Act (on the ground/on the track) Describes a horse’s suitability for different ground conditions (i.e. heavy, soft, good or firm) and different racecourses (right or left handed).
Age All thoroughbreds have their birthdays on 1 January.
Allowance Inexperienced riders (apprentices, conditionals and amateurs) are allowed a weight concession to compensate for their lack of experience against their colleagues. The ‘allowance’ is usually 3lb, 5lb or 7lb, with it decreasing as the 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 flat race meetings throughout the summer and winter. There are three types of surface – Fibresand, Polytrack and Tapeta.
Also-ran A horse that finishes ‘down the field’ in a race (i.e., out of the prizemoney).
Amateur A non-professional jockey who does not receive a fee for riding in a race, denoted on the race card by the prefix Mr, Mrs, Miss, Captain etc. Some races are restricted to amateurs-only.
Apprentice A trainee Flat jockey connected to the stable of a licensed trainer. Apprentices have a weight allowance when they ride in races against professional jockeys and can compete for the annual apprentice title.
At the post When all the horses have arrived at the start before a race, they are said to be 'at the post'B
Bit 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 Term used by the bloodstock industry to denote a horse that has won or been placed in a Pattern/Listed race. Horses ‘going for black type’ are attempting to win or be placed in a Pattern/Listed race to improve their breeding value
Blanket Finish When the horses finish so close to the winning line you could theoretically put a single blanket across them. The Judge usually calls a photo to decide the official placings.
Bleeder A horse that tends to break blood vessels during a race.
Blinkers A form of headgear worn by the horse, consisting of a hood with cups around the eyes. They are used to limit a horse’s vision and reduce distractions, with the aim of making it concentrate. A horse wearing blinkers is denoted on a race card by a small b next to the horse’s weight (b1 indicates that the horse is wearing blinkers in a race for the first time).
Bloodstock sales The sale of horses at auction.
Blowout A short workout, usually a day or two before a race, designed to clear the horse’s airways before the race.
Boxed in A horse that cannot overtake another horse because it is blocked by other horses.
Break a horse in Teaching a young horse to accept riding equipment and carry a rider.
Breather Restraining or easing off on a horse for a short distance to permit him to fill his lungs during the race.
Breeder Someone that breeds racehorses. They own the dam (mother) at time foal is born.
Breeze Galloping a horse at a moderate speed.
Breeze-Up Type of auction, usually for two-year-olds, at which the horses for sale run for a short distance to allow prospective buyers to assess them.
Bridle The equipment on a horse’s head used to control it.
Bridle, won on the Won easily, without being hard ridden or challenged by other horses.
British Horseracing Authority (BHA) Governing body for British horseracing.
Broke down When a horse sustains an injury during a race.
Broodmare Mare kept at stud for breeding, and not usually raced, although likely to have done so when younger.
Brought down A horse that falls during a race when impeded by another horse.
Bumper A flat race run under National Hunt rules, used to educate young prospective jumps horses before they tackle hurdles or fences. Officially called National Hunt Flat Race.
Bumping Interference during a race where one horse collides with another. Often results in a Stewards’ Enquiry, particularly when interference takes place in the closing stages of the race.C
Chaser A horse that takes part in National Hunt steeplechase races.
Checked When a horse’s run during a race is momentarily blocked by another horse or horses.
Cheekpieces Strips of sheepskin that are attached to the side of a horse’s bridle. They partially obscure a horse’s rear vision, with the aim of getting the horse to concentrate on racing. Horses wearing cheekpieces are denoted on a race card by a small p next to the horse’s weight.
Chestnut Horse colour varying from light, washy yellow to dark liver orange, and in between are red, gold and liver shades.
Claimer (jockey) An apprentice or conditional jockey who claims a weight reduction due to inexperience.
Claiming race / Claimer 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.
Classic Group of historic major races for three-year-olds in the Flat season. In Britain the five Classics are (in running order) the 2,000 Guineas, the 1,000 Guineas, the Oaks, the Derby and the St Leger – most European countries have their own versions of these Classics. A Classic contender is a horse being aimed at one of these races or is regarded as having the potential to compete at that level.
