The conformation of a racehorse essentially means how well it is put together to accomplish the tasks it was bred to do – run and run fast. Conformation is the blending of the various body parts, and how well they fit together visually and physically to create a running machine. If you were to look at Usain Bolt standing next to Boris Johnson, you could instantly determine which person had the better conformation to excel at sprinting a 100m race . It’s rarely that obvious with horses, but to a trained eye with many years of experience, the differences between a potentially great horse and an average horse can be seen.
The thoroughbred’s conformation makes it an ideal runner, capable of covering more than twenty feet in a single stride while reaching speeds of up to forty miles per hour. The rear legs act much like springs as they bend and straighten during running. This tremendous “spring power” helps thrust the horse forward as its front legs provide “pull.” The thoroughbred’s head and long neck also help to make running smooth and rhythmic. The neck moves in synchrony with the forelegs, aiding in forward motion and extending the “arc of flight,” the time the thoroughbred literally is airborne.
Every horse has some physical fault regarding pedigree and conformation.
The art of picking a horse is to determine which physical characteristics will have an impact on the horse’s ability to race. Looking at the pedigree of the horse can provide clues to faults that may have been passed down from generation to generation, and whether or not those faults impact the horse on the racetrack.
The “average” thoroughbred racehorse stands 16 hands tall (64 inches or 4 inches per hand measured to the withers – see below), and weighs about 1,000 lbs. The heart of the thoroughbred is about as big as a volleyball and usually weighs about 10 lbs. The massive heart of the racehorse can pump up to 75 gallons of blood per minute during a race. Secretariat’s heart weighed an astounding 22 pounds.
The average horse can run at speeds of 35 to 40 mph. The stride of the thoroughbred racehorse is approximately 20 feet long and they can take up to 150 strides per minute.
When evaluating a horse, the first thing to look for is balance. Do the neck, back and hip appear to be of equal length and well proportioned? Does the horse’s frame carry its muscle mass well? Too much muscle on a little frame or too little muscle on a big frame can cause some problems.
The eyes should be big and intelligent, not sunken or bulging and not too close together. The nostrils should be big to allow for serious air intake to fuel the body. Ears should be alert, pointing, and moving in all directions. Is the horse alert and aware of what’s going on around him, does he appear in control and confident?
Feet – A horse’s hooves must be able to withstand a great deal of pressure. Consider proportion, substance, and size of the hoof. The underside of the hoof should have a round, slightly oval shape with some depth. Some believe that larger feet indicate an aptitude for turf.
Pasterns – The pastern should be at a 45-degree angle. Its length should be proportionate – too long a pastern could indicate weakness and tendon strain, while if too short it may absorb too much concussion thus stressing the bone structure.
Ankle – As with the pastern, the ankle joint size should be proportionate to the rest of the leg.
Cannon Bones – Ideally, the cannon bone should be short, strong and have mass.
Knee – Bones in and leading to the knee should line up in a balanced manner – not tilting forward (“over at the knee”) or back (“back at the knee”).
Shoulder – The shoulder should have the same slope or angle as the pastern. Stride length is largely determined by the shoulder.
Neck – A horse’s neck should be sufficient in scope so as to provide adequate wind for the horse, and be well tied in at the withers, while not being too low or “ewe necked”. In short, does the neck fit the rest of the body?
Head – Nostrils should be of adequate size. The head should be broad enough to permit adequate air passage. Generally, the distance from the back of the jaw to where the head ties into the neck should be about the size of a fist.
Eyes – The eyes should be big and bright. Look for an “intelligent,” keen, alert eye.
Back – The distance from the withers to the top of the croup or hips should match the length of the horse’s neck from the poll to the withers.
Hip/Buttocks – The croup or hip should have a gentle slope – not too steep or flat. The gaskin should depict strength.
Hocks – A horse’s hocks should not be straight as a post, nor curved so deeply as to be sickle hocked, or behind the body like a German Shepherd Dog. The horse should be standing balanced and straight.
Feet – Look for balanced feet on both sides and symmetry. Avoid misshapen, dished, or cracked feet.
Cannon Bones – From the front, the cannon bones should appear straight and of the same length.
Knees – It is best if the knees are set squarely on the top of the cannon bones, not off to one side or another – “offset knees.”
Chest – A horse’s chest should be broad, and appear powerful. Narrow chests or slab-sided horses are said to lack power.
Shoulder – Look for balance and symmetry.
Hocks – From the rear, the hocks should appear to point straight at you, and not turn in or out — “cow hocks.”
Hip/Buttocks – Note that much of the animal’s athleticism and power comes from behind. Definition and development are key attributes.
Front/Rear view – The horse should move straight toward and away from you. Observe whether the horse toes-in or toes-out as it walks.
Side view – Check for the overstep, meaning do the hind feet reach beyond the front hoof prints? Observe the horse’s head. Be certain it does not bob unusually when walking as this may indicate soreness or lameness.
Walk – Look for a smooth long stride.
The thoroughbred horse is a breed of horse developed in the 18th century. English mares were bred to Arabian stallions to create a breed of horse capable of running great distances.
All modern thoroughbred horses are descendants of three horses: the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian, and the Byerly Turk. These horses were named after their owners – Thomas Darley, Lord Godolphin and Captain Robert Byerly.
The story of the thoroughbred horse began somewhere in the inhospitable deserts of the Middle East, centuries ago, a breed of horse came into being that would influence the equine world beyond all imagination. In the sweet grass oasis along the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers in the countries that are now known as Syria, Iraq and Iran, and in other parts of the Arabia peninsula, this hearty horse developed and would soon be known as the Arabian horse.
Long before Europeans were to become aware of its existence, the horse of the desert had established itself as a necessity for survival of the Bedouin people (nomadic inhabitants of the Middle East desert region). The Arabian horse was primarily an instrument of war, as were horses in general in most societies of the time. A well-mounted Bedouin could attack an enemy tribe and capture their herds of sheep, camels and goats, adding to the wealth of their own tribe. Such a raid was only successful if the aggressors could attack with surprise and speed and make good their escape. Thus ‘survival of the fittest’ ensured that the Arabian horse was continually improved over generations.
Races between tribes were held with the winner taking the best of the loser’s herd as their prize. Breeding stock could be bought and sold, but as a rule, the best “war” mares carried no price. Through the centuries the tribes who roamed the northern desert in what is now Syria became the most esteemed breeders of fine horses. No greater gift could be given than an Arabian mare. The value placed upon the mare led inevitably to the tracing of any family of the Arabian horse through his dam. The only requirement of the sire was that he be “Asil”, or pure. If his dam was a mare of a great mare family, so much the better. Mare families, or strains, were named, often according to the tribe or sheik that bred them.
The Bedouin valued purity above all others, and many tribes owned only one main strain of horse. While the Bedouin bred their horses in great obscurity, the highly war like people of the East rode their Barbs and Turks into Europe, bringing havoc with them and leaving waste in their wake. Europe had developed horses through the Dark Ages to carry a knight and his armor.
Their lighter horses were from the pony breeds. They had nothing to compare with the small, fast horses upon which the invaders were mounted. An interest in these “Eastern” horses grew, along with fantastical stories of prowess, speed, endurance and even jumping ability.
As the world slowly shrank due to increasing travel abroad, the Turkish rulers of the Ottoman Empire began to send gifts of Arabian horses to European heads of state. Such was the nature of The Godolphin Arabian (sometimes called “Barb”) imported to England in 1730 as well as The Byerley Turk (1683) and the Darley Arabian (1703). These three “Eastern” stallions formed the foundation upon which a new breed, the Thoroughbred, was to be built.
Until such time that geneticists prove otherwise, it is believed that the Thoroughbred’s ancestry traces back more than 300 years to these three foundation stallions – the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian and the Byerly Turk. These Arabian stallions were bred to the stronger but less precocious and swift native English mares and the result was the Thoroughbred.
The result was a horse that could carry weight with sustained speed over extended distances, qualities that brought a new dimension to the burgeoning sport of horse racing. Thoroughbreds weigh less than many other breeds of horse and stand out because of their delicate heads, trim bodies, strong chests and relatively short backs. They are also known for being rather high-strung. So began a selective breeding process that continues to this day, breeding the best stallions to the best mares, with the proof of excellence established on the racecourse.
