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Horse Racing Betting Terms

The horse racing world contains several phrases that can appear confusing to the inexperienced eye. Whether you visit an online bookmaker or read the racecard at the track, the sport comes with its own language. Some horse racing betting terms are simple to understand, while others require more explanation.

Lucky for you, as a point of reference, we have gathered everything in this guide. What’s more, we will take a look at all the main and secondary types of bets in horse racing to help you elevate your knowledge and achieve success.

Common Betting Terms in Horse Racing

Common Betting Terms in Horse Racing

To succeed, you have to start from the beginning. Horse racing is way more complicated than sports like football or tennis, mainly because each country uses a different lingo. For example, jump racing, the general phrase in the UK, is called National Hunt. Of course, horse betting terms such as each way, dead heat, or Rule 4 are universal, but others like Tote and Quinella have a more ‘local’ character. has released several guides that will assist you, especially if you are a newbie.

Horse Racing Terminology A-Z

Some horse racing betting terms are rare, while you will come across others all the time. In any case, underneath, we have categorised all the basic ones from A-Z. You will find a lot of them in betting sites and even more while you are reading the race card:

⏩ Abandoned: A race that has been cancelled because of poor weather. Bookmakers will refund all wagers.

⏩ Act: This shows how suitable a horse is for a particular terrain. If a horse ‘acts’ on hard ground, it can handle hard surfaces.

⏩ Allowance: A deduction of the weights a horse must carry, usually due to the inexperience of the jockey.

⏩ All-Weather: It is an artificial surface used for racing during the winter and summer months. There are three different kinds: tapeta, fibresand, and polytrack.

⏩ Apprentice: A jockey in training. Trainees have a weight allowance compared to professionals.

⏩ Betting Ring: An area around the race track where the bookmakers operate.

⏩ Boxed-in: When a horse is trapped because there are other runners around it.

⏩ Bridle: The equipment used to control a horse.

⏩ Broke Down: When a runner suffers an injury during a race.

⏩ Bumper: An obstacle in National Hunt races, different to hurdles and fences.

⏩ Chase: A race that is run over fences.

⏩ Classic: Only used in the UK. Refers to the historic races where only three-year-olds can participate.

⏩ Colt: Ungelded male, younger than five years old.

⏩ Conditional race: A race where horses are given extra weights due to factors like age, previous results, sex etc.

⏩ Covered Up: When a jockey keeps a horse behind to avoid it running freely.

⏩ Dam: A horse’s mother.

⏩ Dark Horse: A horse whose capabilities are not known precisely but stands to do well in a race.

⏩ Dead-heat: When two horses finish precisely at the same time. Neither won nor lost, so odds pay half the starting price.

⏩ Dividend: The amount of money you will win from a pool bet for every $1 wagered.

⏩ Draw: The horse’s starting position in the stall (flat racing only)

⏩ Drifter: A runner whose odds increase because not many bettors back it.

⏩ Enquiry (Steward’s Enquiry): What is stewards enquiry? It is the review of the race to examine if any rules were broken.

⏩ Filly: A female for up to four years old.

⏩ Flat Racing: A race on a flat surface.

⏩ Foal: A horse less than one-year-old.

⏩ Form: It appears on the race card and contains all the horse’s latest results with numbers and figures.

⏩ Furlong: A unit that measures distance. It is equal to 220 yards (or 1/8 of a mile).

⏩ Grade: Depending on the prestige, horse races are divided into different grades. There are Grade 1, 2, and 3 races.

⏩ Gelding: A horse (male) that has been castrated.

⏩ Going: The condition that a racetrack is in. It can range from firm to heavy.

⏩ Handicap: Based on the official ratings, horses will carry extra weights. This aims at closing the gap between favourites and underdogs.

⏩ Hurdles: This is the smallest type of obstacle in jump racing. Horses will usually spend a couple of seasons in hurdles before moving on to fences.

⏩ Joint-favourite: In big fields, when two horses have the shortest odds and are far away from the competition.

⏩ Juvenile: A two-year-old horse.

⏩ Length: The distance a horse wins the race (from the horse’s head until its tale).

⏩ Listed: A race that is not a Grade.

⏩ Maiden: A horse that hasn’t won a race.

⏩ Mare: Female horses 5+ years old.

⏩ Nap: The daily picks from expert tipsters.

⏩ National Hunt: A type of racing where horses jump over hurdles. 

⏩ Non-Runner: A horse initially scheduled to run but had to withdraw.

⏩ Novice: A young horse that has already recorded a win.

⏩ Paddock: An area in the racecourse where the horses are paraded before the race.

