Terms used in Horse Racing
Each sport has it's own unique terms and words used to
describe it. Horse Racing is no different and has many
very colorful terms. Below is a fairly comprehensive
listing of horse racing terms.
Horse Racing Terms
- A -
ACROSS THE BOARD - a bet on a horse to win, place and show.
ADDED MONEY - money added to the purse of a race by the racing
association or by a breeding or other fund.
ALL OUT - when a horse extends himself to the utmost.
ALLOWANCE RACE - a race other than claiming for which the racing
secretary drafts certain conditions to determine weights.
ALLOWANCES - weight permitted to be reduced because of the
conditions of the race or because an apprentice is on a horse.
Also, a weight females are entitled to when racing against males.
ALSO-ELIGIBLE - a horse officially entered, but not permitted to
start unless the field is reduced by scratches below a specified
ALSO-RAN - a horse who finishes out of the money.
APPRENTICE - rider who has not ridden a certain number of winners
within a specified period of time. Also known as a bug boy.
APPRENTICE ALLOWANCE - weight concession to an apprentice rider:
usually 10 pounds until the fifth winner, seven pounds until the
35th winner and five pounds for one calendar year from the 35th
- B -
BABY RACE - a race for 2-year-olds.
BACKSTRETCH - straight of far side of track between the turns.
Also stable area.
BACKSIDE - stable area.
BANDAGE - strips of cloth wound around the lower part of a
horse’s legs for support or protection against injury.
BAR SHOE - a horse with a rear bar to protect an injured foot.
BEARING IN (OR OUT) - deviating from a straight course.
BLANKET FINISH - horses finishing so closely together they could
be covered by a blanket.
BLEEDER - a horse who bleeds during or after a workout or race
due to ruptured blood vessel.
BLINKERS - device to limit a horse’s vision.
BLOWOUT - a short, final workout, usually a day or two before a
BOARD - totalisator board on which odds, betting pools and other
information is displayed.
BOBBLE - a bad step.
BOLT - sudden veering from a straight course.
BREAKAGE - in pari-mutuel payoffs which are rounded out to a
nickel or dime, those pennies that are left over. Breakage is
generally split between the track and state and in some cases,
breeding or other funds, in varying proportions.
BREAKDOWN - when a horse suffers an injury; lameness.
BREAK MAIDEN - horse or rider winning first race of a career.
BREEDER - owner of dam at time foal is dropped.
BREEDING FUND - a fund set up by many states to provide bonus
prizes for state-breeds.
BREEZE - working a horse at a moderate speed; less effort than
BROODMARE - female Thoroughbred used for breeding.
BUG - apprentice rider.
BULLET (WORK) - the best time for the distance on a given day at
BULL RING - small racetrack; usually less than one mile.
- C -
CHECKED - a horse pulled up by his jockey.
CHUTE - an extension of the backstretch or homestretch.
CLAIMING - buying a horse out of a race for the entered price.
CLAIMING RACE - race in which horses are entered subject to claim
for a specified price.
CLASSIC - race of traditional importance.
CLOCKER - one who times workouts and races.
CLOSER - a horse who runs best in the latter part of the race,
coming from off the pace.
CLUBHOUSE TURN - generally, the turn closest to the clubhouse.
COLT - male horse under 5 years of age.
CONDITION BOOK - book issued by racing secretary which sets the
conditions of races to be run.
CONDITION RACE - an event with conditions limiting it to a
certain class of horse. Such as Fillies, 3-year-olds, non-winners
of two races other than maiden or claiming etc.
CONTRACT RIDER - jockey under a contract to a stable.
COUPLED - two or more horses running as an entry in a single
CUPPY (TRACK) - a surface which breaks away under a horse’s hoof.
CUSHION - surface of track or a layer of the track.
- D -
DAILY DOUBLE - type of wager calling for the selection of winners
of two consecutive races, usually the first and second.
DEAD-HEAT - two or more horses finishing in an exact tie at the
DEAD TRACK - racing surface lacking resiliency.
DISQUALIFICATION - change of order of finish by officials for an
infraction of the rules.
DISTAFF (DISTAFF RACE) - female. A race for fillies, mares, or
DISTANCED - well beaten, finishing a great distance behind the
DQ - disqualified.