While the Bedouins maintained a strict registry of the breed in order to maintain its purity, the first Thoroughbred “Stud Book” was created and maintained by James Weatherby in 1791, almost some 100 years following the importation of the three foundation stallions. His General Stud Book listed the pedigrees of over 350 mares. Each of these mares could trace their beginnings back to ECLIPSE – a descendent of the Darley Arabian, MATCHEM – a grandson of the Godolphin Arabian or HEROD – a great grandson of the Byerly Turk. Weatherby’s General Stud Book is still published and maintained by Weatherby and Sons in England.
The first Thoroughbred to reach America, a stallion named Bulle Rock, arrived in 1730. Over the following 45 years, 186 Thoroughbreds would be exported from England to the American colonies, forming the foundation of the Thoroughbred family tree that American horse owners have bred ever since. As horse racing prospered and expanded in America, Colonel Sanders Bruce of Kentucky published the first American Stud Book in 1873. Col. Bruce devoted a large part of his life to the study of pedigrees and published six volumes of the American Stud Book through 1896 at which point its care was taken over by The Jockey Club. Today the Jockey Club’s pedigree database contains over 3 million horses whose ancestry can be traced back to the 1800’s.
The desire to breed and race a champion has fuelled the thoroughbred industry since its creation. There are no guarantees that breeding a champion mare to a champion stallion will produce a future Kentucky Derby winner, but that is the underlying philosophy in thoroughbred breeding and the basis for improvement of the breed. Breeders judge the conformation of their horses and try to enhance the qualities of their stock by breeding to stallions who possess desirable attributes.
Thoroughbreds’ racetrack earnings can be matched, if not surpassed, by the money they earn as the sires and dams of future stars. Horse breeders pay stud fees, which can run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, for the privilege of mating their female horses with particularly fast or well-bred male racehorses. Owners hope that the coupling will produce a champion, who will one day become the source of still more champions. Horse buyers usually pay more for male horses, called stallions, than for females, called mares, because stallions can mate with several dozen mares a year, while mares can only give birth to one foal per year.
As the progeny of a stallion become more and more successful on the track, that stallion can command a higher stud fee and attract the best mares. Storm Cat currently stands for $500,000 at Overbrook Farm in KY. Storm Cat’s sons and daughters have earned nearly $100,000,000 on the track and he has become a “sire of sires” – his son’s are among the most expensive and successful sires in the thoroughbred world. Just as important as the sire and maybe more so is the mare. La Troienne, the most influential mare of the 20th century produced 14 foals. The number of champions that can trace their bloodlines to La Troienne is astounding. Seattle Slew, A.P. Indy, Sea Hero, Go For Gin, Easy Goer, Black Helen, Tejano, Polish Navy, Woodman, Buckpasser, are but a few of the horses linked to La Troienne. Smarty Jones also has two crosses of the important broodmare La Troienne. One is through Elusive Quality’s dam’s sire, Hero’s Honor, whose third dam, Searching, was a War Admiral / La Troienne mare. The second one is through Smarty Jones’s own tail-female line, going back to his fifth dam, Striking, also bred on the War Admiral / La Troienne cross.
The study of thoroughbred pedigrees and bloodlines is an art, science, and history lesson all rolled into one. Linking modern day champions to the champions of the last century is a testament to the success of the thoroughbred horse and its future.
Across The Board – (See ‘Place’) A bet on a horse to win, place or show. Three wagers combined in one. If the horse wins, the player wins all three wagers, if second, two, and if third, one.
Age – All thoroughbreds count January 1 as their birth date.
Ajax – UK slang term for ‘Betting Tax’.
All-age Race – A race for two-year-olds and up.
All Out – A horse who is trying to the best of his ability.
Allowances – Reductions in weights to be carried allowed because of certain conditions such as; an apprentice jockey is on a horse, a female horse racing against males, or three-year-olds racing against older horses.
All Weather Racing – Racing that takes place on an artificial surface.
Also Ran – Any selection not finishing 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th in a race or event.
Amateur (rider) – on race cards, names are prefixed by Mr, Mrs, Captain, etc, to indicate their amateur status.
Ante Post – (Also, Futures) Bets placed in advance predicting the outcome of a future event.
Ante-post prices are those on major sporting events, usually prior to the day of the event itself. In return for the chance of better odds, punters risk the fact that stakes are not returned if their selection pulls out or is cancelled.
Apprentice – A trainee jockey. An apprentice will usually ride only flat races.
Approximates – The approximate price a horse is quoted at before a race begins. Bookmakers use these approximates as a guide to set their boards.
Arbitrage – Where a variation in odds available allows a punter to back both sides and guarantee a win.
ART – Artificial Turf.
ATS – Against The Spread.
AWT – All weather track.
Baby Race – A race for two-year-olds.
Back – To bet or wager. Backed – A ‘backed’ horse is one on which lots of bets have been placed.
Backed-In – 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.
Back Marker – In a standing start event, which is handicapped, the horse who is given the biggest handicap is known as the backmarker.
Backstretch – The straight way on the far side of the track.
Back Straight – The straight length of the track farthest away from the spectators and the winning post.
Backward – A horse that is either too young or not fully fit.
Banker – (Also, Key) Highly expected to win. The strongest in a multiple selection in a parlay or accumulator. In permutation bets the banker is a selection that must win to guarantee any returns.
Bar Price – Refers to the odds of those runners in a race not quoted with a price during early betting shows. The bar price is the minimum odds for any of those selections not quoted.
Barrier – (Also, Tape) A starting device used in steeple chasing consisting of an elastic band stretched across the racetrack which retracts when released.
Barrier Draw – The ballot held by the race club to decide which starting stall each runner will occupy.
Bat – (Also, Stick) A jockey’s whip.
Beard (US) – A friend or acquaintance or other contact who is used to placing bets so that the bookmakers will not know the identity of the actual bettor. Many top handicappers and persons occupying sensitive positions use this method of wagering.
Bearing In (Out) – Go wide on the turns (Bearing Out), running toward the inside rail (Bearing In). Failing to maintain a straight course, veering to the left or right. Can be caused by injury, fatigue, outside distraction, or poor riding.
Bore Out (Bore In) – Past tense of Bearing Out (In). (See above)
Beeswax – UK slang term for betting tax. Also known as ‘Bees’ or ‘Ajax’. Bell Lap – In harness racing, the last lap of a race, signified by the ringing of the bell. Bet – A transaction in which monies are deposited or guaranteed. Betting Board – A board used by the bookmaker to display the odds of the horses engaged in a race.
Betting Ring – The main area at a racecourse where the bookmakers operate.
Betting Tax – Tax on a Bookmaker’s turnover. In the UK this is a ‘Duty’ levied on every Pound wagered. Common methods of recouping this by the punter are to deduct tax from returns (winnings) or to pay tax with the stake/wager. In the latter case, no tax is deducted from the punter’s winnings.
Bettor (US) – Someone who places or has a bet. A ‘Punter’ in the UK.
Beyer Number – A handicapping tool, popularized by author Andrew Beyer, assigning a numerical value to each race run by a horse based on final time and track condition. This enables different horses running at different racetracks to be objectively compared.
Bismarck – A favorite which the bookmakers do not expect to win.
Black-type – Boldface type (printed in bold). Horses that have won or been placed are printed in boldface in the listing to easily distinguish them from the rest. Designation for a stakes winner or stakes-placed horse in a sales catalogue.
Blanket Finish – When the horses finish so close to the winning line you could theoretically put a single blanket across them.
Blind Bet – A bet made by a racetrack bookmaker on another horse to divert other bookmakers’ attention away from his sizeable betting on his/her main horse thus to avoid a shortening of the odds on the main horse.
Blinkers – A cup-shaped device applied over the sides of the horse’s head near his eyes to limit his vision. This helps to prevent him from swerving away from distracting objects or other horses on either side of him. Blinker cups come in a variety of sizes and shapes to allow as little or as much vision as the trainer feels is appropriate.
Blow-out – A short, timed workout of about a mile in distance, usually a day before a race, designed to sharpen the speed of a horse (blow him out).
Board – Short for ‘Tote Board’ on which odds, betting pools and other race information are displayed.
Bomb(er) – A winning horse sent off at very high odds.