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.
Colours/Silks Jacket and cap worn by jockey to identify a horse. A horse runs in its owner’s colours which are registered with Weatherbys. The colours to be worn by each jockey are shown on race cards.
Colt Ungelded (entire) male horse below five years of age.
Conditional jockey A Jump jockey, under 26, who receives a weight allowance for inexperience until he has ridden a certain number of winners. A conditional jockey is licensed to a specific trainer. Some races are restricted to conditionals-only.
Conditions race A race in which horses are allotted extra weight according to factors including sex, age, whether they are a previous winner etc. This is a better-class race for horses just below Group or Listed level.
Conformation A horse’s build and general physical structure.
Connections People associated with a horse, such as the owner and trainer.
Course specialist A horse that is proven at a track in previous races.
Covered up When a jockey keeps a horse behind other runners to prevent it running too freely in the early stages of a race.
Covering The mating of horses
Cut in the ground A description of the ground condition where the racing surface has been softened by rain.D
Dam A horse’s mother.
Damsire (broodmare) The sire of a broodmare; in human terms, the maternal grandfather of a horse
Dark horse A horse regarded as having potential but whose full capabilities have not been revealed. A trainer will plan a horse’s campaign carefully so that it carries a competitive weight in a major handicap.
Dead heat A tie between two or more horses for first place, or for one of the other finishing positions. In the event of a dead heat for first place, when a winning bet has been made, half the stake is applied to the selection at full odds and the other half is lost. If more than two horses dead-heat, the stake is proportioned accordingly.
Declared (runner) A horse confirmed to start in a race at the final declarations stage
Disqualification When a horse is demoted in the finishing order due to an infringement of the rules following a Stewards’ Enquiry.
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
Draw A horse’s starting position in the stalls allotted in races on the Flat. Stall numbers are drawn at random by Weatherbys (except in a handful of top races that allow each horse’s connections, 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”. Stalls are used for Flat racing only.
Drop in class/trip A horse racing in a lower class of race than he has recently run in/running over a shorter distance.
Dwell/dwelt (at the start) To start slowly.E
Enquiry – Stewards’ Enquiry Review of the race to check into a possible infraction of the rules made by the Stewards. As the enquiry could affect the result of the race, an announcement will be made on course.
Entire horse An ungelded horse
Entry The entry of a horse into an upcoming race, usually 6 or 7 days before the race. Trainers can enter horses in as many races as they are qualified to run in. Declaration to race is usually made 2 days before the race.F
Favourite The horse with the shortest odds in the race.
Field The number of horses in a race or, in betting, all the horses in a race except the favourite.
Filly Female horse four-years-old or younger
First string Where a trainer and/or owner has more than one runner in a race, the horse considered to be the stable’s main fancy is referred to as the stable’s first string. Clues to which horse this can be whether it carries the owner’s first colours, is ridden by the stable jockey and/or is shorter odds in the betting than a stablemate
Fixture The race meeting
Flat racing Racing without jumps. The centrepiece of the flat racing season is the turf season, which runs from late March to early November. Races are run over a minimum distance of 5f up to a maximum of 2m6f. However, the birth of All-Weather racing in 1989, has allowed flat racing to continue year-round, and the official flat racing season now runs for a calendar year to include those flat races run on all-weather surfaces.
Foal A horse from birth to January 1 of the following year (when it becomes a yearling).
Form A horse’s race record. Denoted by figures (and letters) next to its name on a race card i.e., 1=first, 2=second etc. The form figures are read backwards from right to left – i.e., a horse’s latest run is denoted by the figure nearest to its name on the race card
Front-runner A horse whose running style is to attempt to get on or near the lead at the start of the race and stay there as long as possible
Furlong 220 yards (one eighth of a mile). The numbered posts on British racecourses count the furlongs back from the winning postG
Gallop Top gait for a horse – the speed they race at.
