The aim of this section is to try and de-mystify some of the jargon used in racing and, believe me there is plenty of it.

Please select the appropriate letter





A bet where there are a number of selections and the winnings from each winner go on to the next. All selections have to win.


How a horse moves, if a horse loses its action it is not running properly and is then generally pulled up.


  1. A weight allowance than can be given to young horses when running against older horses or to fillies when running against colts.
  2. A weight allowance that can be claimed by inexperienced or apprentice jockeys when riding against experienced jockeys. The fewer winners a jockey has ridden the greater the allowance they receive.

Ante-Post Betting

Bets placed on a race, usually the big races, before the final runners are known. Better prices are available but if the horse does not run the bet is lost.

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When quoting betting for a race the prices of the most popular horses are quoted and then it will be said, for example, 16/1 bar. Which means all the horses not previously quoted will have odds of 16/1 or greater.

Best Turned Out

For some races a prize is given to the lad or lass responsible for preparing the horse judged by the sponsor to be the best looking, or best turned out, horse in the paddock.

Betting Ring

The area of the racecourse where the bookmakers ply their trade.


Headgear worn by a horse which restricts their peripheral vision forcing them to concentrate on what is in front of them, rather than behind them. Sometimes considered to be the sign of an ungenuine horse.


Bookies slang for 2/1 (Bottle of Glue = two)


A race at a jump meeting, usually the last race, where no fences are jumped. These races are designed to give racecourse experience for future jumpers. These are officially known as a National Hunt Flat race.

Burst Blood Vessel

When a horse bleeds internally (in the lungs) it is said to have burst a blood vessel. The symptoms are bleeding from the nose and a jockey will pull the horse up should this happen.

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Bookies slang for 3/1 (Double Carpet is 33/1 not 6/1)


Sheepskin pieces worn alongside the cheek of the horse. These help the horse to look forward.


A jockey who claims an allowance (see allowances)

Claiming Race

A race where the trainer sets the weight their horse will carry. The more weight the more the claiming amount. The downside is the horse can be bought for the claiming price, so if too little weight is allocated the trainer risks losing the horse.


The premier races for flat horses consisting the 1000 and 2000 Guineas, The Oaks, The Derby and St Ledger.

Clerk of The Course

The most important person at a racecourse. They have to arrange the schedule of races. They also have responsibility of ensuring the course is fit for racing and that everything goes to plan on the day. On top of that they are the public face of the course and they have to attract sponsors. All in all a very demanding role.

Clerk of The Scales

An employee of the HRA who is responsible for ensuring the jockeys carry the correct weight. He also advises the starter of any non-runners and, for flat races, the draw number for each horse. The clerk is also the person who makes the all important “weighed in” announcement.


A male horse, that has not been castrated aged 4 years old or younger.

Coltish The official dictionary definition of coltish is "inexperienced, unruly, playful and lively" In a racing context it does cover that description but is usually used as a euphemism when a male horse becomes sexually aroused in the preliminaries. It is usually a negative indication as it shows the hose is not concentrating on the job in hand.

It is more common in juveniles.


The horses appearance. If a horse is overweight it is said to be carrying condition … not a good sign.


The trainer and owners of a horse.


Computer Straight Forecast – a complex formula used by bookmakers to determine the payout on forecast bets.

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Dead Heat

When two or more horses cross the finishing line together and they cannot be separated by examining a photograph.


  1. An imaginary point 240 yards from the finishing line in a flat race. Once past this point the horses are said to be “inside the distance”
  2. If a horse finishes more than 30 lengths ahead of the following horse it is said to have beaten it “by a distance”
  3. The length of the race.

Double Carpet

Bookies slang for 33/1


The position in the starting stalls randomly allocated to horses in flat races. At some courses the position in the draw can have a significant impact on a horses chance.

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Each Way

A bet on a horse to win and be placed in a race – two bets.

Ear ‘Ole

Bookmakers slang for 6/4 – relates to the tic-tac symbol for the odds.


Horses may wear ear plugs in a race to prevent them being spooked as they approach the noisy run-in at the end of a race. The rules say if a horse begins a race in earplugs then they must be kept in until after the race is over.


When a jockey realises a horse is beaten he may ease the pressure being applied to a horse to make it win.


Bookmakers slang for nine – it is the word nine reversed


A male horse that has not been castrated.


