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Racing Glossary

A Glossary of Horse Racing Terms

A good starting point for those new to horse racing. There's lots of jargon and terminology and here we aim to guide you through the terms you may hear!

Act (on the ground/on the track etc) A horse's suitability for different conditions e.g. going, racecourse etc. If a horse 'acts on heavy ground' it means that horse has shown previous ability to run well on heavy ground.

Amateur Jockey Referred to on the race card as Mr., Miss etc. An amateur jockey is one that is not yet qualified and is different to an apprentice jockey.

Ante post A bet placed in advance of the final declarations of a race. Bookmakers usually offer better odds, but no refunds are given in the event of a non-runner.

Apprentice An apprentice jockey is a rider aged between 16 and 25. Apprentices are flat jockeys, as opposed to conditional jockeys, who ride over jumps. An apprentice jockey can 'claim' a weight allowance of 7lbs until they have 20 wins, 5lbs until 50 wins, 3lbs until 95 wins (special allowances apply in races for apprentices only).

Apprentice race Flat races restricted to particular categories of jockeys who are not yet fully qualified. Apprentice races take place on the Flat and can be further limited to jockeys who have not yet ridden a specified number of winners.

Auction races A race for horses from the less expensive end. The race conditions determine the price limit. The price is based on the sales price of the individual horse and weight allowances may be granted for horses purchased at various increments below the stated value.

Australian Noseband A piece of tack used to prevent jaw crossing. Can also be used to prevent a horse's tongue from rolling over the bit. It consists of a piece of rubber on each side of the bit, that then join into one and run to the back of a horse's head. Also known as Australian Cheekers.

Backward A horse that is unfit or not fully developed.

Best Turned Out A prize given to the groom of the horse that is judged to look the best in the parade ring before the race.

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

Black Type A horse gains black type by winning or being placed in a Class A race (Group/Grade 1, 2, 3 or Listed). Black type is important especially for fillies/mares as future broodmares.

Blinkers Blinkers are a type of headgear worn by the horse, consisting of a hood with cups around the eyes. They are use to limit a horse's lateral vision and reduce distractions. They are intended to make the horse concentrate. A horse wearing blinkers is denoted on a racecard by a small 'b'. 'b1' indicates that the horse is wearing blinkers in a race for the first time.

Bought In When a winning owner or trainer buys back their own horse after an auction. If it is a selling race then the racecourse receives a percentage of the selling price of the horse.

Box walker Horse that moves about his stall and frets rather than rests.

Boxed-In A horse may become surrounded by other horses and therefore can’t break free from the pack during a race.

Breeze-Up sale A type of horse auction, usually for two-year-olds, at which the horses that are being sold will run for a short distance to allow potential buyers to make an assessment.

Bridle The equipment on a horse's head used for control.

Brought down A horse that falls during a race when impeded by another horse.

Browband A band designed to cross or cover the forehead especially. The part of a bridle, headstall, or halter that passes from one cheekpiece to the other above the eyes and below the ears. These are sometimes made to match the colours carried by the jockey.

Bumper A National Hunt Flat Race which is a race run on the flat but under National Hunt rules, with no starting stalls. These races are for horses that will go on to jump band are intended as an education for the horses.

Bungee reins Bungee reins encourage the correct use of a horse's neck and back muscles. They are a training aid made from tubular elastic with adjustment on the poll. The elastic passes through the bit and clips on to either the saddle dees or girth.

A bungee places gentle pressure on the corners and bars of the mouth via the bit to encourage an elastic contact. This helps develop softness through the jaw and poll, which allows the horse to use his back muscles and engage his quarters correctly.

Cheek Pieces Sheepskin bands on each side of the bridle which restrict the horse's vision (behind) and help keep the horse focused in a race. Cheek pieces are shown as 'p' on the racecard and 'p1' indicates they are worn in a race for the first time.

Cheekpieces partially obscure the vision of the horse, so that they cannot see what is directly behind in theirits peripheral vision.

Instead the horse focuses on what they can see – the course in front and, if jumping, any impending jumps or ditches.

When the horse focuses he or she is easier to ride and the horse is less likely to endanger itself. Sometimes horses can be 'spooked' by their surroundings - cheekpieces are a useful aid to keep their minds settled during a race.

Chifney bit The Chifney, also known as an anti-rearing bit, It is an in-hand bit designed for horses that are difficult to lead. The mouthpiece consists of a very thin metal circle which loops over the horse’s tongue and behind the chin. It is attached to a 'sliphead', a single-strap headpiece than can be slipped on and off easily. The leadrope attaches to a single loose ring at the back of the horse’s chin. The Chifney was invented by jockey Samuel Chifney Snr, and patented in 1805.

