Horse Racing Glossary

The world of horse racing is fast paced and ever changing. However, the jargon surrounding it remains the same. Below is a glossary of all the vital horse racing terms that will improve your understanding of the great sport, whether you are just starting out or a seasoned campaigner.


Act (on the ground or track)

Describes how suited a horse is to different conditions. E.g. if a horse ‘acts on heavy ground’ it means that horse has shown previous ability to handle heavy ground.


All thoroughbreds have their birthdays on January 1st.


A weight concession to compensate for a rider’s lack of experience against their colleagues. The ‘allowance’ is usually 3lb, 5lb or 7lb, with it decreasing as the young jockey rides more winners.

All-Weather (AWT)

An artificial racing surface. There are five all-weather racetracks in Britain (Chelmsford, Kempton, Lingfield, Southwell, Wolverhampton) and one in Ireland (Dundalk), and they stage race meetings throughout the summer and winter. You will find three different types of surfaces at All-Weather tracks in the UK & Ireland – Fibresand, Polytrack and Tapeta.


A horse that finishes outside of the prize money in any given race.


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


Bookmakers will offer Antepost markets on many of the major races throughout the racing calendar. This means you can bet well in advance of the day of the race and potentially get a bigger price on your selection. However, there is no guarantee that your horse will race on the day. If this is the case, there is no refund of any bets placed.


A trainee Flat jockey connected to the stable of a licensed trainer.

At the post

When all the horses arrive at the start before a race.

Auction maiden

For 2-year-olds sold at public auction as yearlings or two-year-olds, for a price not exceeding a specified figure.



The equipment used to control the movement of a horse’s head.

Bridle (won on)

When a horse wins easily, without being hard ridden and usually without any threatening challengers.

Broke down

When a horse has to stop during a race due to injury.


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

Brought down

When a horse is impeded by a rival and falls.


A Flat race run under National Hunt (jumps) rules. It is normal for prospective jumps horses to run in these races before moving on to tackle hurdles or fences. Officially named a National Hunt Flat Race.


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

Black type

Term used by the bloodstock industry to denote a horse that has won or placed in a Pattern/Listed race. Once a horse wins or places in one of these types of races, their breeding value could increase.

Blanket finish

When the horses finish so close to the winning line you could theoretically put a single blanket over them. This will usually end with the Judge calling a photo to decide the official placings.


A horse that has a history of breaking blood vessels during a race.

Boxed in

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


When the rider restrains a horse during the race for a short distance to allow the animal to fill its lungs.


Galloping a horse at moderate speed.


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



Ungelded male horse below five years old.

Conditional Jockey

A jump jockey under the age of 26 who receives a weight allowance for inexperience until he has ridden a certain number of winners. A conditional is licensed to a specific trainer and you will find races that are restricted to conditionals only.


Used to describe a horse’s build and physical structure.


People associated with a horse. Such as owners, syndicate members, trainer and stable staff.

Course specialist

A horse that has a strong record at one particular course.

Covered up

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


The mating of horses.

Cut in the ground

When the ground condition has been affected by rain softening the surface.


A horse that jumps fences.


Strips of sheepskin that are attached to the sides of a horse’s bridle. They partially obscure the horse’s rear vison, with the aim of getting the horse to concentrate on racing.


An apprentice Flat jockey.

Claiming race

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


In the UK, there are 5 Classics during the Flat season. The 2,000 Guineas, the 1,000 Guineas, the Oaks, the Derby and the St Leger (run in that order).

Clerk of the course

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

Clerk of the scales

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



When a horse is demoted in the finishing order. This would be following a Stewards’ Enquiry after the race.


The margin by which a horse has won or has been beaten.


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


A horse’s starting position in the stalls allotted in Flat races.

Drop in class/trip

When a horse runs in a lower class of race/shorter distance than he has recently run in.


When a horse starts the race slowly.


A horse’s mother.

Damsire (broodmare)

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

Declared (runner)

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


Enquiry (Stewards’ Enquiry)

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

Entire horse

An ungelded horse.


Flat racing

Racing without jumps. Races are run over a minimum distance of 5 furlongs up to a maximum 2 miles 6 furlongs. The Flat (Turf season) runs from late March until early November. However, All-Weather racing allows Flat racing to continue throughout the calendar year.


A horse from birth to January 1st of the following year.


A horse’s race record.

Front runner

A horse whose running style is to lead from the front and to stay there for as long as possible.


220 yards (one-eighth of a mile).


The number of horses in a race. In betting terms, this would be all the horses in the field other than the favourite.


Female horse 4 years-old or younger.

First string

Where a trainer and/or owner has more than one runner in a race, the horse considered to have the best chance is referred to as the first string.


Group/Graded races

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


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


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


Training ground where horses are exercised.


A male horse that has been castrated.

Get the trip

To stay the distance of a race.


The condition of the racing surface.

Going down

When horses are on their way to the start.


Used to describe a horse that is either immature or inexperienced.


Hacked up

A horse that has won easily.


A race where each horse is allotted a different weight to carry, according to the official handicap ratings. If a horse runs well, it’s handicap rating will go up; if it performs poorly, its ratings will go down.