Book – A bookmaker’s tally of amounts bet on each competitor, and odds necessary to assure him of profit. Running a ‘book’ is the act of quoting odds and accepting bets on an event and the person doing it is called the ‘Bookmaker’.
Bookie – (U.K.) Short for bookmaker. The person or shop who accepts bets.
Bookmaker – Person who is licensed to accept bets on the result of an event based on their provision of odds to the customer. (Sportsbook US).
Bottle – UK slang, odds of 2 to 1.
Box – A wagering term denoting a combination bet whereby all possible numeric combinations are covered. Boxed (in) – To be trapped between other horses.
Bobble – A bad step away from the starting gate, sometimes caused by the ground breaking away from under a horse and causing him to duck his head or go to his knees.
Bolt – Sudden veering from a straight course.
Book – A collection of all the bets taken on fixed odds betting events.
Bookmaker (Bookie) – A person registered and licensed to bet with the public.
Breakage – Those pennies that are left over in pari-mutuel payoffs which are rounded out to a nickel or dime.
Breakdown – When a horse suffers a potentially career-ending injury. The occurrence of injury or lameness in a horse in a race or workout.
Break Maiden – A horse or rider winning the first race of a career.
Breeze (breezing) – Working a horse at moderate speed.
Broken Maiden – A maiden horse that won its first race.
Breeders’ Cup – Thoroughbred racing’s year-end championship. Known as Breeders’ Cup Day, it consists of eight races conducted on one day at a different racetrack each year with purses and awards totaling $13 million. First run in 1984.
Bridge-Jumper (US) – Bettor who specializes in large show bets on odd-on favourites.
Buck (US) – A bet of US$ 100 (also known as a ‘dollar bet’).
Bug Boy – An apprentice rider.
Bull Ring – Small racetrack less than one mile around.
Burkington Bertie – 100/30.
Buy Price – In Spread or Index betting, the higher figure quoted by an Index bookmaker.
Buy the Rack (US) – Purchase every possible daily-double or other combination ticket.
Canadian – Also known as a Super Yankee. A Canadian is a combination bet consisting of 26 bets with 5 selections in different events. The combination bet is made up of 10 doubles, 10 trebles, five 4-folds and one 5-fold.
Card – Another term for fixture or race meeting.
Carpet – UK slang for Odds of 3 to 1 (also known as ‘Tres’ or ‘Gimmel’).
Caulk – Projection on the bottom of a shoe to give the horse better traction, especially on a wet track. Century – GBP£ 100 (also known as a ‘Ton’).
Chalk – Wagering favorite in a race. Dates from the days when on-track bookmakers would write current odds on a chalkboard.
Chalk Player – Bettor who wagers on favorites. Change their Leads – See ‘Switch Leads’ Chase – See ‘Steeplechase’.
Checked – A horse pulled up by his jockey for an instant because he is cut off or in tight quarters.
Chute – Extension of the backstretch or homestretch to allow a longer straight run.
Claiming – Buying a horse out of race for entered price. The process by which a licensed person may purchase a horse entered in a designated race for a predetermined price. When a horse has been claimed, its new owner assumes title after the starting gate opens although the former owner is entitled to all purse money earned in that particular race.
Claiming Box – Box in which claims are deposited before the race.
Claiming Race – A race in which the horses are entered subject to claim for a specified price. Each horse entered is eligible to be purchased at a set price. Claims must be made before the race and only by licensed owners or their agents who have a horse registered to race at that meeting or who have received a claim certificate from the stewards.
Client (US) – Purchaser of betting information from horseman or other tipster.
Close (US) – Final odds on a horse (e.g. ‘closed at 5 to 1’). Confusingly equates to ‘Starting Price’ in the UK.
Closer – A horse that runs best in the latter part of the race (closing race), coming from off the pace.
Co-Favorites – (also Co Fav) Where three or more competitors share the status as favorite.
Colors (Colours) – Racing silks, the jacket and cap worn by jockeys. Silks can be generic and provided by the track or specific to one owner.
Colt – An ungelded (entire) male horse four-years-old or younger.
Combination Bet – Selecting any number of teams/horses to finish first and second in either order.
Conditional Jockey – Same as ‘Apprentice’ but also allowed to jump.
Correct Weight – Horses are allocated a weight to carry that is checked before and, for at least the placegetters, after a race. Correct weight must be signaled before bets can be paid out.
Cracking Pace – When the leader or the leaders of a race run at a very quick speed, usually in the early stages of a race.
Cross Fire – When a horse’s hind foot strikes the opposite front foot or leg.
Crossing to the Fence – A horse that begins from one of the positions out wider on the track and then moves down to the inside fence, is referred to as crossing to the fence.
Crossing to the Lead – A horse that begins from one of the positions out wider on the track, moves down to the inside fence and then speeds to beat all other horses to the leading position of a race is referred to as crossing to the lead.
Cuppy – A “cuppy” track. A dry and loose racing surface that breaks away under a horse’s hooves.
Daily Double – Type of wager calling for the selection of winners of two consecutive races, usually the first and second. See ‘Late Double’.
Daily Racing Form – A daily newspaper containing racing information including news, past performance data and handicapping.
Daily Triple – A wager where the bettor must select the winner of three consecutive races.
Dark Day – A day when no racing is scheduled.
Dark Horse – A horse whose chances of success are not known, and whose capabilities have not been made the subject of general comment or of wagers.
Dead Heat – A tie. Two or more horses finishing equal in a race.
Dead Track – Racing surface lacking resiliency.
Death (The) – Also known as the death seat. The position outside the leader, one horse off the rails or fence. The death is considered to be the toughest run in a race because the horse in the ‘death position/seat’ will have to cover more ground than the inside competitor.
Declaration Of Weights – The publication of weights allocated to each horse nominated for a race by the handicapper.
Declared – In the United States, a horse withdrawn from a stakes race in advance of scratch time. In Europe, a horse confirmed to start in a race.
Deductions – When a horse is scratched from a race after betting on that race has already started, deductions are taken out of the win and place bets at a rate in proportion to the odds of the scratched horse.
Derby – A stakes event for three-year-olds.
Dime (US) – A bet of USD$ 1,000 (also known as a ‘dime bet’).
Distance – The length of a race: 5 furlongs is the minimum and the 4 1/2 miles of the Grand National the longest. Also, the margin by which a horse wins or is beaten by the horse in front; this ranges from a short head to ‘by a distance’ (more than 30 lengths); a ‘length’ is measured from the horse’s nose to the start of its tail.
Distanced – Well beaten, finishing a long distance behind the winner.
Dividend – The amount that a winning or placed horse returns for every $1 bet by the bettor.
Dog (US) – The underdog in any betting proposition.
Dog Player (US) – A bettor who mainly wagers on the underdog.
Dogs Up – Or ‘The dogs are up’, referring to the rubber traffic cones placed at certain distances out from the inner rail when the track is wet, muddy, soft, yielding or heavy, to prevent horses during the workout period from churning the footing along the rail.
Dosage – A mathematical analysis of a horse’s pedigree based on sires being placed in one or more of five categories: brilliant, intermediate, classic, solid, professional.
Double – Selecting the winners in two specific races. Double Carpet – UK slang for Odds of 33 to 1, based on ‘Carpet’.
Draw – Refers to a horse’s placing in the starting stalls. For flat racing only. Stall numbers are drawn at random.
Drift – (Also, Ease) Odds that ‘Lengthen’, are said to have drifted, or be ‘On The Drift’.
Driving – Strong urging by rider.
Dual Forecast – A tote bet operating in races of 3 or more declared runners in which the punter has to pick the first two to finish in either order.
Each Way – UK term for betting on a horse to win and/or ‘Place’. An each way bet is when you have the same amount on the horse for a win and for a place. Bookmakers will give you one quarter of the win odds for a place in fields of eight or more and one third of the win odds in fields of six or seven horses.
Each Way Double – Two separate bets of a win double and a place double.
Each Way Single – Two bets. The first is for the selection to win; the second for it to be placed (each way).
Eclipse Award – Thoroughbred racing’s year-end awards, honoring the top horses in 11 separate categories.
Enclosure – The area where the Runners gather for viewing before and after the race.
Entry – A horse entered in a race.