A Tote bet where the bettor has to select the first and second horse in the correct order.

Extended In race distances where the distance of the race is further than the stated distance, usually by around about half a furlong.

For example a race of 2m 4f 110yds would be described as an extended 2m 4f or an extended 2½ mile contest.

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Bookmakers slang for punters that bookmakers fear. Faces are punters that have good contacts and usually win when they bet and they usually bet big.


The horse in a race with the shortest odds.


A female horse 4 years old or younger.


A bet with a bookmaker where the bettor has to select the first and second horse in the correct order.


220 yards or 1/8 of a mile. Races are measured in furlongs, the shortest race is five furlongs, races over a mile are measured in miles and furlongs.

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A male horse which has been castrated.

Getting Out Stakes

The last race on the card where losing punters attempt to recoup their losses.


The state of the ground at the racecourse. There are seven grades Heavy, Soft, Good to Soft, Good, Good to Firm, Firm and Hard. Certain horses go better in certain goings and it is an important factor when looking for winners.

Going Behind

The point where the horses go behind the starting stalls prior to loading.


If a young horse in its first or second race runs off a true line or shows inexperience it is said to be running green.

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A race where the horses carry differing weights depending on their ability. The better the horse the more weight it has to carry.


An official who allocates weights to horses in a handicap. The aim is to allocate such weights so all the horses finish in a line together …. Of course this never happens. However if there is a close finish the handicapper will be happy.

Hands and Heels

Where riders ride out a finish with out reverting to use of the whip. The horse is encouraged by the jockey using their hands and legs only.


When a horse runs off a true line despite the best efforts of the jockey to correct the drift.


Newmarket, the home of the Jockey Club which used to run racing.


A male horse older than four, which has not been gelded.


Horserace Regulatory Authority – the governing body of racing in the UK.

Hunter Chase

A steeplechase confined to horses which have run with a registered hunt in the current season.

Hurdle Race

A race over hurdles, which tend to be smaller obstacles which tend to give when hit, so are more forgiving when hit. There are now two types of hurdle. Tradition hurdles are effectively flat panels with woven sticks. Some courses now use brush hurdles which are more like miniature steeplechase, but with more give.

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Inspector of Courses

An HRA official who is responsible for ensuring racecourses comply with safety regulations. He is the person, usually a former jockey, who ensures the Courses meet the correct safety criteria for horses, jockeys and spectators.

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A tote bet where the punter has to select the winner of the first six races at the main meeting of the day. If not won the pool is carried on the following day, if not won for several days the prize pool can approach £1m. 


Slang for the favourite.


An HRA official who decides the finishing order of the race. If necessary he or she will revert to examining a photograph to decide the result.


A two year old horse.

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Backing a horse to lose a race. This is effectively what bookmakers do, now with betting exchanges ordinary punters can lay a horse to lose. If, for example, I think horse A will lose I will lay him and say I will offer 2/1 to anybody who wants to back it to win. So if you think the horse will win and you want to bet £10 I will lay the horse. If the horse loses I keep your £10 but if it wins I give you your £10 plus another £20. 

Lay Off

When a bookmaker has taken a large amount of money on a particular horse, he may then place a bet with another bookmaker on the same horse, thus sharing his liabilities. If the horse then wins his losses are reduced. If the horse loses he still wins but not as much as he would have done.

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  1. A horse that has never won a race.
  2. A race restricted to horses who have never won a race.


A female horse aged five or older.


A race with only two runners.


Bookmakers slang for £500

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Need of a Run

If the horse has not run for a long time it may not be fully race fit and is said to be in need of a run. As in need of a run to get fully fit. (Just because a horse has not run for a long time does not mean it will not be fit. Some horses do better after a break and some trainers are experts at having their runners fit after a break)


Bookmakers slang for ten – ten reversed.


Bookmakers reverse slang for seven

Non Trier

A horse that has not run to its full potential in a race. This is a very serious breach of the rules of racing and penalties for non-triers are severe.


A jump horse in its first season over hurdles or fences. Most jump horses start over hurdles then after a couple of years will go over fences, so they will be a novice twice.


A handicap race for two year olds.

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A horse that is highly fancied to win a race where the returns are less than the investment (although the stake is returned)


  1. The start of a race when the stalls open or the tapes are raised
  2. A horse that hasn’t run as well as expected. Horses are noy machines and like us sometimes have off days.

