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List of Horse Racing Terms

In the sport of horse racing and when betting on horses learning the terms of the handicappers is important. So if you are new to horse racing or brushing up on your skills here is glossary of terms and definitions for horse racing in alphabetical order. ~~~~~

Across the board- a bet on a horse to win, place, and show. The minimum bet is $6 because three wagers ($2 to win, $2 to place, $2 to show) are being placed. If the horse wins, the bettor receives win, place, and show payouts. If the horse finishes second, the bettor receives place and show payouts, and if the horse finishes third, the bettor receives the show payout.

Allowance Race- an event other than claiming for which the racing secretary drafts certain conditions.

Allowances- weights and other conditions of a race.

Also-eligible – a horse officially entered but not permitted to start unless the field is reduced by scratches below a specified number.

Apprentice Allowance – weight concession to an apprentice rider. This varies among states from five to ten pounds. Slang term is “bug.” Indicated by an asterisk next to the jockey’s name in the program.

Baby race – a race for two-year-olds.

Backside – a racetrack’s barn or stable area.

Backstretch – the straight part of the track on the far side between turns; slang term to describe the barn or stable area.

Bandage – strips of cloth wound around the lower part of horses’ legs for support or protection against injury.

Bar shoe – a horseshoe closed at the back to help support the frog and heel of the hoof. Often worn by horses with quarter cracks or bruised feet.

Bay – a horse’s coat color ranging from tan to auburn. The mane and tail are always black as are the lower portion of the legs (black points), except for any white markings.

Beyer Speed Figure – a handicapping tool, developed by sports writer Andy Beyer of the Washington Post, assigning a numerical value to each race run by a horse based on final time and track condition.

Bleeder – a horse that bleeds from the lungs after or during a work-out or race.

Blinkers – device to limit a horse’s vision to prevent him from swerving from objects, others horses, etc.’ on either side of him.

Board – the “tote” or totalizator board, which displays odds, betting pools, and others race information.

Bottom Line – the lower half of a pedigree diagram, indicating the female side of a horse’s bloodlines.

Bounce – a poor performance followed by an exceptionally good one.

Box – a wagering term denoting a bet in which all possible numeric combinations are covered.

Breakage – at pari-mutuel betting tracks, the rounding off to a nickel or dime, as required by state laws, in paying off wining tickets. The breakage is usually split between the track and the state in varying proportions.

Bug Boy – an apprentice jockey.

Bullet – fastest workout of the day at a particular distance.A bullet (*) precedes the work time in listings.

Butazolidin (Bute) – the trade name for phenylbutazone, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

Chalk – the wagering favorite in a race. The term dates from the days when on-track bookmakers would write odds on a chalkboard.

Chestnut – a horse’s coat color ranging from golden to red to chocolate (liver chestnut). Mane and tail are usually the same shade as the body; also, a small, horny growth on the inside of a horse’ legs, just above the knee on the forelegs and below the hocks on the hind legs.

Claiming Race – an event in which each horse entered is eligible to be purchased at a set price.

Clerk of Scales – a racing official whose chief duty is to weigh the riders before and after a race to ensue proper weight is being carried.

Clocker – a person on duty during morning training hours to identify the horses during the workouts, time them, and report to the public their training activities. Some clockers work for the racetrack; others are employed by Equibase.

Clubhouse Turn - the first turn past the finish line, where the clubhouse is usually located.

Colors – a horse owner’s racing silks, jacket, and cap, worn by jockeys to denote the horse’s ownership. All colors are different, and many are registered with The Jockey Club.

Colt – A male Thoroughbred horse (other than gelding or ridgeling) that has not reached his fifth birth date or has not been bred.

Commingle – combining mutuel pools from off-track sites with the host track.

Condition Book – a series of booklets issued by a racing secretary that lists the races to be run at a particular racetrack.

Conformation – the physical appearance or qualities of a horse.

Controlled Medication – a term widely used to mean that some drugs, primarily phenylbutazone and furosemide (see Lasix), are permissible under controlled circumstances that allow veterinary administration of predetermined dosages at predetermined intervals prior to race time.

Coupled – tow or more horses running as a single betting unit. Also known as an entry.

Daily Double - a type of wager calling for the selection of the winners of two consecutive races, usually the first and second on the race card but can be any two consecutive races.

Dam – the female parent of a horse.

Dark bay or brown – a horse’s coat color that ranges from brown with areas of tan on the shoulders, head, and flanks, to a dark brown, with tan areas only  in the flanks and/or muzzle (nose). The mane, tail and lower legs are black.

Dead Heat – tow or more horses finishing on even terms.

Declared – a horse withdrawn from a stakes race in advance of the scratch time on the day of the race.

Derby – a stakes race for three-year-olds.

Distaff – a race for female horses.