Gallops Training ground where horses are exercised. The major training centres in Britain are Newmarket and Malton (mostly flat), and Lambourn (mostly jump) with the Curragh in Ireland. Many trainers have private gallops of their own.
Gates/Stalls The front section of the starting stalls, which open at the start of a flat race to release the horses.
Gelding A male horse that has been castrated. Most male horses that compete over jumps have been gelded. Geldings are not allowed to run in some of the top flat races, such as the Derby, that are important for identifying potential breeding talent.
General Stud Book Register of all thoroughbred horses, maintained by Weatherbys.
Get the trip To stay the distance.
Go through the card To have the winner of every race at a race meeting, either as a trainer, jockey, tipster or punter.
Going The condition of the racing surface. Definitions are heavy, soft, good and firm or a combination if in between (i.e., good to soft).
Going down When horses are on their way to the start.
Green Used to describe an immature or inexperienced horse.
Group 1 (Flat) / Grade 1 (jumps) The highest category of race. The Classic Flat races in Britain, as well as other historic races such as the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, are Group 1. The major championship races over jumps, such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup, are Grade 1.
Guineas (currency) A guinea was one pound and one shilling (£1.05 in decimal currency) and, traditionally, the prices of horses sold at public auction are given in guineas. Some sales companies still use guineas, though most have changed to pounds.H
Hacked up Describes a horse winning easily.
Half-brother/sister When two horses have the same mother (dam), they are half-brothers/sisters. Horses are not referred to as half-brothers/sisters when they share only the same father (sire).
Handicap A race where each horse is allotted a different weight to carry, according to the official handicap ratings determined by the BHA Handicappers. The theory is that all horses run on a fair and equal basis – the ‘perfect’ handicap being one where all the runners finish in a dead-heat.
Handicap mark / Rating Each horse, once it has run a few times (usually three), is allocated an official handicap rating by the BHA, which is used to determine its weight if it runs in a handicap. If a horse does well, its handicap rating will go up; if it performs poorly, its rating will go down.
Handicapper Official responsible for allocating a handicap rating to each horse that has qualified for one, and for allotting the weights to be carried by each horse in a handicap. Employed by the BHA.
Hard ridden Used to describe a horse whose jockey is expending full effort on the horse and using his whip.
Headgear Cheekpieces, blinkers and hoods are all pieces of tack that help keep a horse focused. Cheekpieces are the fluffy pieces of fabric either side of a horse’s ears. Blinkers are devices that cover part of the horse’s vision, focusing the horse’s attention forward rather than around. A hood covers the horse’s ears to reduce noise. Some trainers use earplugs for a stronger effect.
Headquarters Newmarket, traditionally seen as the home of flat racing, is often called Headquarters.
Home straight The length of straight track, from the final bend to the finish line.
Hood A hood covers the horse’s ears to reduce noise.
Hurdler A horse that races over hurdles, which are lighter and lower than fences.
Hurdles The smaller obstacles on a jumps course. Horses usually have a season or two over hurdles before progressing to fences, though some continue to specialise in hurdling and never run over fences, while some horses go straight over fences without trying hurdles first.I
In running Refers to events that take place during a race.J
Jocked off Term used to refer to when one jockey is replaced by another on a horse he usually rides or for which he has already been booked to ride in a particular race.
Judge Racecourse official responsible for declaring the finishing order of a race and the distances between the runners.
Juvenile (Flat) A two-year-old horse. Every horse officially turns two on January 1, at the start of the second full calendar year following its birth e.g., a horse born in 2010 will turn two on January 1, 2012.
Juvenile (National Hunt hurdler) The youngest category of hurdler – juvenile hurdlers are those that turn four years of age (on January 1) during the season in which they start hurdling.L
Left-handed track Racecourse where horses run anti-clockwise.
Length 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. Major championship races, such as the Derby on the flat or the Cheltenham Gold Cup over jumps, are run at level weights. There are still some allowances for age and sex (e.g., mares receive a 5lb allowance from male horses in the Cheltenham Gold Cup).