Entries – A listing of all horses entered in a race, often including additional information and statistics on each horse (like programs or racecards, but usually with slightly less data).
Equibase (Company) – A partnership between The Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations to establish and maintain an industry-owned, central database of racing records. Equibase past-performance information is used in track programs across North America.
Equivalent Odds – Mutuel price horses would pay for each $1 bet. Evenly – Neither gaining nor losing position or distance during a race. Even Money Bet (or Evens) – A 1:1 bet. A $10 wager wins $10. Exacta – (Also, Perfecta) A wager that picks the first two finishers in a race in the exact order of finish. (Straight Forecast in the UK.)
Exacta Box – A wager in which all possible combinations using a given number of horses are covered.
Exotic (wager) – Any wager other than win, place or show.
Exposure – The amount of money one actually stands to lose on a game or race.
Extended – Forced to run at top speed.
False Favorite – A horse that is a race favorite despite being outclassed by others.
Faltered – A horse that was in contention early in the race but drops back in the late stages.
Fast (track) – Optimum condition for a dirt track that is dry, even, resilient and fast.
Favorite – The most popular horse in a race, which is quoted at the lowest odds because it is deemed to have the best chance of winning the race.
Feature Races – Top races.
Fence – The inside fence is the inside running rail around the race track, while the outside fence is the outside running rail.
Field – 1) All the runners in a race. 2) Some sportsbooks or bookmakers may well group all the outsiders in a competition under the banner headline of ‘Field’ and put it head to head with the favorite. This is known as favorite vs the field betting and is common in horse and golf betting.
Field Horse – Two or more starters running as a single betting unit, when there are more entrants than positions on the totalisator board can accommodate.
Filly – Female horse four-years-old or younger.
Fire – A burst of acceleration by a horse in a race. Example: ‘The horse did fire (or didn’t fire) when asked’.
Firm (track) – A condition of a turf course corresponding to fast on a dirt track. A firm, resilient surface.
First Up – The first run a horse has in a new campaign or preparation.
Fixed Odds – Your dividend is fixed at the odds when you placed your bet.
Fixture – See ‘Meeting’.
Flag/Super Robin – A bet consisting of 23 bets on 4 selections in different events (6 Doubles, 4 Trebles, 1 Fourfold, plus 12 single stake cross bets).
Flash (US) – Change of odds information on tote board.
Flat race – Contested on level ground as opposed to a steeplechase.
Flatten Out – When a horse drops his head almost in a straight line with his body, generally from exhaustion.
Float – 1) An equine dental procedure in which sharp points on the teeth are filed down. 2) The instrument with which the above procedure is performed.
Floating – Flat plate or wooden implement dragged over the surface of a wet track to aid in draining water.
Foal – A baby horse, usually refers to either a male or female horse from birth to January 1st of the following year. All racehorses are given the nominal birthday of January 1st. Thus a two-year-old born in June and one born in January of the same year are considered to be of the same age for the purposes of satisfying the conditions of some races re: weight carried. In reality, the January horse may be considered to have a significant advantage in terms of physical development at this early stage in its career.
Fold – When preceded by a number, a fold indicates the number of selections in an accumulator (e.g. 5-Fold = 5 selections).
Forecast – A wager that involves correctly predicting the 1st and 2nd for a particular event. This bet can be straight, reversed or permed. (USA, Perfecta or Exacta).
Form – Statistics of previous performance and comment as to the expected current performance of a runner, useful in deciding which runner to bet on.
Form Player – A bettor who makes selections from past-performance records. Fresh (Freshened) – A rested horse or a freshened horse.
Front-runner – 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.
Frozen (track) – A condition of a racetrack where any moisture present is frozen.
FTL – FTL stands for ‘First Time Lasix’. Lasix is a brand name for “furosemide” or “frusemide”. The name ‘lasix’ is derived from ‘lasts six’ (hours) – referring to its duration of action. Lasix is used in the treatment of high blood pressure. Lasix acts quickly, usually within 1 hour. In racing, it is used to prevent thoroughbred and standardbred race horses from bleeding through the nose during races.
Full Cover – All the doubles, trebles and accumulators involved in a given number of selections.
Furlong – One-eighth of a mile or 220 yards or 660 feet (approx. 200 meters).
Futures – (Also, Ante Post) Bets placed in advance predicting the outcome of a future event.
Gait – Harness horses are divided into two distinct groups, pacers or trotters, depending on their gait when racing. The gait is the manner in that a horse moves its legs when running. The pacer is a horse with a lateral gait, whereas a trotter or square-gaiter has a diagonal gait.
Gate – Another term for barrier, or position a horse will start from.
Gelding – A male horse that has been castrated.
Gentleman Jockey – Amateur rider, generally in steeplechases.
Get on – Have your bet accepted.
Going – The condition of the racecourse (firm, heavy, soft, etc.). Official Jockey Club going reports progress as follows: Heavy – soft – good to soft – good – good to firm – firm.
Good (track) – Condition between fast and slow, generally a bit wet. A dirt track that is almost fast or a turf course slightly softer than firm.
Graded Race – Established in 1973 to classify select stakes races in North America, at the request of European racing authorities, who had set up group races two years earlier. Always denoted with Roman numerals I, II, or III. Capitalized when used in race title (the Grade I Kentucky Derby). See ‘Group Race’ below.
Graduate – Winning for the first time.
Grand – GBP£ 1,000 (also known as a Big’un).
Green – An inexperienced horse.
Group Race – An elite group of races. Established in 1971 by racing organizations in Britain, France, Germany and Italy to classify select stakes races outside North America. Collectively called ‘Pattern Races’. Equivalent to North American graded races. Always denoted with Arabic numerals 1, 2, or 3. Capitalized when used in race title (the Group 1 Epsom Derby). See ‘Graded Race’ above.
Hand – Four inches. A horse’s height is measured in hands and inches from the top of the shoulder (withers) to the ground, e.g., 15.2 hands is 15 hands, 2 inches. Thoroughbreds typically range from 15 to 17 hands.
Handicap – 1) Race for which the track handicapper assigns the weights to be carried. Each horse is allocated a different weight to carry, the theory being all horses then run on a fair and equal basis.. 2) To make selections on the basis of past performances.
Handicapper – The official who decides the weights to be carried in handicap events, and the grading of horses and greyhounds.
Hand Ride – The jockey urges a horse with the hands and arms without using the whip.
Hang – A horse that hang. A hung horse. See “Hung” below.
Hard (track) – A condition of a turf course where there is no resiliency to the surface.
Head – A margin between horses. One horse leading another by the length of its head.
Head Of The Stretch – Beginning of the straight run to the finish line.
Heavy (track) – Wettest possible condition of a turf course, similar to muddy but slower; not usually found in North America.
Hedge – The covering of a bet with a second bet.
Hedging – A bet made by a cautious bookie on a horse on which he has accepted large bets – in order to cut his losses if the horse wins (also known as a ‘lay-off bet’).
Heinz – A Heinz is a multiple bet consisting of 57 bets involving 6 selections in different events. The multiple bet breakdown is 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15×4-folds, 6×5-folds and one 6-fold.
High Weight – Highest weight assigned or carried in a race.
Hit the Board – Horses that ‘hit the board’ are those whose numbers appear on the tote board as first, second, third or fourth.
Home Turn – The final turn a horse must travel around before entering the home straight in the run to the finish line.
Horse – When reference is made to sex, a ‘horse’ is an ungelded male five-years-old or older.
Hung – A horse holding the same position, unable to make up distance on the winner.
Impost – Weight carried or assigned.
In Hand – Running under moderate control, at less than best pace.
Inquiry – Reviewing the race to check into a possible infraction of the rules. Also, a sign flashed by officials on the tote board on such occasions. If lodged by a jockey, it is called an objection.
In The Money – Describes the horses in a race that finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd (and sometimes 4th) or the horses on which money will be paid to bettors, depending on the place terms.
In The Red – Are odds shown in red on the betting boards because they are Odds-On bets.
Investor – A bettor. A person at a licensed race meeting who bets with a bookmaker or the totalisator, or a person not present at the meeting, but places bets on the horses engaged at that meeting with the off-course totalisator.
Joint Favourites – When a sportsbook or bookmaker cannot separate two horses or teams for favouritism, they are made joint favourites.