Claiming races Horses carry weight allocated according to the value at which the horse can be claimed. When the race is opened for entries the British Horseracing Authority sets down the maximum weight a horse can carry. All of the horses in a Selling Race except the winner, which is auctioned on the racecourse, and all of the horses in a Claiming Race are able to be claimed at a value set against the horse by the trainer when making the entry. Who can submit a claim and how a claim can be submitted is detailed in the Protocol for Claimants contained in the Rules of Racing.

Classic Grade 1 contests confined to three-year-olds only in Britain. There are five Classics in Britain: 2,000 Guineas, 1,000 Guineas, Oaks, Derby, St Leger.

Classified Stakes Eligibility is determined by a horse's handicap mark but the weight carried is not. For example, the race might be for horses rated 0-65 but all carry the same weight whether their or not handicap rating is 65. These races provide an opportunity for horses of similar and usually lesser ability to compete on level terms.

Colours The coloured silks that represent the owner of the horse. These are worn by the jockey that helps you recognise the horse and jockey in the race.

Colt An uncastrated male horse aged under five years.

Conditional jockey A conditional jockey is an apprentice National Hunt (jumps) racing jockey in GB or Ireland under the age of 26 who has not won more than 75 races under rules or had not won that many races within the previous six months. A conditional jockey is entitled to an allowance in the weight carried by his horse in certain races.

Crib biter A horse who grasps at solid object such as the stall door or fence rail with its incisor teeth, then arching its neck, and contracting the lower neck muscles to retract the larynx.

Crossed noseband A 'crossed noseband' (or Grackle) is used to discourage and prevent horses from pulling hard. It is made from two crossed strips of leather, the lower strip going under the horse's jaw and in front of the bit. It In the middle, there's a little piece of padded leather, which applies pressure to the horse's septum. This prevents a horse which is pulling hard from opening its mouth.

Dam A horse's mother.

Damsire The sire of a broodmare (the maternal grandfather of a horse).

Derby A Group 1 race at Epsom racecourse in June. A one mile four furlong race for 3-y-o colts and fillies. The race is one of five Classics run in Great Britain.

Distance The margin by which a horse has won or has been beaten (e.g. a horse might have a winning distance of three lengths) OR in Jump racing, if a horse is beaten/wins by a long way (more than 30 lengths) it is said to have been beaten/won by a distance.

Dosage A mathematical analysis of the strengths in a thoroughbred pedigree based upon the location of certain outstanding sires in its family.

Draw A horse's starting position in the stalls in races on the Flat. Stall numbers are drawn at random by Weatherbys (except in some top races that allow each horse's trainer and/or owners, having been randomly selected, to choose the stall number for their horse). A horse with a seemingly advantageous draw is said to be 'well drawn'. Some tracks have a draw bias whereby low or high numbers are favoured.

Drop in class A horse racing in a lower class of race than he or she has recently competed in.

Drop in trip A horse racing over a shorter distance than in recent races.

Each-Way A bet on a horse to finish within the places. Any race with less than five runners will be win only, whereby no bets can be placed on a horse each-way. If there are five, six or seven runners in a race, then there are two places available, meaning there is a pay-out if backed each-way on horses who finish, first or second, at a quarter of the odds.

Entire horse An ungelded horse.

False Start The Starter may declare a false start if he considers that through any faulty action of a starting gate or a starting stall a fair start has not been effected, when a horse has broken away before the race has been declared Off, or for safety reasons, the Starter releases the tape of the starting gate by mistake and does not intend to start the race.

Favourite The horse with the shortest odds, deemed to be the most likely winner of the race.

Filly A female horse aged under five years.

First Past The Post FPTP betting means that a bookmaker will pay out on the result of the race before the 'Weighed-in' announcement as well as after, should they be different and a horse be disqualified.

Flip start Where elastic tape is stretched across the course then released to start the race instead of using starting stalls. A flip start is used in all National Hunt races, some long flat distance races, and instances where starting stalls cannot be used (e.g. due to weather conditions).

Foal A horse that was born during the year, before 31st December.

