Horse Racing Terms Glossary

Horse racing betting can be extremely fun but the terminology surrounding the sport can be tricky for newcomers.

Horse racing is hundreds of years old and there are loads of words, terms and phrases that are used casually within the sport that newcomers may not be aware of.

That’s why we’ve created this useful Horse Racing Terms Glossary so you can read up on exactly what means what in the racing world!

Our comprehensive live from ‘accumulator’ to ‘yankee’ oversees the entire alphabet of horse racing terms. If you don’t know your ‘each way’ from your ‘tote’, your ‘tricast’ to your ‘banker’, this this is the glossary for you.

We guarantee that you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of all the horse racing terminology required in order to become an expert in the language of this popular sport. It is important to keep in mind that certain racing terms could differ depending on the region, but the list below covers all those terms specific to the UK.

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - KL - M - N - O - P - R - S - T - W - Y

A

Accumulator - An accumulator bet means any number of selections (more than one) in a single bet (line). All selections must win for the customer to collect. If one selection does not win the bet is a losing one. Examples of accumulators include 3-folds, 4-folds, 5-folds, 6-folds, etc.

Also ran – expression that denotes a horse that has failed to finish in the money (‘see I’)

All Weather Racing -  a specific surface on which horses race as opposed to turf. Predominately used during the winter in the UK to ensure racing takes place in poor weather conditions, but used throughout the year especially in the evening during the Summer. At present there are four All Weather tracks in UK – Lingfield, Kempton, Southwell and Wolverhampton. Please note that three of these tracks (Lingfield, Southwell and Kempton) also have turf tracks. All All Weather Racing takes place on the flat (see ‘F’) as opposed to taking place over jumps (see ‘J’) /National Hunt (see ‘N’).

Amended Result – When the result of a race is changed following a Stewards Enquiry (see ‘S’) 

Ante Post – This is the name given to a bet that is placed on a horse to win an event in the future (translated: before post). Unibet will offer Ante Post odds (prices) on the major horse races each season; Ante Post odds are available on many of the Cheltenham Festival races including the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Cheltenham Champion hurdle; in addition the five English classic races on the flat (2,000 Guineas, 1,000 Guineas, Derby, Oaks and St Leger) are usually available Ante Post. In effect, these are prices (odds) offered on future events, possibly even before all details of the event are known (e.g. list of runners declared for the race). If your selection is withdrawn or not entered, bets are lost. Early each week (Monday, Tuesday) Unibet may offer Ante Post odds on a big race due to be run that weekend.

Apprentice (Jockey) – a rider who has only had a few rides/wins. As a consequence an apprentice jockeys gains a weight allowance (carries les weight in races against more experienced jockeys) to help him get rides, earn experience and give him leverage against more experienced professional jockeys. 

Ascot - This is one of the biggest racing festivals in the UK. Royal Ascot takes place every June and is one of the biggest racing meets in the calendar. This is a five-day event and is  the pinnacle of the Flat Racing season. The biggest race at Royal Ascot is the Gold Cup, which usually takes place on the Thursday of the festival. It is a Group 1 race open to horses aged four years and above.

B

Back – Word used to describe what a customer does when he bets on a horse to win. A derivative of the word, backed, is a word used to describe a horse that has seen a lot of money placed on him/her to win a race. 

Banker – An expression used to describe the best bet of a certain individual (could be a customer, tipster, expert,etc). Nap is also commonly used to mean the same thing.

Bar – A word used to describe a horse that has no specific odds attached. It is commonly used as shorthand when space or time is at a premium. It means that all horses that we have not mentioned are at least as long as the last quoted odds or greater.

Best Odds Guaranteed (also known as BOG) – A marketing initiative some bookmakers (sportsbooks) offer. BOG is where you are guaranteed to get the best odds (price) on a horse. If you place a bet and take the price (see ‘T’) and the final Starting Price is bigger than the odds (price) you have taken, then the bookmaker will give you the bigger Starting Price (SP) odds.  If the SP was not higher than the odds you bet at then you still get paid out at the odds you originally accepted.