Listed Race A class of race just below a Group or Graded quality.M
Maiden A horse that has yet to win a race; maiden races are restricted to such horses, though sometimes the conditions of the race allow previous winners (e.g., maidens at closing, i.e., those that have not won a race up to the time the entries close), in which case penalties are allotted for later wins.
Maiden handicap For maidens aged three or above that have run at least four times and have a maximum rating of 70.
Mare Female horse aged five years old or above.
Middle distances On the flat, races beyond a mile and up to 1m6f are the middle distances. A middle-distance horse is one that runs mainly over such distances or is regarded as being suitable for those distances.
Minimum trip The shortest race distance: five furlongs on the flat, two miles over jumps.N
Names Horse names must be registered with Weatherbys, racing’s administrative body, and are subject to approval. Once registered the horse’s name cannot be changed. Names cannot be longer than 18 characters (including spaces) and must not be the same, in spelling or pronunciation, as a name already registered. In addition, there is a list of ‘protected’ horse names that cannot be used – these include past winners of big races such as the Grand National and the Classics on the flat.
National Hunt (NH) Racing over fences and hurdles; officially referred to as jump racing.
Neck Unit of measurement in a race finish about the length of a horse’s neck.
Non-Runner A horse that was originally meant to run but for some reason has been withdrawn from the race.
Non-trier A horse that is prevented by the jockey from running to its full ability. Non-trying is a serious offence prohibited by the rules of racing, and jockeys (as well as the horse and owner) can be banned from racing if they are found guilty, while the horse’s trainer risks a fine and/or a ban.
Nose Smallest official distance a horse can win by.
Novice A horse in the early stages of its career after it has won its first race.
Novice auction A race for novices sold at public auction as yearlings or two-year-olds for a price not exceeding a specified figure.
Novice stakes A flat race for two-year-olds or three-year-olds that have not won more than twice.
Nursery A handicap on the flat for two-year-old horses.O
Objection A complaint by one jockey against another regarding the running of a race.
Odds The chance offered for a selection to win. Also known as price.
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.
On the bridle Describes a horse running comfortably, still having a bite on the bit. A horse that wins ‘on the bridle’ is regarded as having won easily.
One-paced Describes a horse that is unable to raise its pace in the closing stages of a race.
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’. e.g., in a Flat handicap where a horse set to carry the minimum weight of 7st 7lb is rated 65, a horse rated 62 would be allocated 7st 4lb in the long handicap but would have to carry the minimum 7st 7lb in the race – this horse would be described as ‘3lb out of the handicap’ (i.e., it would be carrying 3lb more than its ‘true’ handicap weight).
Out of The Money A horse that finishes outside of the top 4.
Over the top When a horse is considered to be past its peak due to too much racing/training and needs a rest.
Overnight declarations Horses entered for a race must be ‘declared to run’ and this usually happens two days 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 race cards. At this stage a trainer must also ‘declare’ the jockey who will ride the horse and any equipment (e.g., blinkers) the horse will carry.
Overweight 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 to have one of the best jockeys on board his horse.P
Pacemaker A horse that is entered in a race with the intention that it will set the pace for another horse with the same connections.
Paddock Area of the racecourse incorporating the parade ring (where horses are paraded prior to the race) and winner’s enclosure. Connections of the horses gather in the centre of the paddock before each race and jockeys mount before taking the horses out onto the racecourse.
Pattern 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 because of previous successes.
Penalty 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 race cards – e.g., Horsename (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.
Pre parade ring Area at a racecourse where horses are prepared before entering the Paddock.
Pulled up A horse that drops out of a race and does not finish.
Pulling When a horse is unsettled during the early part of a race and uses too much energy, fighting the jockey by pulling against the bridle.
Pushed out When a horse is ridden vigorously, but without full effort by the jockey.Q
Quarters The hind parts of a horse, specifically between flank and tail.R
Race card Programme for the day’s racing, showing the times, runners and riders for each race.
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.
Rating A measure of the ability of a horse on a scale starting at zero and going into three figures. Flat 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.S
Schooling Training a horse for jumping.
Second string The stable’s second choice from two or more runners in a race.