Judge – The person who declares the official placing for each race.
Juice – The bookmaker’s commission, also known as vigorish or vig.
Jumper – Steeplechase or hurdle horse.
Jolly – The favourite in a race. The horse with the shortest odds.
Judge – The official who determines the finishing order of a race.
Juvenile – Two-year-old horse.
Key Horse – The main expected winning horse used in multiple combinations in an exotic wager.
Kite – UK slang for a cheque (‘Check’ in the US).
Knocked Up – (Australian racing) A horse that has stopped running, given up in the home straight for example.
Late Double – A second daily double offered during the latter part of the program. See ‘Daily Double’ above.
Lay – Take a bet on, like a Bookmaker.
Lay Off, Layoff – Bets made by one bookmaker with another bookmaker, in an effort to reduce his liability in respect of bets already laid by him with investors.
LBO – Acronym for ‘Licensed Betting Office’ in the UK.
Leg In – To nominate one runner to win with a selection of other runners. This is possible on Forecast, Quinella, Trifecta, Quartet and Superfecta (eg. Quinella bet with selection 4 to win, from runners 5, 7, 8 and 9 to come second, in any order).
Length – A measurement approximating the length of a horse from nose to tail, about 8 feet, used to denote distance between horses in a race. For example, “Secretariat won the Belmont by 31 lengths”.
Lengthen – The opposite of ‘Shorten’. Referred to odds getting longer, that is, more attractive to the bettor.
Listed Race – A stakes race just below a group race or graded race in quality.
Lock – (As in ‘Banker’) US term for an almost certain winner. Easy winner.
Long Odds – More than 10:1.
Long Shot – (Also, Outsider) A runner is often referred to as being a long shot, because of the fact it is returning high odds and is therefore deemed to have little chance of winning the race.
Lug In (Out) – Action of a tiring horse, bearing in or out, failing to keep a straight course.
Maiden – 1) A horse or rider that has not won a race. 2) A female that has never been bred.
Maiden Race – A race for non-winners.
Mare – Female horse five-years-old or older.
Market – The list of all horses engaged in a race and their respective odds.
Meeting – A collection of races conducted by a club on the same day or night forms a race meeting.
Middle Distance – Broadly, from one mile to 1-1/8 miles.
Mile Rate – In harness racing it is the approximate time a horse would have run per mile (1609 meters).
Minus Pool – A mutuel pool caused when a horse is so heavily played that, after deductions of state tax and commission, there is not enough money left to pay the legally prescribed minimum on each winning bet. The racing association usually makes up the difference.
Money Rider – A rider who excels in rich races.
Monkey – GBP£ 500.
Morning Glory – Horse who performs well in morning workouts but fails to fire in actual races.
Morning Line – Approximate odds quoted before wagering begins.
MTO – Abbreviation for Main Track Only, that is, horses for main track only races. Just as many horses scratch when a turf race is moved to dirt (main track), so MTO horses are entered into a scheduled turf race, anticipating the race may be switched to dirt. Turf races occasionally include MTO entrants. They will be added into the field if the race is taken off the turf and scratches can accommodate them.
Mudder – A horse that races well on muddy tracks. Also known as a ‘Mudlark’.
Muddy (track) – A condition of a racetrack which is wet but has no standing water.
Mutuel Pool – Short for ‘Parimutuel Pool’. Sum of the wagers on a race or event, such as the win pool, daily double pool, exacta pool, etc.
Nap – The selection that racing correspondents and tipsters nominate as their strongest selection of the day or meeting. Reputed to stand for ‘Napoleon’.
National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) – A non-profit, membership organization created in 1997 to improve economic conditions and public interest in Thoroughbred racing.
Neck – Unit of measurement about the length of a horse’s neck.
Nickel – A $500 wager.
Nod – Lowering of head. To win by a nod, a horse extends its head with its nose touching the finish line ahead of a close competitor.
Nominations – The complete list of runners entered by owners and trainers for a race.
Non Runner – A horse that was originally meant to run but for some reason has been withdrawn from the race.
Nose – Smallest advantage a horse can win by. Called a short head in Britain.
Novice – A horse in the early stages of its career. An inexperienced horseman. A category for horse or rider who has not yet achieved a number of successes.
Nursery – A handicap for two-year-old horses.
Oaks – A stakes event for three-year-old fillies (females).
Objection – Claim of foul lodged by rider, patrol judge or other official after the running of a race. If lodged by official, it is called an inquiry.
Odds – The sportsbook’s or bookmaker’s view of the chance of a competitor winning (adjusted to include a profit). The figure or fraction by which a bookmaker or totalisator offers to multiply a bettor’s stake, which the bettor is entitled to receive (plus his or her own stake) if their selection wins.
Odds-against – Where the odds are greater than evens (e.g. 5 to 2). When the bookmaker’s or totalisator’s stake is greater than the bettor’s stake. For example, a horse that is quoted at 4:1 would be odds against, because if it wins a race, the bookmaker or totalisator returns $4 for every dollar a bettor places on that horse, plus his or her original outlay.
Odds Compiler – Same as ‘Oddsmaker’ below.
Oddsmaker – A person who sets the betting odds. (Sportsbooks or Bookies don’t set the odds. Most major sportsbooks use odds set by Las Vegas oddsmakers.) Odds Man (US) – At tracks where computers are not in use, an employee who calculates changing odds as betting progresses.
Odds-On – Odds of less than even money. This a bet where you have to outlay more than you win. For example if a horse is two to one Odds-On, you have to outlay two dollars to win one dollar and your total collect if the horse wins is three dollars. That is made up of your two dollars and the one dollar you win.
Official – Sign displayed when result is confirmed. Also racing official.
Off the Board (US) – A horse so lightly bet that its pari-mutuel odds exceed 99 to 1. Also, a game or event on which the bookie will not accept action.
Off/On the bridle – Also, off/on the bit. When a horse is ‘off the bridle’ or ‘off the bit’, it means it is losing contact with the bit in its mouth and has stopped pulling or driving forward. When a horse is hard held by the jockey and running smoothly it is said to be ‘on the bridle’ or ‘on the bit’. You want a horse to be on the bridle (or on the bit), pulling and running smoothly.
Off-Track Betting (OTB) – Wagering at legalized betting outlets.
On The Board – Finishing among the first three.
On The Nose – Betting a horse to win only.
On tilt – Going ‘on tilt’ is losing the ability to rationalise bets and betting wildly on every race.
Open Ditch – Steeplechase jump with a ditch on the side facing the jockey.
Outlay – The money a bettor wagers is called his or her outlay.
Out Of The Money – A horse that finishes worse than third.
Outsider – A horse that is not expected to win. An outsider is usually quoted at the highest odds.
Overbroke – Where the book results in a loss for the bookmaker.
Overlay – A horse going off at higher odds than it appears to warrant based on its past performances.
Overnight Race – A race in which entries close a specific number of hours before running (such as 48 hours), as opposed to a stakes race for which nominations close weeks and sometimes months in advance.
Over The Top – When a horse is considered to have reached its peak for that season.
Overweight – Surplus weight carried by a horse when the rider cannot make the assigned weight.
Pacesetter – The horse that is running in front (on the lead).
Paddock – Area where horses are saddled and kept before post time.
Panel – A slang term for a furlong.
Parimutuel(s) – A form of wagering originated in 1865 by Frenchman Pierre Oller in which all money bet is divided up among those who have winning tickets, after taxes, takeout and other deductions are made. Oller called his system ‘Parier Mutuel’ meaning ‘Mutual Stake’ or ‘betting among ourselves’. As this wagering method was adopted in England it became known as ‘Paris Mutuals’, and soon after ‘Parimutuels’.
Parlay – (Also, Accumulator) A multiple bet. A kind of ‘let-it-ride’ bet. Making simultaneous selections on two or more races with the intent of pressing the winnings of the first win on the bet of the following race selected, and so on. All the selections made must win for you to win the parlay.
Part Wheel – Using a key horse or horses in different, but not all possible, exotic wagering combinations.
Pasteboard Track – A lightning fast racing surface.
Patent – A multiple bet consisting of 7 bets involving 3 selections in different events. A single on each selection, plus 3 doubles and 1 treble.
Penalty – A weight added to the handicap weight of a horse.