Off The Bridle

When a horse is not giving its all or is getting tired. When a horse is having to be rousted along by its jockey the commentator may say the horse is coming off the bridle. 


Those people responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the race meeting. A list of officials is printed in the racecard.

On The Bridle

The horse is running well within itself and the jockey is not having to do anything to urge it along. If the commentator says a horse in on the bridle then it is running well.

Open Ditch

A steeplechase fence that has a ditch in front of the fence so the horse has to jump long as well as high. There are generally one or two on a circuit of the course and offer a challenge to both horse and rider. The first or last fence in a race is never an open ditch. (In Ireland these fences are called Regulations)


When the horses come under the control of the starter. This is significant as once a horse comes under starters orders it is deemed to be a runner. 

Out of the Handicap

In handicaps horses are allocated a weight according to their ability. However handicap races have a minimum weight that can be carried. For example for jump races the minimum weight is 10 stone. If a horse is rated by the handicapper as being 9 stone 10 lbs it will still have to carry 10 stone, four pounds more than it is rated, the horse is then said to be four pounds out of the handicap. Being out of the handicap is a disadvantage.


The theoretical profit the bookmakers will make on a race. The bigger the over-round the less value for punters.


Horses are allocated a weight depending on the race conditions. If a jockey cannot make the weight the horse is said to be carrying overweight. So if a horse is meant to carry 10 stone 6 lbs but the jockey weighs out at 10 stone 8 lbs the horse is said to be carrying 2lbs overweight. This is clearly a disadvantage.

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  1. The speed, or pace, at which the race is run.
  2. “Up with the pace” means a horse is in the vanguard, whilst “off the pace” means the horse is behind the leaders.


Sometimes an owner of a fancied horse will enter a second horse in a race to ensure the race is run a the right pace to suit the main horse. This is allowed within the rules, as long as the pacemaker runs to its own merits. Occasionally the pacemaker even manages to beat the stable star.


Another name for the parade ring.

Parade Ring

An area where horses are paraded for inspection before racing. All horses must pass through the parade ring.


The weights for races are published in advance. If a horse subsequently wins a race between the publication of the weights and the race taking place then the horse may have to carry extra weight as a penalty in the subsequent race.


If the horses cross the line too close together for the judge to call the result with the naked eye they will call for a photograph. Until a few years ago it used to take a minute or two to develop the photograph and there was frantic betting on the outcome. Indeed the bookmakers often put a man at the finishing post to try and second guess the photo finish results. Nowadays with digital photography the result is usually known within a minute, so the fun of betting on the result of a photograph has all but disappeared.


A Tote bet where the punter has to select a place horse in the first six races at any meeting.


Betting slang for £20

Pre-Parade Ring

An area where the horses are walked around prior to being saddled and entering the parade ring. At some courses the pre-parade ring and parade ring are one and the same.


When a horse is keen to get on with things when its jockey wants it to go a bit slower is said to be pulling.

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A Tote bet where the punter has to select a place horse in races 3-6 at any meeting. Often used as a saver if one of the first two placepot selections fail.

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A booklet serving as a program to the days events. They can vary in quality but are a useful resource for a days racing.

Rails bookmakers

Bookmakers traditionally are not allowed in the members or top enclosures at courses …. bookmakers were considered too vulgar to be in such esteemed company. To avoid having to go into the lesser enclosure the boards bookmakers set up their pitches alongside, or along the rails, between the two enclosures.

Ran Out

When a horse swerves round, rather than jumping an obstacle it is said to have ran out.


Bookmakers slang for four – an anagram of four.

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Scoop 6

A tote bet where the punter has to select the winner of six televised races on a Saturday. If not won the pool is carried on the following week, if not won for several weeks the prize pool can approach £1m.  There is a consolation dividend if you do not get all the winners but all your selections are placed. Any person winning the Scoop 6 gets a chance to win a jackpot at the following weeks most competitive race.

Sheepskin Noseband

A band made of sheepskin worn across the top of the horses nose. Wearing the band means the horse has to keep its head down to see where it is running.