Selling plate/selling race Low-class race in which the winner is offered at auction afterwards; other horses in the race may be claimed for a fixed sum. If the winning stable buys back its own horse it is said to be ‘bought in’. The racecourse receives a percentage of the selling price of each horse.
Silks/Colours See ‘Colours’.
Silver ring A racecourse enclosure, usually the one with the lowest admission price.
Sire Father of a horse.
Spread a plate When a horse damages or loses a horseshoe before a race, it is said to have ‘spread a plate’. The horse must be re-shod by a farrier, often delaying the start of the race.
Sprint races Flat races run over a distance of five or six furlongs.
Sprinter A horse that specialises in running over the shortest distances (five and six furlongs) on the flat.
Stallion Male breeding horse.
Stalls Device used at the beginning of a flat race to ensure an even start.
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.
Starter Racecourse official responsible for starting a horse race.
Stayer A horse that specialises in racing over long distances (two miles and above) on the flat.
Staying chaser A horse that races over three miles or more over fences.
Staying on When a horse is finishing strongly in a race, possibly a sign of good stamina reserves.
Staying races Flat races run over a distance of two miles or more.
Steeplechasing A race over fences, open ditches and water jumps, run over distances from two miles up to four and a half miles.
Steward One of the officials in overall charge of a race meeting, including disciplinary procedures. The stewards can hold inquiries 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. The stewards are appointed by the racecourse, subject to approval by the BHA, and are often prominent local figures (much like magistrates).
Steward’s Enquiry A hearing held by the stewards into a race to determine whether the rules of racing have been broken.
Steward’s room On a racecourse, where stewards hold inquiries. A race is said to have been ‘decided in the stewards’ room’ if the placings are altered by the stewards due to a transgression of the rules of racing.
Stick/whip A jockey’s whip.
Stipendiary Steward Also known as a Stipe. Unlike race day stewards, Stipes are professionals employed by the BHA and one is sent to each meeting to assist the stewards and advise on the rules of racing. The race day stewards, not the Stipe, are responsible for decision-making, but the Stipe’s knowledge is often invaluable e.g., in setting an appropriate level of punishment if a jockey or trainer is found guilty of an infringement of the rules of racing.
String All the horses in a particular training stable.
Stud A farm where horses are mated. Usually home to one or more stallions.T
Tattersalls (racecourse enclosure) The enclosure next in status to Members. Those choosing this enclosure have access to the main betting area and the paddock.
Thoroughbred 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 race card 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).
Trainer 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. He or she is responsible for the health and welfare of the horses in their possession and undertaking all administrative tasks for the entry and racing.
Trip 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’.
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 1. Racecourses often have a ‘best turned out’ award for the horse judged to have been best presented in the paddock. 2. A racehorse that is taking a break from racing/training and is out in the fields is said to have been ‘turned out’.
Two-year-old Two-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 three years old).U
Under starters orders/under orders The moment a race is about to begin. Once the horses are in the stalls for a flat race or have lined up at the start for a jumps race, they are said to be ‘under starter’s orders’ as the jockeys are waiting for the starter’s signal to begin the race.V
Valet A person employed to prepare a jockey’s equipment in the weighing room.
Visor Like blinkers, but with a slit in each eye cup to allow some lateral vision. A horse wearing a visor is denoted on a race card 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).W
Walkover A race involving only one horse. The horse and its jockey must past the winning post to be declared the winner.
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.
Weights 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 favoured by the weights in a race, it is said to be ‘well in’.
Whip/stick Used by jockey as an aid to encourage or steer and balance the horse.
Wind Operation Wind operations are routine surgical procedures which are designed to assist a horse with its breathing.
Winners Enclosure Area of the racecourse where the first 4 in a race are taken straight after the race.
Work rider A stable employee, not necessarily a licensed jockey, who rides horses in training on the gallops.Y
Yard A trainer’s premises from where racehorses are trained.
Yearling A foal from January 1 to December 31 of the year following its birth.
Yielding Irish term to describe racecourse going that is soft.