Program Overview

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Horse Racing Definitions


See below for some useful horse racing definitions and terminology.


Across The Board: A Win, Place, and Show bet, all on the same horse.

Allowance Race: A race having eligibility conditions to determine horses that may enter and is not a claimer.

Allowances: Weight permitted to be reduced because of the conditions of the race or because an apprentice is on a horse.

Also Eligible: A horse that is an alternate starter, who will race if a starter is scratched.

Also-Ran: A horse that finished back in the pack.

Appaloosa: A horse breed known for its preferred leopard-spotted coat which occurs when at least one parent carries the gene.

Apprentice: Rookie or novice jockey.

ApprenticeAllowance : Weight concession to an apprentice rider.

Arabian: A horse breed known for its distinctive wedge-shaped head and high tail carriage with a reputation for intelligence and stamina.


Backstretch: Straight of far side of track between the turns.

Bandage: Strips of cloth wound around the lower part of a horse's legs for support or protection against injury.

Bar shoe: A horse shoe with a rear bar to protect an injured foot.

Bear Out: To move or drift toward the outside of the track

Bit: Bar in horse's mouth by which he is guided and controlled.

Blind switch: Being caught in a pocket or such a position behind or between horses that a free course cannot be pursued.

Blinkers: Eye cups which limit a horse's vision and prevent it from shying from objects or other horses.

Bloodline: Pedigree of a horse.

Bolt: Sudden veering from a straight course.

Break: To depart the gate at the start of a race.

Break Maiden: When a horse wins his first race.  Awaiting that first win, a horse is a maiden.

Breed: An equine group whose members have been selectively bred for consistent characteristics over a period of time and with pedigrees recorded in a stud book.

Breeze: To run easily, under a hold, without much encouragement.

Bute: A medication to control inflammation, thereby reducing inflammatory damage, alleviating pain, and restoring range of motion.


Call: Running position of horses in a race at various points.

Checked: A horse pulled up by his jockey for an instant because he is cut off or in tight quarters.

Chute: Extension of backstretch or homestretch to permit straightaway run from start.

Claiming : Buying a horse out of race for entered price.

Claiming Race: A race in which any horse may be purchased at a predetermined price.

Closer: A horse who runs best in the latter part of the race, coming from off the pace.

Colt: Ungelded male horse under five years of age.

Condition Race: An event with conditions limiting it to a certain class of horse.


Daily Double: Type of wager calling for the selection of winners of two consecutive races.

Dam: The female parent of a horse.

Damsire: The sire of a broodmare.

Dead Heat: Two or more horses finishing in an exact tie at the wire.

Derby: Stakes race for three year olds.


Eased: A horse that is being deliberately slowed by the jockey to prevent injury or harm to the horse.

Easily: Running or winning without being pressed by rider or opposition.

Equipment: Whip, blinkers, etc. carried by a horse in a race.

Evenly: Neither gaining nor losing position or distance during a race.

Exacta: A wager in which the first two finishers in a race, in exact order of finish, must be picked.


Fast Track: Track condition with footing at its best. Dry and even.

Favorite: Horse having the most money wagered on it to win.

Filly: Female horse under five years old that has not been bred.

Firm: A condition of a turf course corresponding to fast on a dirt track.

Foal: A horse under one year old.

Front Runner: A horse who usually leads (or tries to lead) the field for as far as he can.

Furlong: A distance equal to 1/8th of a mile.


Gait: Used to describe the manner in which a horse moves.

Gallop: A fast gate in which all four feet are off the ground at once.

Gelding: Castrated male horse.

Good Track: Condition between fast and slow.


Hand: Unit of measurement for a horse's height, each of which is 4 inches.

Handicap Race: A race in which weights have been assigned by the racing secretary after evaluating entrant's past races.

Handicapping: The art of evaluating a horse's past performance to determine the outcome of a race.

Handily: Working or racing with moderate effort; not under the whip.

Hand Ride: Urging a horse with the hands and not using the whip.

Head: A margin between horses. One horse leading another by the length of his head.

Heavy: Condition of track similar to, but even slower than, muddy.

Horse: Ungelded male horse five years old or older.


