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Dictionary of Horse Racing Terms 1 


Horses all have the same birthday no matter the exact date of the foaling. This is set in order to allow the configuration of races according to age groups. The date is set as 1 January each year in the northern hemisphere.

Until 1834, the fixed date was 1 May, in line with the end of the foaling season.

The next year the official date was shifted for New market horses, to the present one, which occurs before the foaling season has properly started.

The majority of races on the flat are for two year olds only, or for three year olds only, with a fair proportion also confined to three year olds and four year olds only, or three year olds and upwards.

A horse of either sex before its first birthday is known as a foal; between that date and its next birthday it is called a yearling.

All Weather:

Not exactly All Weather in that horses still cannot race in fog. The surfaces are synthetic and the courses are currently at Lingfield, Southwell and Wolverhampton. They do provide protection against the frost.

Introduced in 1990 it was mainly aimed at offsetting the losses made by the Levy, which were being caused by the canceling of race meeting through the winter periods.

There was a problem early on with the number of horses killed during hurdles races, but since then it has become well established and has its own set of followers and advocates.

The performances are generally not as good as on turf, but some horses really appear to do well on it.

The surface at Lingfield is made up of hard graded sand which is then covered by a polymer and this produces a sort of cushioning effect. It is known as Equitrack and allows water to run off of it, as oppose to more traditional All Weather surfaces which allow rainwater to run through them.

Ante post betting:

This is a type of betting which occurs days, weeks or months before a big race, as oppose to the traditional sort of betting which takes place only in the few hours before a race.

There have been various suggestions for the origins of the term, but when one looks at early pictures and studies the history of races, one can see that bets were usually struck on New market Heath around what can only be described as "Betting Posts".

So, to transpose one could say that betting "ante-post" was to make a bet similarly as one would today but before the normal betting which occurs in the few hours before a race.

The sort of races that generate a lot of betting pre race are the big races, the classics, for example the spring and autumn doubles, or the real classics like the Grand National and the Ascot week, big festivals at Goodwood, York, Cheltenham.

Bookmakers put up their prices long before these events and they attract plenty of trade.

With some races such as the Derby or the Guineas, wagers are made up to a year before the race itself. A large attraction is that the odds available can be much longer than what is offered on the day.

It seems however that even though ante-post betting is beneficial to punters, bookmakers still find it a profitable form of betting to employ, despite the losses, otherwise they would not do it.

A new form of ante post betting is where bookmakers offer "early prices" on the day of a big race. Like the more traditional ante post betting the attraction appears to be that a lot of these "early prices" are longer than what are available immediately before the race.

This has given rise to a new form of betting known as arbitrage, whereby, utilizing the lay facilities of Betfair, early back prices can be taken with online bookmakers offering longer odds, and then laid off on the betting exchanges as the price contracts in the immediate pre race offering a risk free bet which can then be greened up.

This strategy tends to work only with strong favorites but can be quite profitable. It's a little slow for me.

Apprentice allowance:

Jockeys who have ridden fewer winners are allowed a weight allowance to compensate for their lack of experience. This weight is then removed from the total weight a horse is set to carry in a handicap, except in races which are allocated for apprentices only.

In big handicaps trainers are always on the lookout for talented apprentice jockeys, because they can give a horse a huge advantage. Their inexperience is more than offset by their weight allowance.

They do not do particularly well against senior jockeys on courses that are tricky to negotiate and require a certain level of experience and skill. Race meets at Epsom or Ascot and Goodwood never appear to be great hunting grounds for apprentices.

At the post:

When a horse arrives at the point from which the race is set to be started then the horse is said to be "At the Post"

Auction race:

These races are reserved for two year olds only where they have never yet won a race. They are bought as one year olds from a set of specific public auctions.

Bad Legs:

Bad Legs are a very common condition amongst racehorses. To really get to grips with what is involved when training a horse in preparation to race, we should make a comparison with the process that is undergone when training human athletes.

For example, what might have happened if Seb Coe had tried to run in the 100m? Did you ever see Seb Coe turning up on the track without his tracksuit on, or would he have raced if he had badly injured his legs?

Horses exactly like humans have distances that they favor and are competitive at, and this is very important in deciding how a horse will fare in a race against the competition.

When sweating up before or after a race, horses have blankets thrown over them because just as humans pull muscles, strain tendons and in severe cases pull up during a race, so do horses.