Blinkers – an application applied to a horse’s head to ensure he concentrates on the race ahead 

C

Canadian – a shorthand word for a particular multiple bet with five selections consisting of 26 bets (10 doubles, 10 trebles, five 4-folds and a 5-fold). It is sometimes called a Super Yankee

Cheek Pieces - application worn on the side of a horse’s head said to aid concentration during a race

Cheltenham Festival - This is the biggest festival in the horse racing calendar and comes at the end of the jump racing season, known as the National Hunt. Cheltenham is synonymous with horse racing and thousands of fans flock to the racecourse every year. The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the most prestigious race of the four-day festival and the best trainers in the UK, Ireland and France all throw their efforts into winning the prize.

Co-Favourites – when three or more horses share the lowest odds of all the competitors in the race. See explanation of word Favourite for more details 

Colours – the racing silks as worn by jockeys in races. The colours (racing silks) are owned by the owner of the horse. These are usually displayed in most newspapers and race cards to distinguish one horse from another and to easily identify which owner owns each horse. 

Combination Forecasts (CFC) – When customers place a bet on three or more horses in a race in order to get the first and second in correct order. i.e. they are combining number of options to get a forecast (see ‘F’).  Selecting three horses to finish 1st & 2nd = 6 lines (combinations); Selecting four horses to finish 1st & 2nd means selecting 12 lines (or combinations) 

Combination Tricasts (CTC) - Similar principle to CFC’s but selections are made for first second and third in a race in any order.

Computer Straight Forecast (CSF) - The returns for a forecast bet. This is an algorithm that decides what the return should pay based on all the prices (odds) of the horses and their relationship to each other in a race. The figure returned is for correctly forecasting the correct first and second (in order) in a race.

Course – a plot of land upon which horse racing take place

Course and Distance – an expression used to denote horses that have previously won over exactly the same course and distance 

Course Specialist - word given to any horse that seems to run well at a particular track (usually, but not wholly, meaning it has won more than two or three times at one particular racecourse)

D

Dead heat - When two horses finish a race exactly equal.  Horses can dead heat for first place with another horse (or horses) or a horse can dead heat for second, third or fourth. For Unibet’s purposes if a horse wins a race but dead heats any return is subject to a lower return, as one half of the bet is deemed to have lost, and just one half of the bet is deemed to have won (if two horses dead heat). If three horses dead head 2/3rds of the bet are said to have lost, and 1/3rd is said to have won. With the advancement of photographic and digital technology there are fewer dead heats than ever before. 

Decimal Odds - Decimal odds are traditionally used outside the UK and are not the odds format of choice of those bookmakers who make odds on horse races. However, a decimal odds figure tells you exactly how much profit you would make on a winning bet to a 1 unit stake. For example, decimal odds of 2.50 tell you that if you place a £1 bet and it wins, you will be paid £2.50 in profit.

Double – two selections which must both win to collect

Draw - a number referring to a position in the starting stalls (see ‘S’) from where a horse starts a race on the flat (see ‘F’).

Drift - word to describe when a horse's odds (price) gets bigger (longer).

The place part of each way bets on horse racing is settled as per the following place terms.
Non-handicapsRunnersHandicaps
WIN only2-4 runnersWIN only
1/4 odds, 1,25-7 runners1/4 odds, 1,2
1/5 odds, 1,2,38-11 runners1/5 odds, 1,2,3
1/5 odds, 1,2,312-15 runners1/4 odds, 1,2,3
1/5 odds, 1,2,316 or more runners1/4 odds, 1,2,3,4

E

Each way (EW) – Customers can place a bet on a horse to win or to be placed, but when a customer does both in the same bet it is called betting each way (directly opposed to betting On the Nose (See’ O’). Simply put, one half of the bet is to win; the other is to be placed. If the horse wins the race the customer collects on both parts of the bet. If the horse comes second or third (and sometimes fourth) the customer loses the win part of the bet, but collects on the place part of the bet. Each way terms for the place part of the bet are not the same for all races. Which sometimes confuses customers. Beside is a chart detailing the different each way terms.

Early Price (EP) – odds that individual sportsbooks (bookmakers) offer on races due to take place later in the same day. They are offered as a marketing incentive to enable customers to place bets with a sportsbook, and customers enjoy EP’s as it provides them with an opportunity to obtain an earlier price, and one that they believe will be bigger (larger) than will be available at a later stage and particularly bigger than the final starting price (SP – see ‘S’).