Hard ridden

Used to describe a horse whose jockey is expending full effort on a horse.


Newmarket is traditionally known as the home of Flat racing and is referred to as Headquarters.


Heinz is a bet that, just like the brand, requires a whopping 57 selections to come in, including 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 four folds, 6 five folds and 1 six-fold. If two or more of the selections win, then you’re guaranteed a return.

Home straight

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


A horse that races over hurdles.


The smaller obstacles on a jumps course. Horses will usually run over hurdles for a period and then progress to bigger fences.


In running

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



A 2 year-old horse.

Juvenile hurdler

Juvenile hurdlers are those that turn 4 years-old during the season in which they start hurdling.

Jocked off

When a jockey is replaced by another on a horse he usually rides or which he has been booked to ride.


Racecourse official responsible for declaring the finishing order of a race and the distance between the finishers.


Left handed track

A racecourse where horses run anti-clockwise.


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

Level weights

When all horses are carrying the same weight.

Listed race

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



A horse that has yet to win a race.

Maiden handicap

A race for maidens aged 3 years-old or above that have at least four runs and have a maximum rating of 70.


A female horse aged 5 years-old or above.

Median auction maiden

A race for 2 year-olds by stallions that had one or more yearling sold in the previous year with a median price not exceeding a specific figure.

Middle distances

On the Flat, races beyond a mile and up to 1 mile 6 furlongs are the middle distances.

Minimum trip

The shortest race distance – 5 furlongs on the Flat or 2 miles over jumps.



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

Non Runner

A horse that was meant to run but has been withdrawn from the race.


Smallest distance that a horse can win by.


A horse that is prevented by the jockey from running to its full ability. Non-trying is a serious offence and can result in an indefinite ban for the rider in question.


A horse in the early stages of its career after winning its first race.

Novice stakes

A Flat race for 2 year-olds or 3 year-olds that haven’t won more than twice.


A handicap on the Flat for 2 year-old horses.

National Hunt

Racing over fences and hurdles, referred to as jumps.



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

Overnight declarations

Horses entered for a race must be ‘declared to run’ and this usually happens the day before a race – horses left in a race at this stage are known as ‘overnight declarations’ and they comprise the final field for each race which appears on the day of the race in newspapers and in racecards.

Over the top

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


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


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

Off the bridle

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

Off the pace

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


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

On the bridle

Describes a horse running comfortably, still having a bite on the bit.

Open ditch

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

Out of the handicap

When handicap races are framed, there is a maximum and minimum weight that horses can carry. When a horse’s rating means that its allocated weight is lower than the minimum for that race, it is said to be ‘out of the handicap’.

Out of the money

A horse that finishes outside of the place money.



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


Area of the racecourse incorporating the parade ring (where horses are paraded prior to the race) and winner’s enclosure.


Before major races, the horses often line up in racecard order and led in front of the grandstands to allow racegoers to see them.


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

Penalised horses

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


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

Photo finish

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

Pulled up

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


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


A person who gambles.

Pushed out

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



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


Racing saddle

This critical piece of kit sits across the horses back and provides a platform for the jockey.

Rails (racecourse)

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


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

Right-handed track

Racecourse where horses run clockwise.


Sure thing

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


A horse that specialises in running over the shortest distances (5 and 6 furlongs) on the Flat.

Sprint races

Flat races run over a distance of 5 or 6 furlongs.


Male breeding horse.

Stalls handler

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


Racecourse official responsible for starting a horse race.


A horse that specialises in racing over long distances (2 miles and above) on the Flat.

Staying chaser

A horse that races over 3 miles or more over fences.

Staying on

When a horse is finishing strongly and appears to have more stamina in reserve.

Staying races

Flat races run over a distance of 2 miles or more.


A race run of fences; over distances from 2 miles up to 4 and a half miles.


One of the officials in overall charge of a race meeting, including disciplinary procedures. The stewards can hold enquiries into possible infringements of the rules of racing or hear objections to the race result from beaten jockeys. Usually there are three stewards at each race meeting, assisted by a stipendiary steward.

Stewards’ Enquiry

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


A jockey’s whip

Stewards’ room

On a racecourse, where stewards hold enquiries.


All horses in a particular training stable.


A farm where horses mate.

Supplementary entry

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


Training a horse for jumping.

Second string

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



A breed of horse used for racing.

Tongue tie

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


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.


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

Triple Crown

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

Turn of foot

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

Turned out

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

Two (2) year-old

Every horse officially turns 2 on January 1st, at the start of the second full calendar year following its birth. E.g. a horse born in 2008 will turn 2 on January 1st 2010. 2 year-old horses are also known as juveniles, and this is the first age at which horses are allowed to compete on the Flat (the youngest racing age over jumps is 3 years-old).


Under starters orders

The moment a race is about to start.


Not expected to win.



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


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


Weighed in

The official declaration ratifying a race result.

Weighing in/out

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

Weight cloth

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

Weight for age

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


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

Well in

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


Used by jockeys as an aid to encourage or steer the horse.

Work rider

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


A race involving only one horse.



A trainer’s premises where racehorses are trained.


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


Irish term to describe racecourse going that is soft.

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