Perfecta or Exacta (Straight Forecast, UK) – A wager in which you pick the first two finishers in a race, in exact order of finish. The Perfecta is similar to the Quiniela, except the two horses must finish in the exact order. To bet you say ‘$3 Perfecta, 5-6’. Only if the horses finish 5-6 you win.
Permutations – It is possible to Perm bets or selections (e.g. on 4 selections all the possible doubles could be Permed making 6 bets).
Phone Betting – A service enabling punters to bet on horses with bookmakers by using telephones.
Phone TAB – Another phone betting service, provided by a totalisator which allows people with special betting accounts to place bets via the telephone. Much the same as a bank account, you must have a credit balance to be able to place a bet. The cost of the investment is debited to your account, and winning dividends and refunds are automatically credited to your account.
Photo Finish – A photo is automatically taken as the horses pass the winning line and when the race is too close to be judged the photo is used to determine the order of finish.
Picks – Betting selections, usually by an expert.
Pick Six (or more) – A type of wager in which the winners of all the included races must be selected.
Pitch – The position where a bookmaker conducts his business on a racecourse.
Place – Finish in the top two, top three, top four and sometimes also top five in a competition or event. A Place bet will win if the selection you bet on is among those placed. Usually, a horse runs a place if it finishes in the first three in fields of eight or more horses. If there are only six or seven runners the horse must finish first or second to place. Different sportsbooks have different Place terms and you should check their rules before placing a bet. In US, 2nd place finish. (See ‘Each Way’ UK)
Plater – Horse which usually runs in selling races.
Point Spread – (Also, Line or Handicap) The points allocated to the ‘underdog’ to level the odds with the ‘favorite/favourite’.
Pole(s) – Markers at measured distances around the track designating the distance from the finish. The quarter pole, for instance, is a quarter of a mile from the finish, not from the start. Pony – GBP£ 25.
Pool – Mutuel pool, the total sum bet on a race or a particular bet.
Post – 1) Starting point for a race. 2) An abbreviated version of post position. For example, “He drew post four”. 3) As a verb, to record a win. For example, “He’s posted 10 wins in 14 starts”.
Post Position – Position of stall in starting gate from which a horse starts.
Post Time – Designated time for a race to start.
Price – The odds.
Program – A guide to the day’s races including detailed, compiled data to assist customers in handicapping the races.
Protest – When a jockey, owner, trainer or steward alleges interference by one party against another during a race that may have affected the outcome of a race. If a protest is upheld by officials, the runner that caused the interference is placed directly after the horse interfered with. If a protest is dismissed by officials, the original result of the race stands.
Punt – Another term for bet or wager.
Punter – Bettor or investor.
Pull Up – To stop or slow a horse during or after a race or workout.
Purebred Horse – A horse descended from a line of ancestors of the same breed. Not necessarily registered in The American Stud Book or a foreign stud book recognized by The Jockey Club and the International Stud Book Committee. Note: A Thoroughbred is a purebred but a purebred is not necessarily a Thoroughbred – see “Thoroughbred”.
Purse – Prize money contained in a purse and hung on a wire which crossed the finish line. Technically, a race to which the owners do not contribute to the prize.
Quadrella – Selecting the winner of four specifically nominated races.
Quiniela (Quinella) – Wager in which the first two finishers must be picked in either order. Payoff is made no matter which of the two wins and which runs second. (‘Reverse Forecast’ in the UK. See Wagers for Quiniela variants.)
Race Caller – The person who describes the race at a racecourse.
Racecard – A programme for the day’s racing.
Racing Plate – A type of horseshoe which is very light, made of aluminum (alluminium), with a toe grab or cleat for better traction.
Rag – A rag or “The Rag” is the outsider in the field, usually offered at a favorable price in betting.
Rail Runner – Horse that prefers to run next to the inside rail.
Rank – A horse that is fractious or unmanageable by the jockey is said to be rank.
Ratings – Tipsters may determine a set of ratings which reflect, in their opinion, each runner’s chance of winning a particular race taking a number of factors into account when preparing them.
Restricted Races – Races which only certain horses are eligible.
Return – The dividend you receive on a particular bet.
Reverse Forecast (UK) – See ‘Quinella’ above. Ridgling (Also spelled “ridgeling”) – A partly castrated horse, with one or both testicles.
Ringer – A horse (or greyhound) entered in a race under another’s name – usually a good runner replacing a poorer one.
ROI – Short for ‘Return On Investment’ in percentage (%). The ROI is useful for identifying unique stats about a runner. This is a very useful stat to know as it shows in percentage terms how much profit or loss has been made. The stat can be used to show good and bad conditions. A positive ROI is good and a negative ROI is bad. The formula: ROI% = total profit / total staked * 100. Example: if a series of 55 bets (all at $1 stake each) returned a profit of $7.50, then ROI% = $7.50 (total profit) divided by $55 (total staked) multiplied by 100 = 13.6% ROI
Roughie – A horse which is considered to have a ‘rough’ chance of winning a race.
Roundabout – A bet consisting of 3 bets involving three selections in different events (i.e. 1 single any to come and double stake double on remaining two selections, 3 times).
Rounder – A bet consisting of 3 bets involving three selections in different events (i.e. 1 single any to come a single stake double on remaining two selections, 3 times).
Round Robin – A bet consisting of 10 bets (3 pairs of ‘Single Stakes About’ bets plus 3 doubles and 1 treble) involving three selections in different events. (US, A series of three or more teams into two-team wagers).
Route – Broadly, a race distance of longer than 1-1/8 miles.
Router – Horse that performs well at longer distances.
Run Free – A horse going too fast.
Runner – A participant in a race. In US, a sportsbook’s employee who gathers information on the progress of betting elsewhere on the course. Also, a messenger ‘running’ to and from pari-mutuel windows for occupants of clubhouse boxes.
Saved Ground – A horse is said to have ‘saved ground’ if the horse is allowed to stay inside, just off the inner rail throughout the trip. A horse that has experienced no traffic trouble during the race and was not forced to race wide at any point.
Scale Of Weights – Fixed weights to be carried by horses in a race according to age, distance, sex, and time of year.
Scalper – One who attempts to profit from the differences in odds from book to book by betting both sides of the same game at different prices.
Schooled – A horse trained for jumping.
Scope – The potential in a horse.
Score – GBP£ 20. In US, to win a race or a bet. Also, a victory.
Scratch (Scratching) – To be taken out of a race before it starts. Trainers usually scratch horses due to adverse track conditions or a horse’s adverse health. A veterinarian can scratch a horse at any time.
Scratch Sheet – Daily publication that includes graded handicaps, tips and scratches.
Second Call – A secondary mount of a jockey in a race in the event his primary mount is scratched.
Selections – The horses selected by a knowledgeable person (Tipster) to have the most likely chance of finishing in first, second and third place. This may also refer to a person’s own selections – the horses they have chosen to back.
Selling Race – A race where the winner is sold by auction immediately afterwards.
Settler – A bookmaker’s expert who calculates payouts.
Shadow Roll – Usually a lamb’s wool roll half way up the horse’s face to keep him from seeing his own shadow.
Shorten, Shortening the Odds – When the odds of a horse decrease, usually because a lot of money has been wagered on that horse.
Short Runner – A horse who barely stays, or doesn’t stay, the full distance of a race.
Short Price – Low odds, meaning a punter will get little return for their initial outlay.
Show – Third position at the finish.
Show Bet – Wager on a horse to finish in the money; third or better.
Shut Out (US) – What happens to a bettor who gets on the betting line to late and is still waiting in line when the window closes. Also, in sports betting, when the losing team do not score.
Silks – See ‘Colors’.
Simulcast – A simultaneous live television transmission of a race to other tracks, off-track betting offices or other outlets for the purpose of wagering.
Single – A Straight bet on one selection to win one race or event, also known as a straight-up bet.
Single Stakes About (or SSA) – A bet consisting of 2 bets on two selections (1 single on each selection any to come 1 single on the other selection reversed).
Sire – Father of a horse.
Six-Dollar Combine (US) – An across-the-board bet in racing.
Sleeper – A sleeper is an underrated racehorse. A horse which unexpectedly wins a race having previously shown poor form is said to have been a Sleeper.
Sloppy (track) – A track that is wet on surface, with standing water visible, with firm bottom.