Dogs – barriers placed on a track away from the inside rail to indicate that the inside strip of the track is not to be used during morning workouts to preserve the surface. Workouts around theses barriers are noted, and the times are correspondingly slower due to the longer distance added on the turns.

Dosage – a form of pedigree analysis, popularized by Dr. Steven Roman, that has become mainly associated with determining whether Kentucky Derby contenders can go a mile and a quarter. The system looks at patters of ability in horses based on a list of proponent sires, each of whom is called a chef-de-race. Each sire is put in one of five categories: brilliant, intermediate, classic, solid, and professional, which quantify speed and stamina.

Eighth – an eight of a mile; a furlong; 220 yards; 660 feet.

Entry – tow or more hoses representing the same owner and/or trainer and running together as a single betting entity. (See Coupled.)

Exacta – to win, a bettor must pick the horses that finish first and second in exact order.

Exacta Box – a way to guarantee the outcome of the first two finishers regardless of which horse wins.

Exotic Wager – also called a combination wager; a wager that involves two or more horses.

Far Turn – the turn or bend in the racetrack opposite the first or club-house turn.

Fast (track) – condition of the track surface whereby the footing is dry, even, and resilient.

Field – mutuel field; one or more starters running coupled as a single betting unit. Usually horses determined to have a small chance to win are grouped in the “field.” Also used as a term for all the horses in a race.

Firm (track) – condition of turf course surface corresponding to a fast surface on the dirt or main track.

First Turn - the bend of track beyond starting point. Also known as the clubhouse turn.

Flat Race – a contest on level ground as opposed to a hurdle race, a steeplechase, or a harness race.

Foul – an action by a horse or a jockey that hinders or interferes with another horse or jockey in the running of a race.

Fractional time – intermediate times in a race, as at the quarter-mile, half-mile, three-quarters, etc.

Front-runner – a horse whose usual running style is to get to the lead or near the lead soon after hate start of the race and stay there as long as possible.

Full Brother (or sister) – horses that  have the same sire and dam.

Furlong – one-eighth of a mile; 220 yards; 660 feet.

Furosemide – a diuretic medication often used to treat horses that suffer from exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage (bleeding) at racetracks. Legal to use under certain conditions in most states. Commonly called by its former brand name, Lasix although the newer brand name is Salix. Gelding – a male horse that has been castrated.

Good (track) – condition of track surface between fast and slow as surface dries out.

Graded Stakes – a stakes race determined by the American Grades Stakes Committee to receive a grade level of I, II or III, depending on past field quality, among other factors. American races were first graded in 1973.

Granddam – the grandmother of a horse.

Grandsire – the grandfather of a horse.

Gray – a hose’s coat color that is composed of a mixture of black and whit hairs. Beginning with foals of 1993, Th Jockey Club classifies a gray horse as “gray/roan.”

Group Race – also knows as a patter races; the European equivalent of graded stakes.

Half bother (sister) – horses that have the same dam. Does not apply to horses that share only the same sire.

Hand – four inches; unit used to measuring a horse’s height from the ground to the withers.

Handicap – a race in which the racing secretary determines the wight each horse will carry according to his assessment of the horse’s ability relative to that of the other horses in the field. The better the horse the more wight he would carry to give each horse a theoretically equal chance of winning.

Handicapper – one who handicaps races, officially or privately; expert who makes selections for publication. Also, name given to the racing secretary who assigns weights for handicaps at the track. Also, a heroes that usually runs in handicap races.

Handicapping – the study of all factors in past performances to determine the relative qualities of horses in a race in order to place a bet. These factors include distance, weight, track conditions, trainers, jockeys, breeding, etc.

Handle (mutuel) – the amount of money bet on a race, a daily card, or the total amount bet during the meeting, season, or year at a track.

High weight – highest weight assigned or carried in a race.

Homebred – a horse bred by its owner.

Horse – any Thoroughbred regardless of sex; specifically, an entire male, five years old or older or any male that has been bred.

Inquiry – when track stewards review a race to check for a foul or other infraction of the rules of racing. Also, a sign flashed on the tote board on such occasions to alert bettors to hold their tickets until the race is made official.

In the money – when a horse finishes in first, second, or third.

Intertrack wagering – ITW; wagering on a simulcast race from another track.

Jockey – a professional race rider.

The Jockey Club – the official registry of the American Thoroughbred. Incorporated in 1894 in New York City, The Jockey Club maintains the American Stud Book, a register of all Thoroughbreds foaled in the US, Puerto Rico, and Canada.

Jumper – a steeplechase or hurdle horse.

Juvenile – a two-year-old horse.

Key horse – a single horse used in multiple combinations in an exotic wager.

Lasix – the former brand name for furosemide, a diuretic commonly administered to racehorses. Denoted in programs by an “L”; new brand name is Salix.

Late double – a second daily double offered during the latter part of the race card.