⏩ Penalty: An extra weight (besides the handicap) added to a horse if a handicapper didn’t have a chance to reassess it after a win.

⏩ Pulled-Up: A horse that didn’t finish the race.

⏩ Rating: The official rating of a horse based on previous performances.

⏩ Rule 4: The deductions that apply to the odds in the case of a non-runner.

⏩ Racecard: Includes the daily schedule, alongside information about the horse, trainers, and jockeys.

⏩ Short Price: When the odds on a horse are below evens (2.00).

⏩ Stallion: A male horse suitable for breeding.

⏩ Starting Price: These are the prices on the horses just before the race begins.

⏩ Steeplechase: A type of horse race over fences.

⏩ Trainer: The person who trains a horse.

⏩ Trip: Refers to the distance of a race.

⏩ Unfancied: When a horse is not a favourite to win.

Main Types of Bets in Horse Racing

Apart from all the terms around horses, jockeys, trainers, and racetracks, you can also find several betting options. Like any other sport, horse racing contains a number of markets that all international and local bookmakers will provide to the users. The horse racing types of bets that you will constantly come across are:

Win: The most basic and straightforward kind. You only have to pick which horse you think is going to win the race.

Place: With so many riders running, it’s always challenging to predict which one will emerge victoriously. With place betting, you can bet on a horse to finish in the top positions in the race.

Each/Way: If you want to cover both of the types of bets above, you can place a wager on the each-way market. Half of your bet goes to the win, and the other half to the place. Click here for more info on how does each way work

Outrights: Outrights or Antepost bets are wagers you place ahead of time. For example, you can back A Plus Tard to win the Cheltenham Festival three months before the race. Even though it’s riskier, the antepost odds are usually higher, so you stand to make more money.

Different Types of Horse Bets

Besides the main ones, several online bookmakers offer players a wide variety of exotic bets as secondary options. Among the most common special types of bets in horse racing, you can find the following:

Forecast: Otherwise known as exactas, forecast bets call you to pick which horse will finish first and which second.

Quinella: With this type of wager, you must predict the top two finishers in any order.

Trifecta: A step beyond exactas, in trifecta bets (also known as tricasts), you have to pick the riders that will finish in the first, second, and third place.

Superfecta: Superfectas are exotic bets where you need to find the first four horses in the correct order.

Matched Betting: This is a rare 2-way market where you can back a horse to outrun one of its competitors. It does not need to win the race; just finish in a better position.

Win w/o the Favourite: In races with a huge favourite, you can bet on a horse to win without regarding the top runner.

What’s more, as a bettor you have to option to participate in pools. There are different types of horse bets, where all the wagers that players place are gathered together, and the winners get a certain amount for every $1 they risked:

Tote: This is particularly popular in the UK. In Tote betting (or pari-mutuel), the payout is determined by the total money wagered.

Placepot: It is a pool bet where you have to predict six horses to ‘place’ in specific races. Placepot betting is very prominent in the UK and Ireland.

Scoop 6: There are six Scoop 6 races, but instead of picking a horse to place, you have to pick six horses to win. Interestingly, if no one wins, the prize pool carries over to the next week’s races.

Why do I Need to Know all the Horse Racing Betting Terms

BMB_Book SpyIf you aim to be successful, you need to know your way around the basic and more advanced horse racing betting terms. This is not something that is up for debate. Even though it might take longer, you should pay close attention to everything around the sport, not just the race itself.

After you start feeling comfortable, it is time for the next step; creating winning systems. Luckily, we have also released a series of horse racing betting strategies, from fundamental to higher risk-higher return ones.

Q: What does each/way mean in horse racing?

This is one of the most popular wagers, where your bet is split between the win and place market. Even if your selection does not win, you can see some profits if it finishes in the top positions.

Q: Can I place antepost bets?

Outrights in horse racing offer some of the best odds. You can pick a horse to win a top event like the Cheltenham Gold Cup or the Kentucky Derby way ahead of time. However, the risk of your runner not participating is always there.

Q: Why should I know the horse racing betting terminology?

To be profitable, you must start with the basics. Understanding all the terms bookmakers will throw at you or being able to read everything on the race card are essential before building your strategies.

Q: How many race types exist?

You can find four different ones. Flat and jump racing are the most usual ones, where horses have to complete on a flat surface or overcome hurdles respectively. Alternatively, you can come across harness races, where horses are pulled by a cart and endurance races that test a runner’s stamina over big distances.

Q: What are the main types of bets in horse racing?

Bettors have a wide variety of markets at their disposal like win, place, each-way, or antepost. In addition, several online bookies offer different types of horse bets, such as exactas, trifectas, pari-mutuel bets, and more.

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