Form How a horse has performed in his or her races heading into the race. On the racecard the horses placing in it's previous races is shown (usually six). For example, 001263 means the horses has finished unplaced, unplaced, won, then finished 2nd, 6th and 3rd. Sometimes finishes below 6th are shown as a '0' whilst other times finishes as far down as 7th, 8th and 9th are shown as a '7', '8' or '9'. form figures may be printed in bold which denotes a race on the all weather.

Front-Runner A horse whose preferred running style is to race from the front and lead the pack.

Furlong A measurement of 200 metres, peculiar to horse racing, with a mile containing eight furlongs.

Gait The ways in which a horse can move - walk, trot, canter, gallop etc.

Galloping track A racecourse with long straight sections that allows horses to gallop at high speeds.

Gallops Training grounds where horses are exercised. The major training centres in Britain are Newmarket, Middleham and Malton (mainly Flat) and Lambourn (mainly Jumps) with the Curragh in Ireland where public gallops can be hired. Nowadays many trainers have their own private gallops.

Gelding A castrated male horse.

Get the trip To see out the full distance of a race, e.g. the horse gets twelve furlongs means that the horse can run competitively over a mile and a half.

Going The state of the surface that the race is taking place on, which could be heavy, soft, good or firm or various combinations in-between. The going is important as many horses have a preference for the state of the ground.

Going down When horses are cantering their way to the start of the race.

Going Stick Device used to measure the underfoot conditions (going) at the racecourse.

Graded race The top National Hunt (jumps) races, Graded from 1 to 3. Below this races are divided into classes.

Green A very inexperienced horse, who when racing hasn't really 'got the hang' of what to do on the racecourse.

Group race The top flat races, within Class A, divided into Group 1, 2, 3 and Listed.

Guinea A guinea was one pound and one shilling (£1.05 in decimal currency). This represents £1 for the seller and £0.05 for the auctioneer. Traditionally the prices of horses sold at public auction were given in guineas. Some sales companies still use guineas, though most have changed to pounds.

Hacked up When a horse who has won a race very easily.

Half-brother/sister If two horses have the same dam (mother), they are half-brothers or sisters. It should be noted that horses are never referred to as half-brothers or sisters when they have the same sire only.

Hand A unit of measurement for a horse’s height, meaning four inches. A horse measuring 16.2 hands would be 16 hands and 2 inches, i.e. 66 inches.

Handicap race A type of race whereby each horse is allocated weight to carry in the race according to its ability. The theory is that all horses will be evenly matched all participants should cross the finishing line at the same time. This never happens!

Handicapper (horse) A horse that runs in handicap races.

Handicapper (person) The person whose job is to allocate ratings to horses, thus assessing ability.

Hobday Removal of the horse's left vocal cord along with two adjacent pouches to reduce or stop the vibration induced noise. A Hobday can be performed alone or following a tie-back.

Home straight The length of straight track, from the final bend to the finish line. This can vary significantly across different racecourses.

Hood A hood covers the horses ears and head with cut outs for the eyes. It is used for horses that may be nervous of crowds and noises. A hood has padding around the ears and so restrict the noise of the crowd, allowing a nervous horse to be calmed down. A horse wearing a hood is denoted by an 'h' on the racecard.

Hurdle race A National Hunt race where horses jump over obstacles, usually made of timber but they can be 'brush type', that are less difficult jump than the fences in a steeplechase.

In running Events that take place during the course of a race.

Irish Martingale Irish Martingales are used on many racehorses. They are small pieces of leather that join the two reins together to prevent the reins slipping of a horse's neck if the jockey is unseated.

Jockey The person riding the horse.

Juvenile A horse of 2 years of age in flat racing and a 3-year-old and under in National Hunt (jumps) races.

Juvenile hurdler The youngest category of hurdler. Juvenile hurdlers are horses that become four years of age (on January 1) during the jumps season in which they start hurdling.

Length The length of a horse from its nose to where its tail starts. Winning/losing margins in a horse race are measured in lengths.

Level Weights A race in which all horses carry the same amount of weight.

Listed Race A class A race below Group (or Grade) 1, 2 and 3 but that is still considered to be better than a handicap race or a conditions race.

Maiden A horse that has never won a race.

Maiden handicap A race for horses aged three years old or above that have not previously won, that have run at least four times, and have a BHA rating of 70 or below.

Maiden race A race for horses that have never won a race.

Mare A female horse aged five or older.

Median Auction A race confined to less expensive horses. Horses eligible to run are determined by the median price of a sire's offspring at the sales. Horses by a sire who generated a median price of not more than the value in the race conditions at the sales are eligible to run.

Middle distance On the Flat, races from 1m to 1m6f are the middle distances.

