A Dictionary of Racing Terms

Welcome to the world of Australian horse racing! Whether you are a seasoned veteran or a newcomer to the sport, this blogpost is here to help you learn the language of the track. Inside you'll find a comprehensive list of terms and phrases used in the horse racing industry, all explained in plain English. From Barrier Draws to Whip Rules, if you want to understand the language of the turf, this is the place to start. So read on and get ready to start understanding the exciting world of Australian horse racing! ➡️ 

Acceptor: A horse that is a confirmed runner of an impending race.

Added Weight: A horse is carrying more weight than is required, likely to be that the jockey’s weight exceeds the required weight.

Also Ran: A horse that finishes towards the back of the field and out of the prize money.

Back: to bet on a horse.

Bandage: cloth wound around the lower half of a horse´s legs to provide both support and protection against injury.

Barrier: The starting gate used to keep horses in line before the race starts.

Barrier Draw: The process of randomly assigning starting positions (draws) for horses in a race.

Barrier Trial: A test race for a horse to assess its fitness and readiness for a real race.

Benchmark System: A handicap system (BM58 and upwards) based on a horse´s race performances.

Blinkers: headgear, that fits over the bridle, with disks over the horse´s eyes, designed to restrict peripheral vision and help the horse to focus during the race.

Bolted: a horse has “bolted”, if it is a large number of lengths in front of the field, or if it has won by a large margin.

Bookmaker: A person or company licenced to accept bets before a race and pay out after the race.

Boxed: a type of multiple bet where runners can finish in any order (see Exacta, Trifecta, Quinella), so all possible outcomes are covered.

Box Seat: While racing, a horse is in a position where it is one horse off the fence and one horse behind the leader(s).

Bridle: The headgear that is used on a horse. 

Broken Down: usually lameness, this is when a horse gets injured during the race.

Checked: is usually when a jockey/horse is blocked or cut across by another horse/jockey and must slow down, or change its stride, to avoid an incident. 

(Apprentice) Claim: A weight reduction given to an apprentice rider

Colt: a 3-year-old (or less) male horse that has not been gelded.

Correct Weight: A signal by the stewards, after checking the relevant race finishers, that bets can be paid out.

Daily Double: a bet requiring the winners of 2 different races to be selected.

Dam: the female parent ie mother of the horse.

Dead Heat: When two or more horses cross the finish line at the same time.

Deductions: a reduction in odds, as a percentage, for both win and place bets, when a horse (or horses) is scratched after betting has already started.

Dividend: The payout to the winner of a bet.

Drift: When a horse is not fancied, its odds can drift out.

Each Way: A combination of a win bet and a place bet on the same horse.

Eased: A horse slows down for some reason during a race.

Emergency: A runner who gains entry to start a race when one of the field is scratched.

Even Money: The odds are 2.0. So, for a $50 outlay, the win return is $100 

Exacta: A bet on the horses that finish first and second in exact order.

Exotics: A multiple bet, the most well-known being Exacta, Trifecta, Quinella, Quadrella (or Quaddie) and First Four.

Fast: The firmest ground for a race.

Favourite: The horse that is favoured to win the race, receiving the most bets and attaining the shortest odds.

Feature Race: The most notable race of the day usually due to the prize money on offer and the race notoriety.

Field: The horses in a race.

Filly: A 3-year-old or less, female horse.

First Four: A bet to select, the first four horses in a race, in the correct order.

First Up: A runner resuming from a spell, where the break was at least 3 months. 

Fixed Odds: A type of betting in which the odds for a given horse do not change after a bet is placed.

Flat race: A race on a near level surface and not involving any fences.

Fluctuation: This is seen as the movement of the odds of a runner moving both up and down.

Front Runner: A horse that likes to lead the field for as long as it can.

Furlong: 1/8th of a mile, which is 220 yards in old money, or just over 200 metres.

Gallop: Another word for a fast canter.

Gelding: A horse that has been castrated.

Good Alley: A barrier draw that is thought to be good for a horse.

Group Race: A race for the best horses as decided by the Australian Racing Board. Group 1 is the highest classification followed by Group 2 and Group 3. See also Listed and Benchmark.

Handicap: A race where each horse must carry a weight assigned by the official handicapper.

Heavy (track): A rain affected track, next level up from Slow.

Hoops: another word for jockey (“Who is wearing the hoops today?”)

Horse Age: Each year horse birthdays are always 1 August.

Inquiry: An investigation into a race outcome, which can result in a change of the finishing order.

Jockey: The rider of a horse in a race.

Lay: A bet made on a horse that the punter thinks (or the bookmaker offers at higher odds) cannot win.

