Racing Jargon for New Racegoers

For those who are new to racing the jargon used can be very confusing at times, as confusing as trying to find winners. Here are just some of the expressions the new racegoer might hear on the racecourse or on the racing channels on the television.

Racing Jargon :-

You can identify a non-professional rider on any racecard as their title Mr, Mrs, Ms, Captain etc appears in front of his or her name

A young jockey contracted to a trainer while learning how to race ride

The colour of a horse which has a brown body and black mane and tail

This is a type of hood that fits over a horse’s head to prevent the horse from seeing sideways and helps it concentrate its attention ahead during a race

Blown up
When a horse starts to drop out of contention in a race due to lack of fitness

Broken down
When a horse sustains an injury – normally a tendon/soft tissue injury requiring a long rest to recover

A flat race for young National Hunt horses yet to race over hurdles or steeplechases and that have not run under the rules of Flat racing

The colour of a horse with a “ginger” body, mane and tail

An apprentice flat race jockey

Clerk of the Course
The person responsible for the overall management of a racecourse during the raceday

Clerk of the Scales
The person responsible for checking a jockey’s weight against the allocated weight the horse is allowed to carry

Shirts or ‘silks’ worn by jockeys to identify a horse to a particular owner

A young, ungelded (see gelding) male horse aged four years old or younger

Conditional Jockey
A young National Hunt jockey (under 26) who receives a weight allowance for inexperience until he has ridden a certain number of winners

The make-up of a race, as in the number of runners, the ground conditions, if it’s a sharp or a galloping track, etc. Different conditions suit the physique and running style of different horses

Cut in the ground
A description of the ground condition, when there is give in the surface, also called ‘soft going’

When a trainer formally notifies the authorities that he/she intends to run a horse in a certain race. The runners and riders for each meeting are “declared” the day before

The length of a race. Five furlongs is the shortest, four and a half miles (the Grand National) the longest. Also refers to the margin by which a horse wins or is beaten. This can range from ‘a short head’ to ‘a distance’ which is in excess of 30 lengths

Evens or Even Money
When your stake equals your winnings e.g. £5.00 at evens wins a further £5.00

The horse (or horses – if there is a joint favourite) in a race with the shortest (smallest) odds. Other phrases used to describe the favourite include “market leader” and “the jolly”

Field, the
Term for the runners in a race, for example “a field of 8 are on their way to the start for the next race”

A female horse four years old or younger

A horse’s race record. Denoted by figures next to its name in a racecard e.g. 1=1st, 2=2nd etc

The unit of distance measurement in horseracing. One eighth of a mile or 220 yards or 201 metres

Galloping track
Generally a wide-open track that suits bigger horses with big strides e.g. Newbury or Ascot

Refers to horses who have been castrated (“gelded”) as the temperament of a stallion is usually not ideal for an extended racing career

Get the trip
Usually said of a horse that stays the particular distance of the race

Going, the
The conditions underfoot on the racecourse. Official Jockey Club going ranges are: heavy – soft – good to soft – good – good to firm – firm – hard

A horse is described as “green” or “running green” when he or she shows signs of inexperience

A horse with a coat that is a mixture of black and grey hairs. It’s mane, tail and legs may be either black or grey unless white markings are present. As grey horses get older they become lighter in colour, almost white – they too are still referred to as “grey”

Hacked up
When a horse has won easily

A handicap race in which the weight each horse is to carry is individually allotted (by the official handicapper) according to past performance to make the chances of all horses in the race more equal

Hands & heels
Riding a horse without using a whip

A description of a horse who is in a prominent position during a race

The smaller of the two obstacles in Jump racing, typically about 3’6” in height

The official responsible for declaring the finishing order and declaring the distances between runners

A two year old horse (Flat) or a three year old horse (National Hunt)

The length of a horse from its nose to the start of its tail. Also used to describe the winning margin, although winning distances are given out in lengths, they are in fact measured by time. Due to the greater speed in Flat racing 1 second is equal to 5 lengths, whilst in Jump racing 1 second is equal to 4 lengths

A horse that has not yet won a race or a female horse that has never had a foal

A female horse five years and over

National Hunt Flat race
A flat race for young National Hunt horses yet to race over hurdles or steeplechases and that have not run under the rules of Flat racing

National Hunt
This covers racing over steeplechases and hurdles – often referred to as Jump racing

A complaint by one jockey against another regarding breach of rules during a race

Where the potential winnings are less than the stake e.g. £5 at 4/5 wins £4, although your stake is returned

Off the pace
When a horse isn’t keeping up with other horses in a race

Open ditch
A steeplechase fence with a ditch on the take-off side

Over the top
A horse past his peak for the season

The speed at which a race is run. Up with the pace means close to the leaders, off the pace means some way behind

Paddock/Parade Ring
The area where horses can be viewed prior to a race

The elite races, divided in Flat Racing into Groups One, Two, Three and Listed and in National Hunt into Grades One, Two and Three

When a horse’s head nearly lands on the ground after jumping a fence

Additional weight carried by a horse on account of previous wins. In a handicap, penalties are added to the allotted weight of a horse if it has won since the weights for the race were published

Photo finish
Electronic photographic equipment which decides who has won in a close finish

“To ping” is a verb often used to describe when a horse is jumping in particularly good style

Racing Plate
Lightweight horseshoes specially fitted for racing

When a horse stops instead of jumping over a fence

Run free
A horse going too fast too early, which then can’t settle into the race

SP/starting price
The official price of a horse at which bets are settled in betting shops

Equipment that enables a rider to sit on a horse

Teaching a horse to race or jump. A “well-schooled” horse is less likely to show signs of inexperience or “greeness” (see above)

A horse is said to have scope if it is likely to improve with age and as it grows into its frame

Spread a plate
When a racing plate or horseshoe comes off, sometimes causing delay as the horse is re-shod

Horses who have a lot of stamina and are more likely to show up best over 3 miles, rather than 2 miles over jumps and over 2 miles on the flat

A horse race over fences, open ditches and water jumps

The group of people responsible for ensuring adherence to the rules of racing

A person responsible for looking after a jockey’s equipment

Weigh in/out
Weighing the jockey before and after the race to make sure the horse carried the right weight. The ‘weighed in’ announcement means the result is official and all bets can be settled

Weight cloth
A cloth with pockets for lead weights placed under saddle

Lead strips placed in a weight cloth to bring the jockey and tack up to the handicap weight

Woohoo/Wheaaheey   An exultant sound made by racegoers when the horse they have backed has won. Even if it’s your first time at the races you will still do it instinctively – you may not even notice but you will do it! Tune the frequency and decibel level to suit your vocal chords.




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