Lay-up – a racehorse sent from the racetrack to a farm to training center to recuperated from injury or illness or to be rested.

Length – a measurement approximating the length of a horse from nose to tail, about eight feet. Distance between horses in a race; calculated as one-fifth of a second in terms of time.

Listed race – an ungraded stakes race.

Maiden – a racehorse of either sex that has never won a race; a female horse that has never been bred. Also, a race classification open only to horses that have never won a race.

Mare – a female Thoroughbred five years old or older, or younger if she has been bred.

Medication list – a list maintained by the track’s veterinarian and published by the track showing which horses have been treated with legally prescribed medications.

Minus pool – a mutuel pool cased when a horse is so heavily bet that after deductions of state tax and commission, there is not enough money left to pay the legally prescribed minimum of each winning bet. The racetrack usually makes up the difference.

Morning line – odds quoted in the official program at the track and are the odds at which betting opens.

Mudder - a horse that runs best on a muddy or soft track.

Muddy (track) – condition of track surface that is wet but has no standing water.

Mutuel pool – pari-mutuel pool; sum of the wagers on a race or event, such as the win pool, exacta pool, etc.

Mutuel window – a place at a racetrack or other betting facility where a person goes to make a wager or to collect winnings.

Near side – left side of  a horse; a horse is mounted from this side.

Oaks – a stakes event for three year-old fillies.

Objection – a claim of foul lodged by one jockey against another.

Odds-on – a payoff that would be less than even money.

Off side - right side of a horse.

Off track – a track that is not fast.

Official - a sign displayed when results are confirmed. Or, a racing official.

Off the board – describes a horse that finishes worse than third.

Off-track betting – OTB; wagering at legalized betting outlets run by racetracks, companies specializing in pari-mutuel betting, or, in New York State, by independent companies chartered by the state. Wagers at OTB’s are usually commingled with on-track betting pools.

On the board – describes a horse that finishes first, second, or third.

Out of the money - a horse that finishes worse than third.

Overlay – a horse whose odds ware greater than its potential to win.

Overnight – a sheet published by the racing secretary’s office listing the entries for an upcoming race card.

Overnight race – a race in which entries close a specific number of hours before running (ex: 48 hours), as opposed to a stakes race for which nominations close weeks or months in advance.

Pacesetter – a horse that is running in front or on the lead.

Paddock – area where horses are saddled and paraded before a race.

Pari-mutuel – the form of wagering existing at all US tracks today in which odds are determined by the amount of money bet on each horse. In essence, bettors are competing against each other not against the track, which acts as an agent, taking a commission on each bet to cover purses, taxes and operating expenses.

Parlay – a multi-race bet in which winnings are subsequently bet on each succeeding race.

Part-wheel – using a key heroes(s) in different, but not all possible, exotic wagering combinations.

Past performances – a line-b-line listing of a horse’s race record, plus earnings, connections, bloodlines, and other pertinent information.

Patrol judges – officials who observe the progress of a race from various vantage points around the racing strip.

Pedigree – a written record of a Thoroughbreds family tree.

Phenylbutazone – a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication legal in certain amounts for racehorses in many states. Normally administered 24 to 48 hours before race time. Also called Bute or Butazolidin.

Photo finish – a result so close that the stewards have to review the finish line photo to determine the order of finish.

Pick (number) - a type of multi race wager in which the winners of designated races must be picked. Ex: pick 3 or pick 6.

Placed – finishing second or third in a race. A stakes-placed horse is one that has finished second or third in a stakes but has not won a stakes.

Place bet - a wager in which the bettor collects if the horse finishes first or second. However, if the horse wins, the bettor receives only the place payout.

Plater – a horse that runs in claiming races.

Points of call – a horse’s position at various locations on the race track where its running position is noted on a chart. The locations vary with the race distance and usually correspond to the fractional times also noted on the chart.

Pole – markers placed at measured distances around the track and identified by distance from the finish line. Ex: The quarter pole is a quarter of a mile from the finish.

Pool – the total money bet on entire field to win, place, and show.

Post parade - horses going from the paddock to the starting gate (post), parading past the stands.

Post position – a position in the starting gate from which a horse breaks. Numbered from the rail outward.

Post time – the designated time for a race to start.

Prep – training; an event that precedes another, more important, engagement.

Purse – a race for money or other prize to which the owners do not contribute.

Quinella – a wager  in which the first two finishers must be picked in either order.

Rabbit – a speed horse running as an entry with another, usually late-running horse. The rabbit is expected to set a fast pace to help its stablemate’s chances.

Race-day medication – medication given on race day; most medications, with the exception of Lasix, are prohibited in almost all racing jurisdictions.

Racing secretary – an official who drafts conditions for races, writes the condition book, and usually serves as handicapper.

Restricted race – a race restricted to certain starters either because of their place of birth or their previous winnings.