Slow (track) – A racing strip that is wet on both the surface and base. Between good and heavy.
Smart Money – Insiders’ bets or the insiders themselves.
Soft (track) – Condition of a turf course with a large amount of moisture. Horses sink very deeply into it.
Spell – The resting period between preparations or racing.
Sportsbook – The person, shop or website who accepts bets.
Spot Play (US) – Type of play in which bettor risks money only on types of races and horses which seem relatively worthwhile risks.
Sprint – Short race, less than one mile.
Stakes Horse – A horse whose level of competition includes mostly stakes races.
Stakes-Placed – Finished second or third in a stakes race.
Stakes race – A race for which the owner usually must pay a fee to run a horse. Some stakes races are by invitation and require no payment or fee.
Stakes – The sums of money deposited or guaranteed by the parties to a bet.
Stake – The prize money for the winning horses paid to the owner (eg. trophy or prize money).
Stallion – A male horse used for breeding.
Standing Start – In harness racing, starters start from a standing position, once the barrier across the track is released.
Starter – The person responsible for starting a race.
Starting Gate – Partitioned mechanical device having stalls in which the horses are confined until the starter releases the doors in front to begin the race.
Starting Price (or SP) – An estimation of odds available when the race starts.
Starting Stalls – Mechanical gates that ensure all horses start in unison.
Stayer (Also, Slayer) – A horse that can race long distances.
Steam – When a betting selection starts to move quite rapidly, usually caused by many bettors betting on it.
Steeplechase – A race in which horses are required to jump over a series of obstacles on the course. Also known as a ‘Chase’.
Stewards – The group of people who control the day’s racing by ensuring that every runner competes on its merits and imposing penalties for any breach of the rules of racing.
Stewards Enquiry – An enquiry by the stewards into a race.
Stick – (Also, Bat) A jockey’s whip.
Stickers – Calks on shoes which give a horse better traction in mud or on soft tracks.
Stipes – Another term for the Stewards. (Or Stipendiary Stewards)
Stooper (US) – Those who make a living picking up discarded mutuel tickets at racetracks and cashing those that have been thrown away by mistake.
Store (US) – A sportsbook or a bookie.
Straight – Betting to win only.
Straight Forecast (UK) – A tote bet operating in races of 3 or more declared runners in which the punter has to pick the first and second to finish in the correct order. See ‘Exacta’.
Straight Six – A wager to correctly select the winner of each of six consecutive nominated races.
Strapper – Also known as an attendant. A person who assists the trainer, cares for the horse or helps to put on its equipment.
Stretch (home-Stretch) – Final straight portion of the racetrack to the finish.
Stretch Runner – Horse that runs its fastest nearing the finish of a race.
Stretch Turn – Bend of track into homestretch.
Stud – 1) Male horse used for breeding. 2) A breeding farm.
Sulky – (The Sulky) The modern harness racing vehicle (a driving rig) developed from a single-seat. Earlier racing had used carts. In its final form the sulky is little more than a U-shaped shaft mounted on two wheels with a seat at the end of the U.
Superfecta – A bet placed on four horses to cross the finish line in exact chosen order.
Super Robin/Flag – A bet consisting of 23 bets on 4 selections in different events (6 Doubles, 4 Trebles, 1 Fourfold, plus 12 single stake cross bets).
Super Yankee – Alternative name for a multiple bet known as Canadian, a Super Yankee is a Yankee type bet with five selections instead of four.
Sure Thing – A horse which a punter or tipster believes is unbeatable in a race.
Sweepstakes – Type of betting whereby each horse in a race is drawn out of a hat by a particular person (who pays a set amount of money for the privilege of buying a horse). The people which chose the winner and placegetters will receive a percentage of the total money pool.
Switch Leads – (Also ‘Change their Leads’) The process where a horse shifts his weight to one side or the other. Horses change their leads in a race, they start off on the right lead then when they go into the turn they go onto the left lead to make the turn, then they change back to the right lead in the stretch and finish the race. Horses are trained to change their leads when they first start training, but the jockey sometimes taps them on the shoulder to make them change leads at the right spot in the race.
System – A method of betting, usually mathematically based, used by a punter or bettor to try to get an advantage.
TAB – Totalisator Agency Board. The body appointed to regulate off-course betting (bets made by people who are not present at the race track). Take (Takeout) – Commission deducted from mutuel pools which is shared by the track, horsemen (in the form of purses) and local and state governing bodies in the form of tax.
The Dogs are Up – Or simply ‘Dogs Up’, referring to the rubber traffic cones placed at certain distances out from the inner rail when the track is wet, muddy, soft, yielding or heavy, to prevent horses during the workout period from churning the footing along the rail.
Taken Up – A horse pulled up sharply by his rider because of being in close quarters.
The Jockey Club – An organization dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing. Incorporated Feb. 10, 1894 in New York City, The Jockey Club serves as North America’s Thoroughbred registry, responsible for the maintenance of ‘The American Stud Book’, a register of all Thoroughbreds foaled in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada; and of all Thoroughbreds imported into those countries from jurisdictions that have a registry recognized by The Jockey Club and the International Stud Book Committee.
Thick’un – A big bet.
Thoroughbred – A Thoroughbred is a horse whose parentage traces back to any of the three ‘Founding Sires’ the Darley Arabian, Byerly Turk and Godolphin Barb, and who has satisfied the rules and requirements of The Jockey Club and is registered in ‘The American Stud Book’ or in a foreign stud book recognized by The Jockey Club and the International Stud Book Committee. Any other horse, no matter what its parentage, is not considered a Thoroughbred for racing and/or breeding purposes.
Thoroughbred Racing Associations (TRA) – An industry group comprised of many of the racetracks in North America.
Ticket – The betting slip or ticket which is received by the bettor from the bookmaker or totalisator, as proof of his or her wager. The ticket is necessary to collect the dividends.
Ticketer (US) – A forger of bookmakers’ tickets.
Tic-Tac – The secret and complex sign language used by bookmakers at racecourses to indicate movements in the price of a horse. See BBC’s Tic-Tac guide.
Tierce – A French combination bet in which the bettor predicts the horses that will finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Tips – The selections chosen by an expert to bet on (also known as Picks). See ‘Selections’.
Tipster – A person who makes selections for a race, providing tips on which horses they believe will win the first three places.
Top Weight – See ‘High Weight’.
Totalizator (Totalisator) – The system of betting on races (an automated system that dispenses and records betting tickets, calculates and displays odds and payoffs and provides the mechanism for cashing winning tickets) in which the winning bettors share the total amount bet, minus a percentage for the operators of the system, taxes etc. Synonyms: Tote, Parimutuel.
Tote – Totalizator. The organisation appointed to receive bets and supply dividends in proportion to the amount of the investment. A body in the UK set up to operate pool-betting on all racecourses.
Tote Board – The (usually) electronic totalizator display in the infield which reflects up-to-the-minute odds. It may also show the amounts wagered in each mutuel pool as well as information such as jockey and equipment changes, etc. Also known as the ‘Board’.
Tote Returns – Returns from a tote pool (also known as a Dividend), calculated by taking the total stake in each pool (after the take out) and dividing it by the number of winning tickets. A dividend is declared to a fixed stake, for various win, place and forecast pools.
Totting Up – Used in the UK for penalties or disciplinary points given to jockeys. Example: There will be disciplinary points totting up against the jokey.
Tout – Person who professes to have, and sells, advance information on a race. Also used as a verb meaning to sell or advertise.
Track Condition – Condition of the racetrack surface. Slow; Fast; good; muddy; sloppy; frozen; hard; firm; soft; yielding; heavy.
Track Record – Fastest time for a distance at a particular track.
Trail – Racing immediately behind another horse. A trail is also known as a sit.
Trainer – 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.
Treble – A bet consisting of 3 selections, all of which must win for the wager to be successful.
Tricast (UK) – See ‘Trifecta’ below.
Trifecta – A wager picking the first three finishers in exact order. Called a ‘Triactor’ in Canada and a ‘Triple’ in some parts of the U.S. (‘Tricast’ in the UK.)
Trifecta Box – A trifecta wager in which all possible combinations using a given number of horses are bet upon. The total number of combinations can be calculated according to the formula (x3)-(3×2)+(2x), where x equals the amount of horses in the box. The sum of the formula is then multiplied by the amount wagered on each combination.
