How to Play Horse Racing

Learn the lingo.


The Lingo

+Win

Horse must finish the race first

+Across the Board

A win, place and show wager on a horse.

+Allowance

A race other than a claiming event for which the race secretary drafts certain conditions.

+Apprentice

A jockey who has ridden for less than a year and who receives a weight allowance for less experience.

+Backstretch

The racetrack’s barn area.

+Beyer Speed Figure

A measure of performance popularized by Andy Beyer of The Washington Post.

+Blinkers

The hood with eyecups worn by horses to limit peripheral vision and avoid distractions.

+Bullet Workout

Fastest workout of the day at a particular distance.

+Chalk

The wagering favourite in the race.

+Claming Race

A race in which the horses are for sale at a price specified before the race. Claims are made up to 15 minutes before the race and the new owner assumes possession immediately following the race.

+Colt

An ungelded male horse four years old or younger.

+Coupled Entries

Two or more horses, owned by the same owner or trained by the same trainer, comprising a single betting interest. Entries are listed in the program as #1, #1A, #1X. A wager on any horse in the entry is a wager on all of them.

+Dead Heat

Two or more horses finishing a race in a tie.

+Driver

In standardbred racing, the individual that sits in the race bike and steers the horse.

+Enquiry/Objection

An immediate review of the race to check into possible rule infractions by a jockey, driver or horse.

+Filly

A young female horse.

+Furlong

One-eighth of a mile. This is the distance multiplied to create the length of a thoroughbred race.

+Gelding

A neutered male horse.

+Handicapping

Using horses’ past performances to determine their chances of winning a current race.

+Handle

Money wagered.

+Jockey

In thoroughbred racing, the individual that sits on the horse and steers it.

+Lasix

Diuretic medication given to horses which bleed.

+Length

A measurement that represents the approximate length of a horse.

+Maiden

A horse of any sex who has never won a race.

+Mare

An older female horse.

+Morning Line

The starting odds set by the track handicapper.

+Odds

An indication of the public’s opinion of the relative merits of the individual horse, or in the case of exotic wagers, combinations of horses. Odds are determined by the amount of money bet on each horse or proposition, relative to the total amount bet.

+Overlay

A horse whose odds are greater than its potential to win.

+Pari-Mutuel

System of wagering where all the money is returned to the wagerers after a deduction of track and government percentages.

+Post Position

A horse’s position in the starting gate. Stalls are numbered from the inside rail. Positions are assigned after a race day’s entries close, by a blind draw.

+Qualifying Race

A race without a purse or betting used to determine a horse’s ability and manners.

+Scratch

Withdrawing a horse from the race for any reason, after its entry has been accepted.

+Silks/Colours

The colourful cap and jackets that jockeys and drivers wear.

+Simulcast

Simultaneous broadcast of a race to betting facilities away from the live racetrack.

+Standardbred

The breed of horse that paces or trots a race, usually one mile, on a stone or clay track with a sulky behind them, which the driver sits in.

+Tack

Equipment used to ride or control a horse.

+Thoroughbred

The breed of horse that races variable distances on turf, dirt and synthetic tracks with a jockey on their back.

+Trainer

A person who is responsible for conditioning, entering the owner’s horses into races.

+Underlay

Horse whose odds are more promising than his potential to win.

+Weight

The assigned weight for a horse, including the jockey, equipment and lead weights if needed.

+Workout

Exercise session at a predetermined distance.

+Yearling

A horse that is one year old. The universal birth date of horses is January 1.

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