Evens – is the fractional odds (see ‘F’) version of 2.0. Evens is very seldom, but sometimes, expressed as 1/1.

Exotic Bet or Wager – expression typically used outside of the UK that denotes any bet that isn’t a single (see ‘S’).

F

Favourite – A horse that has the shortest odds attached to it in the betting market. It means theoretically, it has the highest probability chance of winning the race according to those who issue prices (bookmakers) and those who bet on the outcome of that race (customers). Sometimes referred to as ‘the Jolly’. 

Flat – one of two codes of horse racing. Flat racing takes place on turf and on the All Weather Tracks (see ‘A’). The turf flat season starts in March and ends in November, while All Weather Racing takes place throughout the year. There are 34 different racecourses in the UK that have flat racing meetings during a single season. Flat race distances are from a minimum of 5 furlongs (see ‘F’)  - which is approximately 1000 metres - up to a distance of 2 miles 6 furlongs. A furlong takes a horse about 60 seconds to top speed (run at the shorter distances). 

First Past the Post –  terminology used by some sportsbooks for paying out on the first horse to pass the post irrespective if it has transgressed the rules of racing or not and whether or not it is subsequently disqualified or demoted by the stewards (see ‘S’) on the course 

Fixed-odds betting – expression meaning odds (prices) available to the customer at the time of placing the bet.

Forecast – is a bet where you predict two horses in a race to finish first and second in the correct order, sometimes known as a straight forecast. A reverse forecast is simply two (straight) forecasts and is two bets. You simply select two horses to finish first and second in either order in a reverse forecast

Fold - A word preceded by a number to mean an accumulator bet. For example 3-fold means a three selection accumulator where all three selections must win for the customer to collect

Form – word to describe a horses performance over time. Can be recent form (for the last year/season) or can be overall form (every race it has ever run). The form of  a horse is used by customers to gauge how good a chance of winning the horse has in relation to other horses in a particular contest. There are various form figures and abbreviations that are used to annotate performances of a horse in previous races. 

Most popular include: 0 = unplaced (outside the top ten) 1 = first; 2 = second; 3 = third; 4 = fourth F = fell; U = unseated rider; P = Pulled Up; S = Slipped up; C= carried out. Form figures are read from right to left, with the most recent run the furthest figure on the right. A dash (-) means the previous season (year) form, while a slash (/) means two seasons or more ago. 

An example: 1034U-11P. This horses form figures indicate he pulled up last time (P) but had previously won two races (11). Last season (-) his last run saw him Unseat (U).  

Fractional odds - Favoured by bookmakers in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and  common in horse racing. Fractional odds are the traditional odds  such as 10/1 or 6/4. Simply treat them like fractions. If you divide the first number by the second, you will get a multiplier. For example, 10/1 means that whatever you stake on this bet you will receive 10 times your stake back if you win. So, £1 on a 10/1 bet will give you £10 winnings. 

Furlong – measure of distance in imperial units measuring 201.17metres. Shortest race distance in British racing calendar is five furlongs, and longest is 4 miles 3 ½ furlongs (Grand National) 

G

Going -  word used to describe the condition of the ground. In the UK going descriptions are; hard, firm, good, soft, heavy. Combinations of the above can also be used. I.e. good to firm. The going is determined by the Clerk of the Course (each course has its own Clerk) whose job it is to ensure that safe racing can go ahead by analysing the long-term, mid-term and short term weather readings and acting accordingly with a track that he knows well. This may mean adding water some days before a race meeting to ensure the ground remains good going, so to make it safe for horses and jockeys to race, or it can mean him abandoning a meeting altogether due to the poor condition of the track, or due to weather conditions generally.   

Going In – there are two forms of racing in the UK. Flat racing (on the level) and National Hunt racing (jumps). In flat racing horses are placed into starting stalls (see ‘S’)to give each horse the same distance of ground to run over. This is because flat races start from 5/8ths of  mile (5 furlongs – see ‘F’) so it is important no horse gets an unfair start. Going In describes when horses start to enter the starting stalls and in terms of betting is a ‘trigger’ word which customers know means they haven’t got long to put on their bets.