Trio – Trifecta.
Triple – (Also ‘Treble’) See ‘Trifecta’ above.
Triple Crown – Used generically to denote a series of three important races, but is always capitalized when referring to historical races for three-year-olds. In the United States, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. In England the 2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby and St. Leger Stakes. In Canada, the Queen’s Plate, Prince of Wales Stakes and Breeders’ Stakes.
Trixie – A Trixie consists of 4 bets involving 3 selections in different events, i.e. 3 doubles plus 1 treble.
Trotting – A term for harness racing in general. It also describes the specific gait of a trotter.
True Odds – The real odds of something happening as opposed to what the bookies offer. Actual odds taking into account the bookmaker’s/sportsbook’s edge. The ratio of the number of times one event will occur to the number of times that it will not.
Turf Accountant – The UK euphemism for a bookmaker.
Turf Course – Grass course.
Unbackable – A horse which is quoted at short odds that punters decide is too short to return any reasonable amount for the money they outlay.
Underlay – A horse racing at shorter odds than seems warranted by its past performances.
Under Starters Orders (or Under Orders) – The starting of a race.
Under Wraps – Horse under stout restraint in a race or workout.
Union Jack – A bet consisting of 8 trebles on 9 selections A to I: ABC, DEF, GHI, ADG, BEH, CFI, AEI, and CEG.
Value – Getting the best odds on a wager.
Wager – Another term for bet.
Walkover – A race in which only one horse competes. Warming Up – Galloping horse on way to post.
Washed Out – A horse that becomes so nervous that it sweats profusely before the race. Also known as “washy” or “lathered up”.
Washy – See “Washed Out” above.
Weigh In (Out) – The certification, by the clerk of scales, of a rider’s weight before (weigh out) and after (weigh in) a race. A jockey weighs in/out fully dressed with all equipment except for his/her helmet, whip and (in many jurisdictions) flak jacket. After the race the jockey must weigh in the same as the weigh out otherwise he may be disqualified, so never throw away a bet until the ‘weighed in’ signal has been given.
Weight-For-Age – The purpose of weight-for-age is to allow horses of different age and sex to compete on equal terms. The weight a horse carried is allocated on a set scale according to its sex and age.
Welsh/Welch – To fail to pay a gambling bet.
Wheel – Betting all possible combinations in an exotic wager using at least one horse as the key. See ‘Part Wheel’.
Wheeling – A racing system devised for the daily double bet in which the bettor backs one horse in the first race and every horse in the second (also known as Baseball or Locking).
Whip – Instrument or a stick, usually of leather, with which rider strikes horse to increase his speed.
Win – The term used to describe a 1st place finish.
Win Bet – Wager on a horse to finish first.
Winning Post – The finishing line of a race. (Also, The Post.)
Wire – The finish line of a race.
Wise Guy – A knowledgeable handicapper or bettor.
Withdrawn (Scratched) – A horse that is withdrawn (or scratched) from a race before the start. Horses can be withdrawn due to adverse track conditions or because of illness or injury.
With the Field – Having one horse linked with all the other horses in an event. It can apply to forecasts or in doubles.
WTBA – Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association.
Yankee – A multiple bet consisting of 11 bets (6 doubles, 4 trebles and 1 4-fold) on 4 selections in different events.
Yap – Yankee Patent. The same 11 bets as a Yankee, but with singles on each of the 4 selections as well, making 15 bets in all (also known as a ‘Lucky 15’).
Yearling – A horse in its second calendar year of life, beginning January 1 of the year following its birth.
Yielding – Condition of a turf course with a great deal of moisture. Horses sink into it noticeably.
The appearance of the horse is very important. Every race the horses will pass in front of the grandstand in the post parade. This is a good opportunity to evaluate the field and select your horse. A horse can communicate to you with body language. Generally, you should look for a horse which appears muscled, well-groomed and has a shiny coat. A horse should make an easy transition from the walk, to the trot, and to the canter when in the post parade. It should have a lively step, but not a random or choppy gait. Look for a horse that moves effortlessly or seems to have a bounce in its stride. Continue to observe the horses as they canter away from the grandstand.
Excess sweating can be a sign of nervousness or discomfort. Watch for signs of “washing out” in the neck and chest area. This does not mean a horse cannot win under these circumstances, but it is generally not a positive sign. Keep in mind that horses should sweat on hot days and some are brought to the paddock drenched in water. The negative sign is a pronounced white lather.
Generally speaking, the better horses get the services of the better riders. A capable jockey can help an ordinary horse, but an ordinary jockey may hinder a capable horse. Be sure to check the current standings. Riding a 1,200 pound horse at speeds up to 40 mph is an extremely difficult and very dangerous job and the care of selecting the right jockey is nearly as important as selecting the right trainer.
Trainers are ultra critical to a horse’s success on and off the track. Those who consistently win races tend to attract the best racing stock. The responsible trainers usually have their horses looking good when they are brought to the races and don’t run their horses against far superior competition. Not all of the capable trainers are at the top of the standings.
TYPES OF RACES
Stakes, Handicap, Allowance, Claiming, Maiden
Stakes – These races offer the largest purse money and generally attract the highest quality horses.
Handicap – The Racing Secretary assigns a weight to each horse in order to equalize the winning chances of all the runners. The highweight is usually considered the best horse in the race. The assigned weight includes the weight of the jockey and any additional lead pads that may need to be added to the saddle to fulfill the weight assignment.
Allowance – A non-claiming race usually designed for lightly-raced or above average horses.
Claiming – The most common of all races. Each horse is entered at a specific price and may be purchased, or “claimed” by any licensed owner. The claiming price serves to balance the competition within that particular race. A horse valued at $25,000 isn’t likely to run in a $5,000 claiming race as it will probably be claimed for far less than it’s value. A $5,000 horse isn’t likely to run against $25,000 claimers as it would be overmatched or out-classed.
Maiden – Races for horses which have never won. Maiden Special Weight races lure the best of the non-winners with greater purses than Maiden Claiming races.
Pace, Speed, Stalkers, Late-Runners, Post Position, Track Condition, Distance
Pace – One of the oldest expressions in racing is, “pace makes the race.” The expression is actually a reality and a very simple one to explain. The rate of speed of the front-runners (the pace) in the first half of the race has a direct effect on the second half of the race. A fast pace usually tires the speed horses and helps the late-runners catch the pacesetters; but a slow pace allows a speed horse to conserve energy for the run to the wire.
Speed Horses – The type of horse that prefers to move directly to the front after breaking from the gate. They get the early advantage but may not run well if they are part of an intense pace, or don’t make the lead.
Stalkers – Are usually rated just off the pace by their jockey and are very versatile. They can be on, or near the lead if the pace is slow, or they can be lengths behind if the pace is fast.
Late-Runners – Perhaps the most exciting to watch, but they must rely on a fast or genuine pace. This type of horse is uncomfortable on the lead and prefers to settle into stride while dropping back. They can make a dramatic rush from the back and catch tiring speed horses, or they may not make any impression at all if the leaders gain an easy lead without a contested pace.
Post Position – The stall in the starting gate from where the horse will start. A horse which draws an outside post will be at a disadvantage if the jockey does not move the horse near the rail after the start to save ground on the turns. Generally, a speed horse benefits from an inside post. An unfavorable post position may compromise a jockey’s riding tactics to win.
Track Condition – The racing surface is extremely important. The ideal track condition for most horses is a dry or “fast” track. Rain will change the track condition depending on the intensity of precipitation. A “sloppy” track is one that has received a downpour and still has puddles of water.
A track is “muddy” if the water has drained off the top but is still rain-soaked. A “good” track is one that has dried from being muddy but the race times suggest it hasn’t dried completely. A track is said to be “off” if it is anything other than fast. Some horses run better over an off track due to their bloodlines or the type of horseshoe they are wearing.
Distance – Like the variety of athletes and races in the sport of Track & Field, in horse racing there are also sprinters and long-distance runners. Some horses perform best at sprint distances, which are races at seven furlongs or less. Others have more stamina and do their best in route races, which are races at one mile or longer. Most tracks have the circumference of one mile. One furlong equals one-eighth of a mile, or 220 yards.