Mile Eight furlongs.

Minimum trip Five furlongs, the minimum distance for a horse race in Great Britain.

National Hunt Racing that requires horses to jump fences and ditches. National Hunt racing in the UK is known as "jumps" and is divided into two major distinct branches, hurdles and steeplechases.

Non-Runner A horse that does not participate in a race, despite being listed to do so at a previous stage.

Novice (jump racing) A novice in National Hunt racing is a horse which has not won a race (e.g. hurdles, steeplechase) prior to the start of the current season.

1,000 Guineas A Group 1 race at Newmarket racecourse in May. A one mile race for 3-y-o fillies. The race is one of five Classics run in Great Britain.

Oaks A Group 1 race at Epsom racecourse in June. A one mile four furlong race for 3-y-o fillies. The race is one of five Classics run in Great Britain.

Off the bridle A term to describe a horse not travelling well.

Off the pace A horse that is behind in the early stages of the race.

On the bridle A term to describe a horse travelling well.

On The Nose A 'Win' bet, i.e. you back the horse to win outright and not be placed.

Overweight When a horse carries more than its allotted weight because to the jockey being unable to make, or 'do', that weight. For example if a horse is allocated 8st in the handicap but carries 8st 3lb, the jockey is said to have 'put up 3lb overweight'. This is a disadvantage, though sometimes the trainer of a horse may decide to carry overweight in order to have one of the best jockeys on board his horse if they cannot manage to 'do' the allotted weight.

Pace The speed of the leaders at each stage of the race.

Penalty Extra weight that a horse may have to carry if it has previously won a handicap race, if the weights for the race were published before a new handicap mark was applied.

Permit holder (training) A Permit Holder can only train horses owned by immediate family members. These horses must be free of any lease or agreement from those whom the permit holder is not entitled to train.

Photo-Finish When a photo is taken of two horses crossing the line in order to determine which horse won the race.

Plater A horse running in claiming and selling races. This is because traditionally such races were known as 'selling plates'.

Pulled Up Something may go wrong with a horse during a race that requires it to stop racing. This is normally referred to as the horse being 'Pulled Up'.

Pulling A horse that is 'keen' during a race and wants to run faster than the jockey is allowing. Often described as pulling for its head. A horse who consistently pulls may wear a crossed noseband.

Rating Number that reflects a horse's ability, measured in pounds. The rating is used to determine the weight carried in a handicap race and the horse's eligibility to run in different races.

Rule 4 A deduction rule when there are non-runners in a horse race after the final declarations have been made. This may also come into play on other markets where there are a set number of participants, and one or more are withdrawn. Depending on the odds price of the horse(s) withdrawn from the race, the rule gives a tiered reduction to the amount you are paid out should your selection win. If the non-runner was an unlikely winner of the race, with odds of 20/1 for example, then no deductions are made. However, if a more likely winner is withdrawn, e.g. a 13/8 favourite, the horse's non-runner status will have a bigger effect on the price of the rest of the field, therefore the shorter the price of the non-runner, the larger the Rule 4 deduction from any winnings. If a strong favourite, e.g., 1/6, is declared a non-runner, a deduction of 90% of winnings, or 90p in £1 may apply.

Schooling Training a horse for jumping.

Scratch To withdraw a horse from a race.

Sharp track A racecourse with tight bends.

Sheepskin noseband A sheepskin (or more likely synthetic material) noseband is a piece of equipment around the horse's nose to help him or her concentrate. It is attached to a horse's bridle. Like blinkers, it partially restricts the horse's vision, and helps them to concentrate on what is in front of them, rather than objects on the ground (such as shadows). Also called a 'shadow roll'.

Sire The father of a horse.

Spread a plate When a horse damages or loses a racing plate (horseshoe) before a race. The horse has to be re-shod which is likely to delay the start of the race.

Sprint A short race, seven furlongs or less.

Sprinter A horse that specialises in running over the shortest distances (five and six furlongs) on the Flat.

St Leger A Group 1 race at Doncaster racecourse in September. A one mile six furlongs race for 3-y-o colts and fillies. The race is the last of the five Classics run in Great Britain each year.

Stakes race Stakes races are the highest classification in horse racing. The horse’s owner must pay either a nomination fee, entry fee, or a starting fee to qualify to race. The fees paid by the owners are added to the prize money. Stakes races are for the top horses in a particular group e.g. three-year-olds, three-year-old fillies. There are many criteria used to determine the entries in a stakes race.