Going to Post - When horses are on the way to the start of a race. In terms of betting it is the first  ‘trigger’ word which customers know means they have only got  a few minutes to put on their bets. 

Goliath - a shorthand word for a particular multiple bet with eight elections consisting of 247 bets (28 doubles, 56 trebles, seventy 4-folds, fifty-six 5-folds, twenty-eight x 6-folds, eight 7-folds and an 8-fold)

Grand National - This is the most popular race in the UK horse racing calendar and usually attracts fans who are not avid followers of the sport. The Grand National sees upwards of 40 horses jump over fences at Aintree Racecourse. Friends and families often play sweepstakes for the Grand National, while 70,000 punters pack the stands at the racecourse to watch the race live. The Grand National winner receives over £550,000 and goes down in history with such greats as Red Rum, L’Escargot and Tiger Roll.

H

Handicap – 80%+ of all horse  races are handicap races. This is where horses are allocated different amounts of weight to try and even up their chance of winning.  Otherwise the best horse would always (or very nearly always) win. The 20% of races that are not handicaps are usually races for newcomers or horses that have not won a race (maiden races) or for the very best races such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup or the Epsom Derby where it is the intention to find the very best horses. The most famous handicap race is the Grand National where all horses carry different weights depending on their ability – the best horses carry the most weight.

Heinz – this is particular multiple bet involving six selections; 57 separate bets: 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 4-folds, 6 5-folds and a 6-fold accumulator. A minimum two selections must win to gain a return

I

In The Money – expression to describe a horse that finishes first 1st, 2nd and 3rd (and sometimes 4th). It is used to describe a horse’s position in a race whereby a customer can collect some sort of return for a particular bet 

In running – the ability for bookmakers to lay (see ‘L’) prices for customers to back (see ‘B’) once a race has begun. 

J

Jockey - the rider of the horse

Joint Favourites – when two horses share the lowest odds of all the competitors in the race. See explanation of word Favourite (’F’) for more details

Jumps (Jumps racing also known as National Hunt) – Jumps racing is the colloquial name given to a code of racing called National Hunt racing , as opposed to flat racing (see ‘F’). In this form of racing horses jump obstacles. There are two sorts of obstacle (jumps) races – hurdles (smaller, moveable) and chases (larger, higher and connected to the ground). Jumps racing distances vary from a minimum of two miles up to 4 miles 3 ½ furlongs.

K

Kentucky Derby - It’s known as ‘The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports’ because the Kentucky Derby is over in 120 seconds. This is America’s big horse race, with a £1.5m winner’s prize. Only thoroughbred horses run here at Churchill Downs, Louisville. The race is run on a dirt track, around a one-and-a-quarter-mile ring.

L

Lay – A bookmaker lays a price on a horse to lose a certain amount of money to a customer (lay odds)

Length – A unit of measurement for the length of a horse from nose to tail, approximately 8 feet. A horse’s winning distance in horse racing is declared in lengths. The shortest winning distance (or any distance from one horse to another in a race) is a nose, followed by a short head, head, neck, ½ a length, ¾ of a length then a length. 

Lucky 15 - this is particular multiple bet involving six selections in 15 separate bets: 4 singles, 6 doubles, 4 trebles and a fourfold accumulator. Equivalent to a Yankee (see ‘Y’) plus 4 singles. One winning selection will guarantee a return. The 'Lucky' part of the name of this and other similarly named bets comes from the bookmaker's practice of offering bonuses for one or more winners; usually including 'double the odds' for only one selection winning.

Lucky 31 - this is particular multiple bet involving five selections and consisting of 31 separate bets: 5 singles, 10 doubles, 10 trebles, 5 4-folds and a 5-fold accumulator. Equivalent to a Canadian (see ‘C’) plus 5 singles. One winning selection will guarantee a return

M

Market – the market on a horse racing event can be made by independent bookmakers (sportsbooks) typically prior to 15 minutes before a timed race. But, at this time the on-course bookmakers make the market for the entire bookmaking industry which finally results in the official Starting Price (SP – see explanation in ‘S’ section) for every horse in every race. Every horse that runs has an official SP where it finishes first, last or fails to finish the race due to a fall for example.