DRIVING - strong urging by rider.
DROPDOWN - a horse facing a lower class of rivals than he had
been running against.
- E -
EASED - chart caller’s assessment of a horse that is being
deliberately slowed by the jockey to prevent injury or harm to
EASILY - running or winning without being pressed by rider or
EIGHTH - a furlong; 220 yards; 660 feet, 1/8 of a mile.
ELIGIBLE - qualified to start in a race, according to conditions.
ENTRY - two or more horses owned by the same stable or (in some
cases) trained by the same trainer and thus running as a single
EQUIPMENT - whip, blinkers, etc. Gear carried by a horse in a
EQUIVALENT ODDS - mutual price horses pay for each $1 bet.
EVENLY - neither gaining nor losing position or distance during a
EXACTA (or PERFECTA) - a wager in which the first two finishers
in a race, in exact order of finish, must be picked.
EXERCISE RIDER - male or female rider who is aboard a horse for
EXTENDED - forced to run at top speed.
EXTRA WEIGHT (ADDED WEIGHT) - more weight than conditions of race require.
- F -
FALTERED - a term used for a horse that was in contention early
and drops back in the late stages. It is more drastic than
weakened but less drastic than stopped.
FALSE FAVOURITE - a horse who is bet down to favoritism when
others would appear to outclass him on form.
FAST TRACK - footing at its best; Dry, fast and even.
FIELD - the horses in a race.
FIELD HORSE (or MUTUEL FIELD) - two or more starters running as a
single betting unit, when there are more entrants than the
totalisator board can accommodate.
FILLY - a female horse up to and including the age of 4.
FIRM - a turf course condition corresponding to fast on a dirt
FLATTEN OUT - when a horse drops his head almost on a straight
line with its body. May indicate exhaustion.
FOAL - newly born Thoroughbred, or until weaned. Male or female.
FOUR FURLONGS - half a mile; 880 yards; 2,640 feet.
FRACTIONAL TIME - intermediate time recorded in a race, as at the
quarter, half, three-quarters, etc.
FRESH (FRESHENED) - a rested horse.
FRONT RUNNER - a horse who usually leads (or tries to lead) the
FURLONG - one-eighth of a mile; 220 yards; 660 feet.
- G -
GAIT - the ways in which a horse can move - walk, trot, canter,
gallop, run, etc.
GALLOP - a type of gait, a fast canter. Also, to ride a horse at
GATE - the starting mechanism.
GELDING - an incomplete male horse.
GOOD BOTTOM - track that is firm under the surface, which may be
sloppy or wet.
GOOD TRACK - condition between fast and slow.
GRADUATE - winning at a class and moving up.
- H -
HALF - half a mile, four furlongs; 880 yards; 2,640 feet.
HAND - four inches. Unit used in measuring height of a horse from
withers to ground.
HANDICAP - a race a handicapper assigns weights to be carried.
Also, to handicap a race, to make selections on the basis of the
HANDICAPPER - one who assigns weights. Also one who makes
selections on past performances.
HANDILY - working or racing with moderate effort, but more effort
HANDLE - amount of money wagered in the pari-mutuel pool on a
race, a program, a meeting or a year.
HAND RIDE - a jockey urging a horse with the hands and not using
HEAD - a margin between the horses. One horse leading another by
the length of his head.
HEAD OF THE STRETCH - beginning of the stretch run home.
HEAVY - the condition of a track similar to, but even slower than
HORSE - broadly, in any Thoroughbred regardless of gender.
Specifically, an entire male 5 years old or older.
HUNG - a horse tiring, but holding position.
- I -
IN FOAL - a pregnant mare.
IN THE MONEY - finishing first, second or third.
IN HAND - running under moderate control, at less than best pace.
IMPOST - weight carried or assigned.
INQUIRY - stewards reviewing the race to check into a possible
infraction of the rules.
IRONS - stirrups.
- J -
JOCKEY FEE - sum paid to a rider.
JOG - slow, easy gait.
JUVENILE - a two-year-old horse.
- L -
LASIX - a medication for the treatment of bleeding.
LATE DOUBLE - a second daily double offered on the latter part of
the program. (See Daily Double).
