seen as the home of Flat racing, is often called Headquarters.

Home straight

The length of straight track, from the final bend to the finish line.


A horse that races over hurdles, which are lighter and lower than fences.


The smaller obstacles on a jumps course. Horses usually have a season or two over hurdles before progressing to fences, though some continue to specialise in hurdling and never run over fences, while some horses go straight over fences without trying hurdles first.



Independent Arbitration Betting Service. An arbitration service that deals with betting disputes between punters and bookmakers.

In running

Refers to events that take place during the course of a race.

In-running betting

Betting on the outcome of a race during the race itself, rather than beforehand. This type of betting is particularly popular on the betting exchanges, though it is also offered by many bookmakers. In-running odds can change rapidly as the race unfolds.



A two-year-old horse. Every horse officially turns two on January 1, at the start of the second full calendar year following its birth e.g. a horse born in 2010 will turn two on January 1, 2012.

Juvenile hurdler

The youngest category of hurdler – juvenile hurdlers are those that turn four years of age (on January 1) during the season in which they start hurdling.


The Jackpot is a tote bet that requires the selection of the winners of the first six races at a selected meeting. The minimum bet is 50p

Jocked off

Term used to refer to when one jockey is replaced by another on a horse he usually rides or for which he has already been booked to ride in a particular race.


If two horses have the shortest odds in the betting, they are described as joint-favourites; if three or more horses have the shortest odds, they are co-favourites.


Racecourse official responsible for declaring the finishing order of a race and the distances between the runners.




To take a bet on: a bookmaker’s offer quoting the price at which he wishes to trade. ‘I’ll lay 6-4 this favourite.’ Betting on a horse to lose


An alternative term for a bookmaker, someone who lays or accepts a bet.

Left-handed track

Racecourse where horses run anti-clockwise.


A unit of measurement for the distances between each horse at the finish of a race; the measurement of a horse from head to tail.

Level weights

When all horses are carrying the same weight. Major championship races, such as the Derby on the Flat or the Cheltenham Gold Cup over jumps, are run at level weights. There are still some allowances for age and sex (e.g. mares receive a 5lb allowance from male horses in the Cheltenham Gold Cup).

Listed Race

A class of race just below a Group or Graded quality.


A surcharge collected from bookmakers, based on their turnover or gross profits, which goes towards prize-money, improvements to racecourses, and other areas such as scientific research. The body responsible for this is the Levy Board.


A horse with high odds (an outsider).



A horse that has yet to win a race; maiden races are restricted to such horses, though sometimes the conditions of the race allow previous winners (e.g. maidens at closing, i.e. those that have not won a race up to the time the entries close), in which case penalties are allotted for later wins.

Maiden handicap

For maidens aged three or above that have run at least four times and have a maximum rating of 70.


Female horse aged five years old or above.

Market/betting market

A market is created, according to demand, by the prices offered for each runner by bookmakers.

Median auction maiden

A race for two-year-olds by stallions that had one or more yearling sold in the previous year with a median price not exceeding a specified figure.

Middle distances

On the Flat, races beyond a mile and up to 1m6f are the middle distances. A middle-distance horse is one that runs mainly over such distances or is regarded as being suitable for those distances.

Minimum trip

The shortest race distance: five furlongs on the Flat, two miles over jumps.



Unit of measurement in a race finish about the length of a horse’s neck.

Non Runner

A horse that was originally meant to run but for some reason has been withdrawn from the race.


Smallest official distance a horse can win by.


A horse that is prevented by the jockey from running to its full ability. Non-trying is a serious offence prohibited by the rules of racing, and jockeys (as well as the horse and owner) can be banned from racing if they are found guilty, while the horse’s trainer risks a fine and/or a ban.


A horse in the early stages of its career after it has won its first race.

Novice auction

A race for novices sold at public auction as yearlings or two-year-olds for a price not exceeding a specified figure.

Novice stakes

A Flat race for two-year-olds or three-year-olds that have not won more than twice.