Melbourne Cup - Australia’s biggest race has a £4.3m prize purse and sees horses run over a two-mile course in Melbourne. The race takes place every November.

Multiple – bets where more than one horse is selected to win/place in a series of combinations which can be an accumulator (see ‘A’), or a series of doubles and trebles, etc. Those who bet on horses tend to enjoy staking low amounts of money in the form of a multiple bet in order to win a large amount if all selections are successful 

N

Nap – a horse selected as the best bet of the day, also called a banker. Usually associated with a tipster or newspaper to denote his best bet to his readers.

National Hunt (also known as jumps) - National Hunt racing is the  name given to a code of racing, as opposed to flat racing (see ‘F’). In this form of racing horses jump obstacles. There are two sorts of obstacles – hurdles (smaller, moveable) and chases (larger, higher and connected to the ground). National Hunt racing distances vary from a minimum of two miles up to 4 miles 3 ½ furlongs. 

Non-Runner – any horse due to run in a race but then doesn’t take part. Customers always receive their money back on single bets on non-runners and for all other bets the horse is void from calculations.

Not Under Orders (also referred to as Not Coming Under Starters Orders)  – If a race is run and a horse has been withdrawn immediately before the start of the race (OFF) it is deemed to have not come under starters orders and any bets on that horse are void and stakes returned to the customer. This also affects any deductions via the Rule 4 law (see ‘R’)  

O

Off – word used to officially determine when a race has started. 

Odds Against – term used to describe where the odds are greater than evens (2.0) i.e. have (theoretically) less than a 50% chance/probability of winning.

Odds On – term used to describe where the odds are shorter than evens (2.0) i.e. have (theoretically) more than a 50% chance/probability of winning

Off the Bridle – an expression literally meaning that a jockey is pushing a horse into its bridle (headgear on a horse used to navigate and increase/decrease speed) coercing it into going faster. But in customer speak it means a horse that is struggling to go as quickly as the jockey would like, usually (although not always) resulting in other horses pressuring him for a lead/prominent position and/or passing that horse.

On the nose – backing a horse to win (as opposed to betting on a horse to be placed (see ‘P’) or having an each way bet. See ‘E’ for definition of each way)

Outsider – A horse whose odds (price) are relatively high (big) compared with other horses prices in the same contest. Used by customers to mean a horse whose probability of winning the race is small – as in, an outside chance of winning.

P

Paddock – Where the horses are displayed to the public at a racecourse and subsequently the area where the horses are mounted by the jockeys prior to going down to the start of the race.

Patent - A particular bet in which you make three selections in the form of  7 separate bets: 3 singles, 3 doubles and a treble. Equivalent to a Trixie (see ‘T’) plus 3 singles. One winning selection will guarantee a return

Photo Finish – When a race result is too tight to call with the human eye, a photo finish is called for by the racecourse officials responsible for declaring the result (the judge).    

Place – You can place a bet on a horse to win, place, or a combination of both in the form of an each way bet (see ‘E’ for definition of each way) A Place bet is where you will receive a fraction of the odds a horse is to win a race for it to come 1st, 2nd or 1st, 2nd & 3rd, or 1st, 2nd , 3rd & 4th depending on the number of runners in a race and the type of race it is. 

Placepot – a popular Tote bet (see ‘T’) where a return is given for correctly predicting a horse to finish in the first six races on a race card.

Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe - The most eagerly anticipated race in the French calendar is the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Here, horses race for an eye-watering £2.6m first prize over one-and-a-half miles at Longchamp Racecourse, Paris. The race takes place in October each year.

R

Result Stands – expression used following a Stewards Enquiry (see ‘S’) to inform all that following the enquiry there is no amended result. 

Return – the total amount of money a customer gets back from placing a bet. It included the stake that is relevant to the win. I.e.: Stake plus winnings.

Reverse Forecast – a bet that predicts which horses will finish first and second in either order. It is actually two straight forecasts (see ‘F’ for forecasts) one for horse A to beat horse B, and one for horse B to beat horse A.