Listed Race: A type of race which is a step down from a Group race, it can be for elite racing, especially if the prizemoney (which must be more than $70k) on offer is worthwhile.  

Length: A unit used during a race, to describe the distance between horses, the length of a horse from nose to tail.

Long Shot: A runner with high (or long) odds that virtually no-one thinks can win. 

Maiden: A horse that has not yet won a race or a race only for runners who have yet to win their first race.

Mare: A female horse which is 4 years old or more. 

Market: All the horses and odds for a race.

Mudlark: A horse that excels on wet tracks and will often be seen with reduced odds in the betting.

Mug (Punter): A person who is awful at betting or in their betting strategy.

Neck: The margin between horses, usually at the finish, as, you guessed it, about the length of a horse´s neck.

Nose: The smallest measuring margin, “to win by a nose.”

Nose band: A strap around a horse´s nose to prevent opening of its mouth.

Odds: The ratio of the amount paid out on a successful bet to the amount wagered.

Odds On: The odds on a horse of less then even money, less than 2.0

On The Nose: A bet on a horse to win only.

Outsider: Usually quoted at high odds, a horse whose chances of winning are not thought likely. 

Photo Finish: A race finish that is too close to call and the finish-line camera is used to decide the winner.

Pilot The Field: A horse at the front leading the runners.

Place: A bet on a horse to finish first, second or third (the latter needing at least 8 runners).

Placed: a horse that finished in the first three (8 or more runners) or in the first two for 6-7 runners.

Place Only: A bet on a horse to finish in the top three but not to win.

Plunge: There is a plunge in the market (or the odds) when a lot of money is suddenly put on one specific horse.

Protest: An objection has been lodged regarding the outcome of a race.

Pulled Up: A horse that has been stopped, or slowed down, during a race.

Punt: To wager on a race.

Punter: A person who places bets on horse races.

Quadrella: Also known as Quaddie, a bet to select the winner of 4 pre-selected races.

Quinella: A bet on the horses that finish first and second in either order.

Rails: The fence on the inside during a race.

Roughie: A horse with high odds that is not expected to win, but may surprise everyone.

Scratching: A horse that has been withdrawn from a race before it takes place. If after 8am on day of the race, it is a known as a late scratching. 

Second Up: The next run after a First Up.

Settling Up: The process of paying out winnings to punters once the race is over and the results have been confirmed.

Sheepskin Noseband: Also known as Sheepskin Roll or Nose Roll, it is attached to a horse's bridle to partially restrict its vision and help to concentrate, rather than see things on the ground including their shadow.

Short half-head: the second shortest winning margin (after a nose).

Silks: The specific set (both jacket and cap) of colours and design worn by a jockey during a race to represent the owner of the horse.

Sire: The male parent or father of a horse.

Spell: The period between set of races, where a horse is rested.

Sprinter: A horse that performs best over shorter distances, up to 1600m.

Sprout Wings: A horse who starts accelerating with such speed that the likely winner is beaten.

Stayer: A horse that usually races in long distances of at least 2,000 metres.

Stewards: Officials who oversee a race meeting and enforce the rules of horse racing.

Superfecta: An exotic bet on the horses that finish first, second, third, and fourth (sometimes up to sixth) in exact order. The First Four has really replaced this type of bet.

Suspension: A period of time where a jockey (but could be a trainer) is not allowed to race due to breaking a racing rule.

Swoop: To come from behind to finish a race strongly and win, the horse is a swooper.

TAB: The Totalisator Agency Board, originally a state government body (but many are now privatised) in place to regulate off-course betting.

Taken to the Cleaners: This expression is used by bookmakers or punters after a large financial loss.

Tongue-Tie: A piece of material used to stop a horse´s tongue from moving around which could affect breathing.

Tote: A pool-based betting system where all bets are pooled together and then distributed among the winners.

Track Condition: The Rating 1-10 (Firm-Good-Soft-Heavy) given to a racetrack on the day of the races.

Trifecta: A bet on the horses that finish first, second, and third in exact order.

Unbackable: A horse with odds that are so low that punters deem there is so little reward for the associated risk.

Untried: A horse that has not raced at all or is racing a new distance.

Wager: To wager is to place a bet. A wager is another name for a bet.

Weight for Age (WFA): A system in which horses are allocated weights based on their age and sex to level the playing field.

Whip: A flexible device, carried in one hand, used to both control and encourage a horse to run faster. A Whip can be used 5 non-consecutive strides prior to the last 100 metres and then there are no restrictions in the final 100 metres.  

Win: A bet on a horse to win the race.

Winker: A sheepskin device which attaches to the cheek straps of the bridle to help the horse focus forwards, it allows more side vision than a blinker.

Yearling: a 2-year-old horse.