A handicap on the Flat for two-year-old horses.


Horse names have to be registered with Weatherbys, racing’s administrative body, and are subject to approval. Names cannot be longer than 18 characters (including spaces) and must not be the same, in spelling or pronunciation, as a name already registered. In addition, there is a list of ‘protected’ horse names that cannot be used – these include past winners of big races such as the Grand National and the Classics on the Flat.


The best bet of the day from a particular tipster.

National Hunt

Racing over fences and hurdles; officially referred to as Jump racing.



Long-priced horse in the betting, regarded as unlikely to win.

Overnight declarations

Horses entered for a race must be ‘declared to run’ and this usually happens the day before a race – horses left in a race at this stage are known as ‘overnight declarations’ and they comprise the final field for each race which appears on the day of the race in newspapers and in racecards. At this stage a trainer must also ‘declare’ the jockey who will ride the horse and any equipment (e.g. blinkers) the horse will carry – this information also appears on racecards in newspapers and at the racecourse.


In theory, a betting book can be fairly weighted between bookmaker and punter. However, to ensure a profit margin, a bookmaker will alter the odds in their favour. Overround is a means of expressing to what extent the odds are in favour of the bookmaker. An evenly weighted book is expressed as 100%, and the more the odds move in the bookmaker’s favour the more that figure rises. Thus a book that is weighted 20% in favour of a bookmaker is expressed as 120% overround.

Over the top

When a horse is considered to be past its peak due to too much racing/training and needs a rest.


When a horse carries more than its allocated weight, due to the jockey being unable to make that weight. e.g. if a horse is allocated 9st in the handicap but carries 9st 2lb, the jockey is said to have ‘put up 2lb overweight’. This is usually a disadvantage, though sometimes the trainer of a horse may decide to accept overweight in order to have one of the best jockeys on board his horse.


A complaint by one jockey against another regarding the running of a race.


The chance offered for a selection to win. Also known as price.


Betting odds where the potential winnings are higher than the stake. The numerator is larger than the denominator (e.g. 2-1).


Betting odds where the stake is higher than the potential winnings if the bet is successful. The denominator is larger than the numerator (e.g. 1-2)

Off the bridle

Describes a horse being pushed along and losing contact with the bit in its mouth.

Off the pace

When a horse is some distance behind the front-runners in a race.


Describes a horse that is unable to raise its pace in the closing stages of a race.

On the bridle

Describes a horse running comfortably, still having a bite on the bit. A horse that wins ‘on the bridle’ is regarded as having won easily.

On the nose (to bet)

Placing a win bet

Open ditch

Steeplechase jump with a ditch on the approach side to the fence.

Out of the handicap

When handicap races are framed, there is a maximum and minimum weight that horses can carry. When a horse’s rating means that its allocated weight is lower than the minimum for that race, it is said to be ‘out of the handicap’. e.g. in a Flat handicap where a horse set to carry the minimum weight of 7st 7lb is rated 65, a horse rated 62 would be allocated 7st 4lb in the long handicap but would have to carry the minimum 7st 7lb in the race – this horse would be described as being ‘3lb out of the handicap’ (ie it would be carrying 3lb more than its ‘true’ handicap weight).

Out Of The Money

A horse that finishes outside of the place money.



A horse that is entered in a race with the intention that it will set the pace for another horse with the same connections.


Area of the racecourse incorporating the parade ring (where horses are paraded prior to the race) and winner’s enclosure. Connections of the horses gather in the centre of the paddock before each race and jockeys mount before taking the horses out onto the racecourse.


Before major races, the horses often line up in racecard order (numerical order) and led in front of the grandstands to allow racegoers to see them. At the end of the parade the horses are released to canter down to the start.


Multiple bet consisting of seven bets involving three selections in different events. A single on each selection, plus three doubles and one treble. One successful selection guarantees a return.