In The Money: Finishing first, second or third.


Jockey: Rider of a horse in a race.

Juvenile: A two year old horse.


Lasix: A medication to prevent thoroughbred and standardbred race horses from bleeding through the nostrils during races.

Length: About eight feet, the length of a horse from nose to tail. At racing speeds a horse travels about 5 lenghts a second. Thus timing is often in 1/5 seconds.

Longshot: Entry not well regarded by bettors, resulting in the possibility of longer odds and higher payoffs.


Maiden Race: A race for horses which have never won a race.

Mare: Female horse five years old or older, or younger if bred.

Morning Line: An estimate of the final race odds, as determined by the track's handicapper.

Muddy Track: Track condition where there is substantial water in the track making footing less than ideal.


Nose: Smallest winning margin at the finish.


Official: Final results of a race have been confirmed by the stewards.

Off Track: An off track refers to a wet racing surface.

Overlay: A horse going off at a higher price than he appears to warrant based on his past performances.


Pari-mutuel: The form of wagering whereby players wager against each other, not against the "house".

Past Performances: A compilation of a horse's record, including all pertinent data, as a basis for handicapping.

Pedigree: The details of a horse's ancestry.  Often shown as a family tree.

Photo Finish: A finish between two or more horses which is so close a still photograph must be used to determine the order of finish.

Pinto: A Pinto horse may be any breed or combination of breeds, but displays the carriage and conformation associated with the Quarter Horse breeding.

Place: Second position at finish.

Pole: Distance marks placed around the track, usually every 1/16th of a mile.

Post Position: Position of stall in starting gate from which a horse starts.

Post Time: The designated time for a race to begin.

Purse: The total prize money awarded in a race - usually among the top five.


Quarter Horse: A breed of horse well known as a race horse which excels at sprinting short distances.

Quinella: Wager in which first two finishers must be picked, but payoff is made no matter which of the two wins and which runs second.


Ridgeling: A horse with an undescended testicle which is usually gelded, though prized horse’s have surgery to preserve their value as a breeding stallion.

Route: Race distance of a mile or longer.


Scratch: A horse that is withdrawn from a race.

Second Call: A second engagement of jockey who already is listed for a mount in a race.

Show: Third position at the finish.

Silks: Jacket representing the owner of a horse which is worn by the jockey.

Simulcast: Simultaneous broadcast of a race to betting facilities away from the live track.

Sire: The male parent of a horse.

Sloppy: Condition of footing. Wet on surface with firm bottom.

Slow: Footing that is not fast, between good and heavy.

Stakes Race: Highest class of race, reserved for the best horses.  Owners have to pay an entry fee or "stake" for these races.

Stallion: A male horse that has not been castrated.

Standardbred: A breed of horse which participates in harness racing.

Starting Gate: A mechanical device which allows each horse to begin a race at the same time.

Starter Race: An allowance or handicap race restricted to horses who have started for a specific claiming price or less.

Starting Gate: Mechanical device having partitions for horses in which they are confined until the starter releases the doors in front to begin the race.

Stick: A jockey's whip.

Stretch: The straight portions of a race track.

Stretch Call: Position of horses at the eighth pole, usually about halfway down the stretch.

Stud: Male horse used for breeding.

Sulky: A two wheeled cart carrying the driver and pulled by a horse in harness racing.


Thoroughbred: A horse specifically bred for racing that can trace their lineage back to three original sires.  These sires are: Darley Arabian, Godolphin Arabian, Byerley Turk.

Tongue Strap: Strap or tape bandage used to tie down a horse's tongue to prevent it from choking in a race or workout.

Top Line: Thoroughbred's breeding on his sire's side.

Track Bias: A racing surface that favors a particular running style or position; horses that run on the lead or on the rail.

Trainer: Person in charge of conditioning horses in preparation for races.

Trifecta: A wager picking the first three finishers in exact order.

Triple Crown: In the United States, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

Turf Course: Grass course.


Underlay: A horse racing at longer odds than he should.


Work: To exercise a horse. A workout.


Yearling: A horse which is one year old.

Yielding: Condition of turf course with a great deal of moisture.




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