Roan – a horse’s coat color that is a mixture of red and white hairs or brown and white hairs. The Jockey Club classifies this coat color under the label “gray/roan.”

Route – when the pasterns of a horse hit the track in a race or workout, causing abrasions. Also a bandage to prevent injury from running down.

Saddle cloth – a cloth under the saddle on which the number denoting the horse’s post position is displayed for races.

Scale of weights – fixed imposts to be carried by horses in a race determined according to age, sex, season and distance.

Scratch – to remove a horse from a race before the race goes off.

Show – third position at the finish

Show bet – a wager in which the bettor collects if his horse finishes first, second, or third, but he only collects the show payout.

Silks – the jacket and cap worn by riders.

Simulcast – a live television transmission of a race to other tracks, off-track betting facilities, or other outlets for wagering.

Sire – the father of a horse; a stallion that has produced a foal that has won a race. Sixteenth – one-sixteenth of a mile; a half-furlong; 110 yards; 330 feet.

Sloppy (track) – a condition of track surface in which it is saturated with water and standing water is visible.

Slow (track) – condition of track surface in which the surface and base are both wet.

Soft (track) - condition of the turf course with a large amount of moisture.

Sophomore- a three-year-old horse.

Sound – term used to denote a Thoroughbreds health and freedom from disease or lameness.

Speed Figure - a handicapping tool used to assign a numerical value to a horse’s performance. See Beyer speed figure. Sprint – a race distance of less than one mile in Thoroughbred racing.

Stakes - the highest class of race. A race in which an entry fee is paid by the owners of the horses starting and those entry fees are added to the purse; thus, a stakes is often referred to as an added-money race. Also, invitational races (no entry fee required) with a large purse (usually $50,000 or more) are regarded as stakes races.

Stakes-placed – a horse that competes mainly in stakes race but that may not have actually won a stakes.

Stallion – an entire male horse used for the purpose of breeding.

Starter – a racing official in charge of the starting gate. A horse that runs in a race.

Starter allowance – a particular kind of race written to allow claiming horses that have improved from their earlier form to run in a non-claiming event.

Starter handicap – the same type of race as a starter allowance except that the horses are assigned weights by the handicapper rather than determining them from allowance conditions.

State-bed – a horse bred and/or foaled in a particular state in a manner that meets all the criteria set down down by state law and racing commission rules, and thus is eligible to compete in special races.

Stayer – a horse that can run long distances.

Stewards – racing officials who uphold the rules of racing at a racetrack. They answer to the state racing commission, and their decisions can be appealed to that body.

Steeplechase – a race in which horses jump over a series of obstacles on a turf course.

Straight wager – w wager to win, place or show

Stretch runner – a horse that runs its fastest nearing the finish of a race. Superfecta – a wager in which the bettor must pick the first four finishers in a race in exact order.

Takeout (take) – commission deducted from mutuel pools that is shared by the track, horsemen, and the state.

Thoroughbred – a distinctive breed of horse used for flat and steeplechase racing.

Tongue-tie – a strap or tape bandage used to tie down a horse’s tongue to prevent it from choking him in a race or workout.

Top line – a Thoroughbreds breeding on the sire’s side (sire line). Also, the visual line created by the horse’s back.

Top weight – the high weight in a race.

Totalizator – an intricate machine that sells betting tickets, records total of straight win, place, and show pools, and keeps track of amount bet on each horse in the tree categories; shows odds to win on each horse in the field and complete payoffs after the finish.

Tote board – the electronic totalizator display in the infield, which presents up-to-the -minute odds. It also may show the amounts wagered in each mutuel pool as well as information on jockey and equipment changes, etc.

Track bias - a racing surface that seems to favor a particular running style, such as front-running, or position, such as the rail.

Track record – fastest time at various distances made at a particular course.

Trifecta – a wager in which the bettor must pick the first three finishers in a race in exact order.

Trifecta box – a trifecta wager in which all possible combinations using a given number of horses are bet upon.

Turf - grass as opposed to dirt racing surfaces; when capitalized in a sentence, denotes the entire racing industry.

Turn downs – rear shoes that are turned down three-quarters of an inch at the ends to provide better traction on an off track. This kind of shoe is illegal in some racing jurisdictions.

Underlay – a horse bet at shorter odds than would appear warranted judging by its past performances.

Walkover – a race in which only one horse competes after all others are scratched or no other horses are entered.

Washy – when a horse breaks out in a nervous sweat before a race.

Weight-for-age – fixed scale of weights to be carried by horses according to age, sex, distance of race, and month.

Wheel – betting all possible combinations in an exotic wager using at least one horse as the key.

Wire-to-wire – to lead in a race from gate to the finish line.

Yielding – condition of the turf course with a lot of moisture in it causing horses to sink into it noticeably.

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