The grading system for the most important races, introduced on the Flat in 1971 and later for jumps racing. The top races on the Flat are Group 1, followed by Group 2 and Group 3 (the next highest category is Listed, which, while not technically part of the Pattern, combine with Group races under the heading of black-type races). The jumps Pattern has a similar structure, except that the races are termed Grade 1/2/3, rather than Group 1/2/3.

Penalised horses

Horses that have incurred a weight penalty as a result of previous successes.


Additional weight carried by a horse on account of previous wins. In a handicap, a penalty is added to a horse’s original weight if it has won in between being entered for the race and running in it, as the handicapper has not had the opportunity to re-assess that horse’s handicap rating. A penalty (commonly 6lb) is shown after the horse’s name on Racing Post racecards – e.g. Horsename (ex6).

Photo finish

In a close race, where the placings cannot be determined easily, the result is determined by the judge by examination of a photograph taken by a camera on the finishing line.


Similar rules to the Jackpot, but your selections have only to be placed.

Pulled up

A horse that drops out of a race and does not finish.


When a horse is unsettled during the early part of a race and uses too much energy, fighting the jockey by pulling against the bridle.


A person who gambles or lays a bet.

Pushed out

When a horse is ridden vigorously, but without full effort by the jockey.



The hind parts of a horse, specifically between flank and tail.


Rails (racecourse)

White plastic rails are used to mark out the track on a racecourse. The stands rails are those nearest the grandstand and the far rails are those on the opposite side of the track from the grandstand. A horse referred to as being ‘on the rails’ or ‘against the rails’ is running close to the rails, which often helps a horse to keep a straight line in a race finish. A horse that has ‘grabbed the rail’ is one whose rider has manoeuvred to a position close to the rail.

Rails (betting)

This refers to the fence separating the Members area on a racecourse from the Tattersalls area. Bookmakers are not allowed in the Members area, but some bookmakers are allowed to set up their pitches on the Tattersalls side of the rails, allowing them to accept bets. Rails bookmakers are the top end of the racecourse betting market, usually dealing with credit customers.


A measure of the ability of a horse on a scale starting at zero and going into three figures. Flat Jump racing use different scales; the highest-rated Flat horse is usually in the 130s and the top-rated jumper in the 180s.


Total amount received for a winning bet (winnings plus stake) OR the result/final odds for a race e.g. the winner was returned at 4-1.

Right-handed track

Racecourse where horses run clockwise.

Rule 4

Tattersalls Rule 4 (c): One of the most commonly invoked betting rules, dealing with deductions from winning bets in the event of any withdrawn runner(s) from a race. The rule applies to winning bets struck at prices (e.g. morning prices) laid before a withdrawal (other than ante-post bets, which are unaffected by Rule 4 (c)) and to starting-price bets where, after a late withdrawal, there is insufficient time to re-form the market. The rate of deductions is in proportion to the odds of the non-runner(s) at the time of the withdrawal.


Programme for the day’s racing, showing the times, runners and riders for each race.


Sure thing

A horse that is regarded as having little chance of losing.


A horse that specialises in running over the shortest distances (five and six furlongs) on the Flat.

Sprint races

Flat races run over a distance of five or six furlongs.


Male breeding horse.

Stalls handler

Member of a team employed to load horses into the stalls for Flat races and to move the stalls to the correct position for the start of each race.


Racecourse official responsible for starting a horse race.

Starting price

Often abbreviated to SP. The starting prices are the final odds prevailing at the time the race starts and are used to determine the payout to winning punters, unless a punter took a specified price at the time of placing the bet.


A horse that specialises in racing over long distances (two miles and above) on the Flat.

Staying chaser

A horse that races over three miles or more over fences.

Staying on

When a horse is finishing strongly in a race, possibly a sign of good stamina reserves.

Staying races

Flat races run over a distance of two miles or more.


A race over fences, open ditches and water jumps, run over distances from two miles up to four and a half miles.