Starting price (SP) The starting prices are the final odds prevailing at the time the race starts. They are used to determine the amount paid out to someone who has placed a winning bet, unless that individual took a fixed price at the time of placing the bet.

Staying on When a horse is finishing strongly in a race, which is often a sign of having an abundance of stamina in reserve.

Staying race On the Flat, a race of 2 miles or further.

Steeplechase A National Hunt race that consists of fences. The obstacles are normally much bigger and harder to jump than in a hurdle. Steeplechases include water jumps and open ditches.

Steward An official in overall charge of a race meeting, including disciplinary procedures. Stewards can hold inquiries when there is the possibility of infringements of the rules of racing. They can also hear objections to the race result from beaten jockeys. There are normally three stewards at each race meeting, assisted by a stipendiary steward. The racecourse appoints the stewards, the appointments being subject to approval by the BHA. Stewards are often prominent local figures.

Stewards' Enquiry A hearing held by the stewards following a race in order to determine whether the rules of racing have been broken and an offence had been committed.

Stiff track A racecourse with an emphasis on stamina, especially with an uphill finish (e.g. Beverley)

2,000 Guineas A Group 1 race run at Newmarket racecourse in May. A one mile race for 3-y-o colts. The race is one of five Classics run in Great Britain.

Tailed Off If a horse drops away from the front runners so much that it is unlikely to catch them then it can be said to have Tailed Off.

Thoroughbred The Thoroughbred is a breed of horse best known for its use in horse racing. It technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed. Thoroughbreds are considered 'hot-blooded' horses, known for agility, speed and spirit.

Tic-tac A traditional method of signs used by bookmakers to communicate the odds of certain horses. The advent of mobile technology has meant that tic-tac is now rarely seen on the racecourse.

Tieback (wind operation) An operation to make a racehorse take in more air when breathing when racing. Cartilage is pulled to the side and sutured to keep it from interfering with the flow of air. In some horses, the vocal cords are also removed (ventriculocordectomy) to increase airflow and reduce noise as the horse breathes.

Tongue tie A piece of material that is tied around a horse's tongue and lower jaw to prevent it from swallowing its tongue, which can obstruct its air passage. A horse wearing a tongue tie is denoted on a racecard by a small 't' (t1 indicates that the horse has a tongue tie in a race for the first time).

Training centre Areas where there are concentrations of training yards. In Britain the main training centres are Newmarket (Suffolk), Malton and Middleham (North Yorkshire) and Lambourn (Berkshire).

Under Orders At the start of the race the Starter will give the riders of the horses instructions before the race gets underway. At this point the horses are said to be 'Under Orders'.

Visor A visor is similar to blinkers, but they have a slit in each eye cup to allow some lateral vision. A horse wearing a visor is shown on the racecard by a small 'v' and 'v1' indicates that the horse is wearing a visor in a race for the first time.

Walkover A race that only consists of one horse competing in it. The horse is not required to walk over the entire course but it shall be regarded as the winner only if it is ridden past the Judge's box.

Warmblood horse Athletic, agile horse (e.g. Hanoverian) noted for trainability and usually calm temperament. Commonly used in equestrian competition and typically possesses Thoroughbred, Arabian, and draft horse bloodlines. Modern warmbloods have a good temperament but are not known for racing speed. They are well-suited for dressage and many jumping sports.

Weighed-In When all jockeys have been successfully weighed after the race the racecourse announcer will make a declaration that they have been 'Weighed-in'. At this point the result of the race is official and cannot be changed.

Weight Allowance If the jockey is an apprentice then they are given a certain weight allowance to account for that fact. For example, suppose a horse is supposed to carry nine stone seven pounds and a jockey is being given seven pounds allowance, then the horse will only carry nine stone. Horses may also be given an allowance in a race depending on their sex or age.

Weight for age This is a graduated scale showing how horses of different ages progress month by month during the racing season. The differences are expressed in terms of weight. This means that horses of different ages can compete against each other on a fair basis, based on their age and maturity, in what are known as weight-for-age races. Thus, for example, a two year old racing against older horses will carry less weight based on the weight for age allowance.

Wind Operation Wind operations are routine surgical procedures which are designed to assist a horse with its breathing. There are different types of operation that can be performed. Horses racing for the first time after a wind operation will be denoted by 'w1' on the racecard.

Yearling A horse between the 1st of January to 31st of December after the year it was born. It would theoretically be possible for a yearling to only be a few days old if he or she were born during December!

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