Updated: October 2019

Understanding Horse Racing Terminology

26 April 2019

If you are new to the sport of horse racing, you may find yourself completely lost in the world of racing terminology, slang, and betting terms.

Trying to learn a new language can be tough and trying to understand the terminology involved with horse racing can be akin to learning a new language.

Here, we give you a list of the most common horse racing terminology and explain what it means to make things a little easier for you.

Horse Racing Terminology

Racecard – The list of horses running in each race, along with form guide and vital information to help you get the best knowledge of an upcoming race

Starting Price (SP) – This is the price of each horse when the race starts. At a traditional betting shop, or on-course, you will get the option to take the price or the SP.

Going – The ground conditions which the race will be ran on.

Non Runner – This means that a horse has been withdrawn from a race it was declared to run in.

Rule 4 – A rule 4 occurs if a horse is withdrawn from a race too late for the market to be altered accordingly. If a race has a rule 4 it means your winnings will be lowered.

Handicap/Handicapper – A handicap allows horses of a different rating to race against each other, all carrying different weights to level the playing field. The handicapper is the official who determines which horse should carry what weight depending on past performances.

Penalty – A penalty is given to a horse who has won within the last week and the handicapper hasn’t had a chance to reassess their handicap. They will be given more weight to carry for the next race.

Weighed In – A horse must carry a certain weight for a race, so the jockey of that horse must weigh out before a race and weigh in after a race to ensure the correct weight was carried.

National Hunt – This term refers to jumps racing.

Fences – These are obstacles the horses must jump over during a chase race. There are different types of fences, including plain fences and water jumps.

Open Ditch – A fence with a ditch in front of it, meaning the horse must jump further.

Hurdles/Flights – Hurdles are smaller obstacles than fences and therefore easier to jump. Used in hurdles races.

Photo Finish – A photo finish is where two horses cross the line too close to separate by eye. A photo is taken and studied by the judges before a winner is declared.

Stewards Enquiry – A stewards enquiry occurs if there is the possibility of rule violations during a race that may have affected the outcome. A three-person panel will watch the race back and determine this, altering the result of a race if they feel a clear violation has taken place.

Objection – This is where a jockey will put in a complaint against a fellow jockey after a race.

Claimer – A jockey who takes weight off of the horse they are riding due to their inexperience.
Allowance – This is the amount of weight the jockey can claim, either 3lbs, 5lbs, or 7lbs depending on experience and number of winners they have had.

Apprentice – A student jockey.

Conditional Jockey – Is the same as an apprentice but is allowed to ride in jumps races.

Colt – A male horse who hasn’t been castrated.

Filly – A female horse.

Gelding – A castrated male horse.

Connections – The owner(s) and trainer(s) of a horse.

All Weather – A racing surface, usually sand, which will not be affected by the weather conditions.

Distance – The distance of a race.

Furlong – one eighth of a mile.

Banker – A horse who is believed to be certain to win a race.

Drifter – A horse whose price has increased, therefore lowering it’s chances of winning. This price increase is usually because of something negative seen of the horse.

NAP – A daily NAP is given by tipsters for what they believe is the best bet of the day or at a certain meeting.

Draw – Used in flat racing, the draw is which number stall a horse will start from.

At The Post – This means the horses are at the start of a race.

Under Orders – The starter has the horses under orders ready to go “off”.

They’re Off – The race has started and the horses are free to race.

Drop in Class – Means that a horse is racing in a lower class of race than it previously did.

Tic-Tac – A series of hand gestures bookmakers use to communicate with each other.

Juvenile – A two-year-old horse, in flat racing, or a three-year-old over the jumps.

Classic – A classic is one of the major grade 1 races open to three-year-olds in the UK. There are five classics, being the Oaks, the Derby, 1,000 Guineas, 2,000 Guineas, and the St Ledger.

Maiden – This is a horse who is yet to win a race.

Off the Bridle / On the Bridle – This is whether a horse is travelling well (on) or not so well (off).

One Paced – A horse who doesn’t quicken when the other horses do.

Paddock/Parade Ring – Where the horses are paraded before each race.

Boxed in – Means a horse who is boxed in during a race by other horses, preventing them from getting a clear run.

Front Runner – A horse who likes to race at the front, hoping to lead all the way.

Turn of Foot – This term is used to describe great acceleration during a race.

Staying on – A horse who has finished strongly to hold on to its place or finish in a higher position.

Pulled Up – Used to describe when a horse is pulled up by their jockey before the end of a race.

Sire – A horses father.

Dam – A horses mother.

Form – The recent form of a horse, where it has finished in previous races.

Spit the Bit – When a horse is tired and basically gives up towards the end of a race.

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