One of the officials in overall charge of a race meeting, including disciplinary procedures. The stewards can hold inquiries into possible infringements of the rules of racing, or hear objections to the race result from beaten jockeys. Usually there are three stewards at each race meeting, assisted by a stipendiary steward. The stewards are appointed by the racecourse, subject to approval by the BHA, and are often prominent local figures (much like magistrates).

Stewards’ Enquiry

A hearing held by the stewards into a race to determine whether the rules of racing have been broken.

Stewards’ room

On a racecourse, where stewards hold inquiries. A race is said to have been ‘decided in thestewards’ room’ if the placings are altered by the stewards due to a transgression of the rules of racing.


A jockey’s whip

Stipendiary Steward

Also known as a Stipe. Unlike raceday stewards, Stipes are professionals employed by the BHA and one is sent to each meeting to assist the stewards and advise on the rules of racing. The raceday stewards, not the Stipe, are responsible for decision-making, but the Stipe’s knowledge is often invaluable e.g. in setting an appropriate level of punishment if a jockey or trainer is found guilty of an infringement of the rules of racing.

Straight forecast

A bet where the aim is to select both the winner and runner-up in a race in the correct order.


All the horses in a particular training stable.


A farm where horses are mated. Usually home to one or more stallions.

Supplementary entry

Major races such as the Derby, which have an early initial entry date and several forfeit stages, often allow additional entries to be made in the week leading up to the race, subject to a substantial fee. A horse entered at this stage is known as a supplementary entry and the fee payable is known as the supplementary entry fee. Supplementary entries mean that a major race can have the best possible field, as a horse may not be deemed worthy of a Derby entry as a yearling (possibly on account of its pedigree or because the owner is not among the echelon of the super-rich) but then shows unexpected ability once its racing career has started.


Training a horse for jumping.

Second string

The stable’s second choice from two or more runners in a race.

Selling plate/selling race

Low-class race in which the winner is offered at auction afterwards; other horses in the race may be claimed for a fixed sum. If the winning stable buys back its own horse it is said to be ‘bought in’. The racecourse receives a percentage of the selling price of each horse.

Selling plater

A horse that is entered in a selling plate because it is not expected to win in any higher grade, or because it can do well against moderate opposition, which may result in a betting coup.

Shortening odds

Bookmaker’s reduction of the odds on a particular horse.

Short Price

Low odds, meaning a punter will get little return for their initial outlay.


See ‘Colours’.

Silver ring

A racecourse enclosure, usually the one with the lowest admission price.


The simplest and most popular bet, normally a win bet on one horse in one race.


Father of a horse.

Soft (going)

Condition of a turf course where rain has left the ground ‘soft’ (official going description).


Short for starting price.

Spread a plate

When a horse damages or loses a horseshoe before a race, it is said to have ‘spread a plate’. The horse has to be re-shod by a farrier, often delaying the start of the race.


A horse whose price shortens dramatically.


Tattersalls (racecourse enclosure)

The enclosure next in status to Members. Those choosing this enclosure have access to the main betting area and the paddock.


A breed of horse used for racing


The sign language used by bookmakers to communicate changes in betting odds on the racecourse. Tic-tacs wear white gloves and signal the odds using their hands and arms.

Tongue tie

Strip of material tied around a horse’s tongue and lower jaw to keep it from swallowing its tongue, which can clog its air passage. A horse wearing a tongue tie is denoted on a racecard by a small t next to the horse’s weight (t1 indicates that the horse is wearing a tongue tie in a race for the first time).

Tote (company)

Government-owned pool betting company, established in 1929, principally offering tote odds but also fixed odds. Contributes a large sum to racing each year. Full name: the Horserace Totalisator Board.

Tote (betting)

Introduced in Britain in 1929 to offer pool betting on racecourses. All the stakes on a particular bet are pooled, before a deduction is made to cover the Tote’s costs and contribution to racing. The remainder of the pool is divided by the number of winning units to give a dividend that is declared inclusive of a £1 stake. Odds fluctuate according to the pattern of betting and betting ceases when the race starts.