Rule 4 deductions (also referred to as Rule 4 or deductions) – When a horse is withdrawn from a race before coming under Starter’s Orders (see ‘S’).  The customer simply gets his stake returned, while the bookmaker needs to make an adjustment to the odds so the withdrawn horse’s odds can be taken into account.   This is because when a bookmaker prices his book, he takes into account the chances of each horse winning relative to the chances of the other horses in the field based on all horses running the race. If the bookmaker was forced to pay out on the price of all bets placed up until that point it would open up all forms of abuse, so the Rule 4 scale of deductions was introduced to protect the bookmaker whilst still being fair to the punter (the alternative would be to just void all bets).

S

Show Price – also known as Board Price. Show prices are the prices delivered from the actual racecourse by on course bookmakers once the betting market (see ‘M’) has begun.   

Single - A bet placed on a horse to win.

Starting Price (SP) – A final price derived by the on course bookmaker for each horse in every race. If a customer does not take a price (see ‘T’)  his bet will be settled at Starting Price -  a standard price that the entire industry uses

Starter’s Orders – expression used as a betting trigger to announce that a race is just about to start and usually denotes (unless otherwise stated) that no more bets can be placed. With the development of ‘in running’ betting (see ‘I’) some bets can now still be placed even once Starters Orders and indeed the Off  (see ‘O’) have been given. 

Starting Stalls (or Stalls)  - are a row of compartments used in flat racing (see ‘F‘) to ensure all horses in race have the same distance to run and start the race at the same time.

Stewards  - set of individuals at a racecourse whose collective role it is to apply the rules of racing during a race meeting.   

Stewards Enquiry – declared when the stewards want to review a race or a particular incident within a race where they feel the rules of racing has/have been transgressed. In terms of betting is a signal that the result of  a race may be affected and so no bets should be paid out until the stewards have completed their enquiry.  

T

Take A Price -  customers have two options when placing a bet on a horse. Firstly, they can leave the price and accept the Starting price or SP as it is known (see ‘S’), or they can take a price at the time they place their bet. That is to say, the odds that are on offer at the time of placing the bet. The reason a customer would do this is that he feels he will be getting a bigger (better) price at the time he places the bet compared to the price declared at the end of the race in the form of the Starting price (SP).   

Through The Card (TTC) – If a jockey; a trainer; a race card number; the favourite in every race; a tipster; etc, wins every race at a race meeting it has said to have gone  'through the card'. In customers language it is sometimes used as verbal shorthand to explain an instruction to have the same bet in every race. 

Tic-Tac – a form of sign language formerly used by UK bookmakers to communicate with each other at track. Still used but its effectiveness was in years prior to mobile communications, and is now used by only a few. 

Tote – This is another form of betting as opposed to fixed odds (see ‘F’))betting. Money taken on a Tote bet is placed into a pool and then a % is taken out for profit/commission, before the number of winners is then divided into the total amount taken (minus the commission). A dividend is then returned.

Treble – A particular accumulator bet in which you make three selections, sometimes known as a 3-fold. All three selections must win for the bet to be successful.

Tricast – A particular type of bet popular with those who bet on horse racing. The customer predicts which three horses will come first, second and third. This bet is usually only available where eight or more horses run in a certain type of race called a handicap (see ‘H’). Customers sometimes combine their three horses to cover all potential 1,2,3 possibilities in what is known as a combination tricast (6 bets in total).

Trip – word used to describe the distance of a race. 

Trixie – this is particular multiple bet involving three selections consisting of 3 doubles and 1 treble. A minimum of 2 of the customer’s selections must be successful for him to collect.

W

Walk-Over – occurs when only one horse ends up running in a race due to others being withdrawn before commencement. A horse then just needs to walk across the post to collect the winnings. Naturally, Unibet offer no bets on a walk over. For bet-settling purposes, the winner of a walk-over is considered a non-runner.

Weighed In – expression used to finalise a race result for betting purposes enabling sportsbooks/bookmakers to be confident in paying out winning customers. It literally refers to the process of weighing jockeys and the weights that are carrying following a race to ensure that they return to the weighing room the same weight as they went out with.

Y

Yankee – this is particular multiple bet involving four selections; 11 separate bets: 6 doubles, 4 trebles and a fourfold accumulator. A minimum two selections must win to gain a return.