LEAD PONY - horse or pony who heads parade of field from paddock
to starting gate. Also a horse or pony who accompanies a starter
LEG UP - to help a jockey mount his horse.
LENGTH - length of a horse from nose to tail, about 8 feet. Also
distance between horses in a race.
LOCK - slang for a "sure thing" winner.
LUG (in or out) - action of a tiring horse, bearing in or out.
LUNGE - horse rearing or plunging.
- M -
MAIDEN - a horse who has not won a race. Also applied to a
MAIDEN RACE - a race for non-winners.
MARE - female horse 5 years old or older. Also, female of any age
who has been bred.
MEDICATION LIST - a list kept by the track veterinarian and
published by the track and Daily Racing Form.
MIDDLE DISTANCE - broadly; From one mile to less than a mile and
MINUS POOL - a mutual pool caused when one horse is so heavily
wagered on, that after deductions of state tax and commission,
there is not enough money left to pay the legally prescribed
minimum on each winning bet.
MORNING GLORY - a horse who performs well in morning workouts but
fails to reproduce that form in races.
MORNING LINE - approximate odds quoted before wagering determines
MUDDY TRACK - deep condition of racetrack after being soaked with
MUDDER - horse who races well on muddy tracks.
- N -
NECK - a unit of measurement; a quarter of a length.
NOD - lowering of head. Winning in that manner.
NOSE - smallest advantage a horse can win by.
- O -
OBJECTION - claim of foul lodged by a rider.
ODDS-ON - odds of less than even money.
OFFICIAL - sign displayed when result is confirmed. Also racing
OFF TRACK - an off track refers to a wet racing surface.
ON THE BOARD - finishing among the first four.
ON THE NOSE - betting a horse to win only.
OVERLAY - a horse going off at a higher price than he appears to
warrant based on his past performances.
OVERNIGHT LINE - prices quoted the night before the race.
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
OVERWEIGHT - extra weight carried by a horse when the rider
cannot make the required weight.
- P -
PADDOCK - the area where horses are saddled.
PADDOCK JUDGE - official in charge of the paddock and saddling
PARIMUTUEL - a form of wagering that originated in France in
which all money bet is divided up among those who have winning
tickets, after taxes, takeout and other deductions are made.
PAST PERFORMANCES - a compilation in the Daily Racing Form of a
horse’s record, including all pertinent data, used as a basis for
PATROL JUDGES - officials who observe the progress of a race from
various vantage points around the track.
PHOTO FINISH - a result so close it is necessary to use a
finish-line camera to determine order of finish.
PLACE - second position at finish.
PLACE BET - wager on a horse to finish first or second.
PLACING JUDGES - officials who determine the order in which
horses reach the finish line.
POCKET - boxed in, shut off. Running in a position with horses in
front and alongside.
POLE - markers at measured distances around the track, marking
the distance from the finish. The quarter pole, for instance, is
a quarter of a mile from the finish, not from the start.
POST - starting point or position in the starting gate.
POOL (mutuel pool) - total sum wagered.
POST PARADE - horses going from paddock to starting gate past the
POST POSITION - position of stall in starting gate from which a
POST TIME - designated time for a race to begin.
PREP (or PREP RACE) - a workout or a race to prepare a horse for
a future engagement.
PURSE - prize money.
- Q -
QUARTER - one-quarter of a mile; 440 yards; 1,320 feet.
QUARTER POLE - marker one-quarter mile from the finish.
QUINELLA - a wager in which the first two finishers must be
picked in either order.
- R -
RABBIT - a horse that is considered to have little chance of
winning a race but is entered purely to ensure a fast pace,
softening up the competition for the benefit of the entry mate.
RACING SECRETARY - official who drafts conditions of races and
assigns weights for handicap events.
RAIL RUNNER - horse who prefers to run next to inside rail.
RESERVED - held off the pace.
RIDDEN OUT - refers to a horse that wins under a vigorous hand
ride but is not being whipped.
RIDGLING - a horse with one nut.
ROMP - running (or winning) with utmost ease.
ROUTE - race distance of a mile or longer.
ROUTER - horse who perfoms well at distance races.
RUNDOWN BANDAGES - (or WRAPS) - bandages on the hind legs.