  1. Some courses, like Pontefract for example, are known as short courses.  This means horses are better at distances short of their optimum. Taking Pontefract as the example, the five furlongs is very tough and stamina sapping, therefore a horse that can just about see out five furlongs will struggle, whereas a horse that is normally happy over six furlongs will be happy over this five.
  2. A short horse is a horse that barely stays the minimum distance. 5 furlongs on the flat or 2 miles over jumps.  


The colours worn by a jockey in a race. Each registered owner has their own unique set of colours. These are the colours, or silks, worn by the jockey.

Slowly Away

A horse that misses the start and is behind the other horses as they set off. Sometimes this is a deliberate ploy to settle a horse. There are some horses who think they have done enough as soon as they get in front.


The odds on offer for horses when the race commences, short for starting price. A team of independent reporters analyse the odds on offer from up to a dozen of the busiest bookmakers on the course. The fourth best price on offer is then selected as the starting price.

Spread a Plate

Horses shoes are known as plates, when a horse spreads a plate it loses a shoe.


A horse that starts off at much shorter odds than originally expected.


A mechanical device used for starting flat horse races. The aim is all the gates to the stalls open in unison, thus ensuring  a level start. In reality this does not happen as some horses are faster out of the stalls than others.


The official responsible for ensuring the horses start the race in accordance to the rules of racing. A large number of starters are former jockeys who understand the problems jockeys have, especially in jump races, in getting their horses lined up for a start.

Starting Price

See SP


A horse whose odd contract rapidly as a result of the money being bet on it.


The original jumps races were run cross country between two churches or two steeples – hence a chase between two steeples or a steeplechase. Now it refers to races over larger obstacles than hurdles, usually packed birch, or in the case of the Grand National course, spruce.


The officials responsible for ensuring races are run within the rules of racing.

Stewards Enquiry

Where there is any question as to whether the rules of racing have been broken the Stewards will hold an enquiry. If the enquiry could impact the result of the race then the enquiry will be announced over the course public address system … once announced bookmakers and the Tote will withhold payment of bets until the enquiry is complete. If the enquiry is not likely to impact the result it will not be announced over the PA, however the subsequent results will be announced.

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A method of hand communication used by bookmakers at the course to relay betting information. With the advent of modern technology tic-tac is becoming less common.

Tongue Strap

Some horses have a tendency to swallow their tongue when racing … clearly this doesn’t help their performance in the race. Horses that have this tendency will have their tongues tied down to stop the swallowing happening. The application of a tongue tie has to be notified in advance and it is noted in the racecard. 


A betting system where all stakes are pooled and, following a deduction for expenses, the pool is shared amongst the winning contributors in proportion to their contribution.


A bet with bookmakers where the first three horses have to be selected in the correct order.


A tote bet where the first three horses have to be selected in the correct order, usually available on races with eight or more runners.


Where a horse has had a tracheotomy to aid its breathing.

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Backroom boys who work in the weighing room to ensure the jockeys have all the right equipment they need for each race. They can carry out running repairs to jockeys equipment and without them racing would not run as smoothly as it does.


Headgear worn by a horse which restricts their peripheral vision forcing them to concentrate on what is in front of them, rather than behind them. They differ from blinkers in that there is a small slit in the eyepiece allowing some limited peripheral vision.

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Walk Over

Where only one horse is declared to run in a race it has to parade and, although it doesn’t have to run the full race, it has to walk past the judges box.

Water Jump

A steeplechase jump where there is a shallow ditch full of water after the jump. The jump itself tends to be lower than standard jumps and is more than a long jump than a high jump. Some courses have dispensed with their water jumps, whilst others have them in front of the stands as they make good viewing.

Weigh Out

All jockeys have to be weighed with their saddle prior to the race to ensure they are carrying the correct allocated weight.

Weighed In

After the race jockeys have to weigh in to prove they are still carrying the correct weight. Not all jockeys have to weigh in, generally it is the placed riders plus the next two, although the Clerk of the Scales can ask any jockey to lay in.

Weighing Room

The area of the racecourse where the jockeys get changed, get weighed in and out and where the stewards hold their enquiries.

Weight Cloth

If the weight of the jockey and his saddle is less than the allocated weight the difference is made up by having to carry lead weights in a weight cloth under the saddle.

Weight For Age

Younger, inexperienced horses are considered inferior to their elders due to a lack of maturity. This is compensated for by the younger horses receiving an age allowance. The table is quite complex and changes month by month. 

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