Horse Racing Terms


ACROSS THE BOARD A bet on a horse to win, place and show. If the horse wins, the player collects three ways; if second, two ways; and if third, one way, losing the win and place bets.
ALL OUT A horse who is trying to the best of his ability.
ALLOWANCE RACE A race where weights and eligibility to enter are determined by conditions set by the racing secretary
ALSO-ELIGIBLE A horse entered in the race but who cannot start unless another horse is scratched
ALSO-RAN A horse who finishes out of the money

BABY RACE A race for 2-year-olds
BACKSTRETCH The straight way on the far side of the track
BLANKET FINISH When the horses finish so close for the win you could theoretically put a single blanket across them
BOARD The tote board on which odds, betting pools and other race information is displayed
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
BULL RING Small racetrack less than one mile around

CHUTE Extension of the backstretch or homestretch to allow a longer straight run at the start
CLAIMING RACE A race where horses are entered for a specified price and can be claimed (purchased) from the race for that price. Claimers are horses who generally run only in claiming races
CLASSIC A race for three-year-olds, such as a Derby or Oaks, that has a long standing tradition behind it. The American classics are the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes
CLOSER A horse who runs best in the latter part of the race, coming from off the pace
CLUBHOUSE TURN Generally the turn immediately after the finish line and closest to the clubhouse
COLORS Racing silks, the jacket and cap worn by jockeys. Silks can be generic and provided by the track or specific to one owner
CONDITIONED RACE Eligibility to enter is determined by a set of conditions such as age, sex, races won, etc.
COUPLED Two or more horses running as an entry in a single betting unit
CUPPY A track surface which breaks away under a horse's hoof

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 finish
DEAD TRACK Racing surface lacking resiliency
DERBY A stakes race for three-year-olds
DISTAFF RACE A race for fillies, mares, or both
DISTANCED Well beaten, finishing a long distance behind the winner
DRIVING Strong urging by rider

EVENLY Neither gaining nor losing position or distance during a race
EXACTA (or PERFECTA) A wager in which the first two finishers in a race, in exact order of finish, must be picked

FAST TRACK The optimum condition for a dirt track, dry, fast and even
FIELD HORSE (or MUTUEL FIELD) Two or more starters running as a single betting unit, when there are more entrants than positions on the totalisator board can accommodate
FIRM A optimum condition for a turf course corresponding to fast on a dirt track
FIRST TURN Bend in the track beyond the starting point
FRONT-RUNNER A horse who usually leads (or tries to lead) the field for as far as he can
FURLONG One-eighth of a mile; 220 yards; 660 feet

GOOD TRACK Condition between fast and slow, generally a bit wet
GRADED RACE The most important or prestigious races in North America are assigned grades (I, II, or III) based on the quality of previous winners and the race's influence on other races or championships
GROUP RACE European equivalent to North American graded races
HANDICAP Race where the racing secretary or track handicapper assigns the weights to be carried
HEAD OF THE STRETCH Beginning of the straight run for the finish
HEAVY Condition of track when wet similar to muddy but slower

IN THE MONEY Finishing first, second or third
INQUIRY Reviewing the race to check into a possible infraction of the rules. Also, a sign flashed by officials on tote board on such occasions
INVITATIONAL A stakes race open only to horses who are invited to enter. Generally no entry fee is charged

LENGTH Length of a horse from nose to tail, about 8 feet
LOCK Slang for a "sure thing" winner

MAIDEN RACE Horses who have not yet won a race are referred to as maidens, hence a race for non winners
MINUS POOL A mutuel pool caused when one 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
MORNING LINE Approximate odds quoted before wagering begins
MUDDY Deep condition of racetrack after being soaked with water. Horses who run will on wet tracks are generally referred to as mudders

NECK Unit of measurement, about the length of a horse's neck; a quarter of a length

OAKS A stakes race for 3-year-old fillies
OBJECTION Claim of foul lodged by rider, patrol judge or other official. If lodged by official, it is called an inquiry
ODDS-ON Odds of less than even money. In England it is simply called "on," thus a horse "5-4 on" is actually at odds of 4-5
OFFICIAL Sign displayed when result is confirmed. Also racing official
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 RACE A race where entries close a specific number of hours before running (such as 48 hours), as opposed to a stakes race where nominations close far in advance
OVERWEIGHT Surplus weight carried by a horse when the rider cannot make the assigned weight

PADDOCK Area where horses are saddled and kept before post time
PASTEBOARD TRACK Lightning fast racing strip
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
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
POOL Mutuel pool, the total sum bet on a race or a particular bet
POST Starting point or position in starting gate
POST PARADE Horses going from paddock to starting gate past the stands
POST POSITION Position of stall in starting gate from which a horse starts
POST TIME Designated time for a race to start

QUINELLA Wager in which first two finishers must be picked, but payoff is made no matter which of the two wins and which runs second

ROUTE RACE A race run at a mile or longer, generally around two turns

SADDLE CLOTH Cloth under the saddle on which number denoting post position is displayed
SCALE OF WEIGHTS Fixed weights to be carried by horses in a race according to age, distance, sex, and time of year
SCRATCH To be taken out of a race
SHOW Third position at the finish
SHOW BET Wager on a horse to finish in the money; third or better
SLOPPY A track that is wet on surface with firm bottom
SLOW A track with some moisture in it that is not fast, between good and heavy
SPRINT RACE A race run at less than a mile, generally with only one turn
STAKE A race for which an owner must pay an entry fee to run his horse. The fees can be for nominating, maintaining eligibility, entering and starting, and are generally added to the amount put up by the track to make up the total purse
STARTING GATE Mechanical device with stalls for horses to stand in until the starter releases the doors in front to begin the race
STRAIGHT Betting to win only
STRETCH Final straight portion of the racetrack to the finish
STRETCH RUNNER Horse who finishes fast in the stretch
STRETCH TURN Bend of track into homestretch

TAKE (or TAKEOUT) Commission deducted from mutuel pools which is shared by the track and local and state governing bodies in the form of tax
TOUT Person who professes to have, and sells, advance information on a race
TRACK RECORD Fastest time for a distance at a particular track
TRIFECTA (or TRIPLE) A wager picking the first three finishers in exact order
TURF COURSE Grass course

UNDERLAY A horse racing at longer odds than he should

WARMING UP Galloping horse on way to post
WIN Cross the finish line first
WIN BET Wager on a horse to finish first