- S -
SADDLE CLOTH - a cloth under the saddle on which a horse's
wagering number is displayed.
SCALE OF WEIGHTS - fixed imposts to be carried by horses in a
race according to age, distance, gender, and time of year.
SCRATCH - to be taken out of a race.
SECOND CALL -a second engagement of a jockey who already is
listed for a mount in a race.
SET DOWN - a suspension. Also, put to a drive, or asked to run by
SEVEN FURLONGS - seven-eighths of a mile; 1,540 yards; 4,620
Gender ALLOWANCE - fillies and mares, according to their age and
time of year, are allowed to carry less weight when meeting
SHOW - third position at the finish.
SHOW BET - wager on a horse to finish in the money, third or
SILKS - jacket and cap worn by riders which designate owner of
SIX FURLONGS - three-quarters of a mile; 1,320 yards; 3,960 feet.
SIXTEENTH - one-sixteenth of a mile; 110 yards, 330 feet.
SLOPPY - condition of track. Wet on surface with firm bottom.
SLOW - footing that is not fast, between good and heavy.
SOLID HORSE - contender.
SOPHOMORE - three-year-old horse.
STAKES-PLACED - finishing first, second or third in a stakes
STAKE - a race for which the owner must pay a fee to run his
horse. Some stakes races are by invitation and require no payment
STAKES HORSE - one capable of competing in such events.
STALLION - entire male horse.
STARTER RACE - an allowance or handicap race restricted to horses
who have started for a specific claiming price or less.
STARTING GATE - a mechanical device having partitions (stalls)
for horses in which they are confined until the starter releases
the doors in front to begin the race.
STATE-BRED - a horse bred in a particular state and thus eligible
to compete in special races restricted to state-breds.
STEADIED - a horse being taken in hand by his rider, usually
because of being in close quarters.
STEPS UP - a horse moving up in class.
STEWARDS - officials of the meeting responsible for enforcing the
STRETCH - final straight portion of the racetrack to the finish.
STRETCH CALL - position of horses at the eighth pole, usually
about halfway down the stretch.
STRETCH RUNNER - horse who finishes fast.
STRETCH TURN - bend of track into homestretch.
STRIDE - manner of going. Also distance covered after each foot
has touched the ground once.
STUD - male horse used for breeding.
STUD BOOK - registry and genealogical record of the breeding of
Thoroughbreds maintained by the Jockey Club.
SUBSCRIPTION - fee paid by owner to nominate horse for a stakes
race or to maintain eligibility for a stakes race.
SUSPEND (or SUSPENSION) - a punishment for infraction of rules.
- T -
TACK - riders’ racing equipment.
TAKE (or TAKEOUT) - a commission deducted from pari-mutuel pools.
TAKEN UP - a horse pulled up sharply by his jockey.
TOPWEIGHT - highest weight assigned or carried in a race.
TOTALISATOR - a machine which sells and records wagering tickets
and shows odds. Also figures out and displays payoffs.
TOUT - one who gives tips on racehorses.
TRACK BIAS - a racing surface that favors a particular running
style or post position.
TRACK RECORD - fastest time at various distances recorded at a
TRIAL - workout.
TRIFECTA (or TRIPLE) - a wager picking the first three finishers
in exact order.
TRIP - a horse’s race.
TRIPLE CROWN - the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont
TURF COURSE - grass course.
- U -
UNDERLAY - a horse going of at a lower price than he appears to
warrant based on his past performances.
UNDER WRAPS - horse under stout restraint in a race or workout.
UNTRIED - not raced.
- W -
WALKOVER - a race which scratches down to only one starter who
merely gallops the required distance.
WARMING UP - galloping a horse.
WASHY - a horse breaking out in a nervous sweat.
WEANLING - a foal that is less than 1 year-old that has been
separated from its dam.
WEIGHT-FOR-AGE - a fixed scale of weights to be carried by horses
according to age, gender, distance of race and time of year.
WINDED - breathing with difficulty after workout or race.
WINNER-TAKES-ALL - a winner receiving all the purse or stakes.
WORK - to exercise a horse.
YEARLING - a thoroughbred between the first New Year’s Day after
being foaled and the following January 1.
YIELDING - a turf course condition corresponding to slow on a