The person responsible for looking after a horse and preparing it to race. A trainer must hold a license or permit to be entitled to train.


A three-leg accumulator. All three selections must be successful to get a return; the winnings from the first selection automatically go on to the second and then on to the third.


Another term for the distance of a race. When a horse has the stamina for a certain distance, it is said to ‘stay/get the trip’

Triple Crown

In Britain, for colts the Triple Crown comprises the 2,000 Guineas, the Derbya nd the St Leger; for fillies, the 1,000 Guineas, the Oaks and the St Leger. Winning all three races is a rare feat, last achieved by a colt (Nijinsky) in 1970 and by a filly (Oh So Sharp) in 1985. The American Triple Crown comprises the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.


Multiple bet consisting of four bets involving three selections in different events. The bet includes three doubles and one treble. A minimum of two selections must be successful to get a return.

Turned out

1) Racecourses often have a ‘best turned out’ award for the horse judged to have been best presented in the paddock. 2) A racehorse that is taking a break from racing/training and is out in the fields is said to have been ‘turned out’.

Turn of foot

A horse’s ability to accelerate in the closing stages of a race. A horse with a ‘good turn of foot’ has good finishing speed.


Every horse officially turns two on January 1, at the start of the second full calendar year following its birth e.g. a horse born in 2008 will turn two on January 1,2010. Two-year-old horses are also known as juveniles, and this is the first age at which horses are allowed to compete on the Flat (the youngest racing age over jumps is three years old).


Under starters orders/under orders

The moment a race is about to begin. Once the horses are in the stalls for a Flat race, or have lined up at the start for a jumps race, they are said to be ‘under starter’s orders’ as the jockeys are waiting for the starter’s signal to begin the race.


Not expected to win.



A person employed to prepare a jockey’s equipment in the weighing room.


Similar to blinkers, but with a slit in each eye cup to allow some lateral vision. A horse wearing a visor is denoted on a racecard by a small v next to the horse’s weight (v1 indicates that the horse is wearing a visor in a race for the first time).

Weighed in

The official declaration ratifying a race result.

Weighing in/out

Each jockey (wearing his racing kit and carrying his saddle) must stand on official weighing scales before and after the race, so that the Clerk of the Scales can check that the jockey is carrying the correct weight allotted to his horse. If a jockey is above the allotted weight before the race, his horse can still compete but must carry overweight. When the weights carried by the winner and placed horses have been verified after the race, there will be an announcement that they have ‘weighed in’. This confirms the race result and at this point bookmakers will pay out on successful bets.

Weight cloth

A cloth with pockets for lead weights placed under the saddle to ensure that a horse carries its allotted weight.

Weight for age

A graduated scale that shows how horses of differing ages progress month by month during the racing season, the differences being expressed in terms of weight. This allows horses of differing ages to compete against each other on a fair basis, based on their age and maturity, in what are known as weight-for-age races.


Lead placed in a weight cloth. When these weights are added to the jockey’s weight and other equipment, the total weight should equal the weight allotted to the jockey’s horse in a race.

Well in

When a horse is considered to be favoured by the weights in a race, it is said to be ‘well in’.

Win bet/only

A single bet on a horse to finish first. Win only markets signify that no each-way betting is available.

Wind Operation 

Wind operations are routine surgical procedures which are designed to assist a horse with its breathing.


Or stick. Used by jockey as an aid to encourage or steer and balance the horse.

Work rider

A stable employee, not necessarily a licensed jockey, who rides horses in training on the gallops.


A race involving only one horse. The horse and its jockey must past the winning post to be declared the winner.




Multiple bet consisting of 11 bets (six doubles, four trebles and one four-fold) on four selections in different events. At least two selections must be successful to get a return.


A trainer’s premises from where racehorses are trained.


A foal from January 1 to December 31 of the year following its birth.


Irish term to describe racecourse going that is soft.