Trainers get really anxious about a horses forelegs. It is these in particular that take a great deal of punishment during a race, and especially when jumping fences or when the ground is very hard.

Sometimes the condition "bad legs" can be put down to being inherited, and often it can be protected against by wearing bandages on the forelegs to provide additional support.

Betting on the rails:

Bookmakers are not allowed to make a book in the member's enclosure on racecourses. Many of the annual members or those who pay on the day to enter the members enclosure, do obviously want to have a bet, so to get around this problem bookmakers set up pitches right next to the rails that separate members from Tattersalls ring. A lot of business on the rails is done on credit, but cash is usually also taken

Rails bookmakers are essential to the price shifts in a market, but they are no longer able to control the movements exclusively. This is because 90% of betting today takes place off course. The balance of power has been disrupted by the Betting Exchanges, such as Betfair and Betdaq. Rails Bookmakers have their own association, and are generally considered to be at the top end of the market.

Solid support for a given betting shop horse will force the price down on the racecourse as the money for it filters through to the racecourse, and in particular the rails by telephone by tic tac, and now by wireless computer networks. Instantly the shorter price is relayed to the other betting rings on the course.

The interaction between the 3 main betting sources nowadays includes Betting shops, the Betting Ring and the Betting Exchanges. The use of live websites and Satellite Information Services enables these 3 sources to interact simultaneously, and the experienced trader will have to establish the delicate balance between these 3 sources to succeed at his trade.

Betting ring:

Betting Rings on a racecourse are the enclosures where the betting actually takes place. In Tattersalls ring, the admission charge covers admission to the lesser rated silver ring and also the paddock. The silver ring is named due to the coinage that bookmakers used to accept here. On some courses there isn't a silver ring anymore. Betting on the course occurs in areas of the racecourse with free admission and is known as surprisingly enough "Betting on the Course"

Betting shop:

Since the boom of the sixties when they were first legalized, the number of betting shops has been in steady decline to about 8000 today.

Between 1st April and 31st August betting shops are now allowed to stay open until 10pm. But it wasn't till 1993 that the law was altered to allow this, so that punters could bet on evening races.

Betting shop technology has improved beyond recognition in recent years, with Satellite Information Services (SIS) now available on banks of screens in the betting shops giving all the latest prices and running commentaries

Black type:

Once successful in a listed or pattern race a horse is then said to have gained "black type". This means basically that in order to indicate the horses relevance as breeding stock, the horses name appears in black bold type in the bloodstock sales magazines.

If a horse finishes below third in any of these races it is no longer entitled to black type.


Basically a hood which fits over the head of the horse with shields at the eye holes to diminish the horse's peripheral vision. The idea is that this concentrates the horse's attention ahead by reducing what it might be able to see on either side.

It's always worth noting when a horse first wears blinkers and this will be advertised on the better race cards and often in the racing press. It can sometimes result in a notable improvement in a horses running, but it should not be considered as an antidote to poor form.

Blinkers are more common these days and no longer carry the reputation as being a signature for a horse of poor character. There may well be horses that are less reliable that wear blinkers, but there are more frequently horses whose performance is simply improved by wearing them

Racing Post and Timeform give their view as to whether a horse is genuine, and will advise on whether or not blinkers will improve their chances. Conversely a good tip towards a horse's true capabilities can be if after being tried in blinkers, the horse races next time without them.

A visor is created by taking a pair of blinkers and cutting a slit in the eye shield to give the horse a degree of peripheral vision. This may allow the horses that are running at the side to be seen. A hood covers the ears while leaving the eyes full vision. This is used for horses that are affected by too much noise.

Hood and visor use should be indicated on race cards and in the better racing press.

Blow up:

"Went like a bomb" is not a related term (for those with a sense of humor).

This term refers to a horse which in the home straight simply falls out of contention after running a good race up till that point. Very frustrating for the losing punter. Sometimes referred to as "Stopping to nothing".


There are several subdivisions of bookmaker:

 - Some operate spread betting services

 - Some operate a telephone credit service or postal betting service

 - Some operate betting shops off-course

 - Some make a book on the racecourse

Bigger bookmakers will offer two or three of the above activities. At the racecourse bets are agreed with the backer at starting price, and are settled at the quoted price.

Bookmakers activities on or off the course are determined by what is occurring in the market on the racecourse.

Immediately before a race, a betting market is formed. The total amount of money being wagered on a horse causes the price to move up and down.

Significant larger amounts, are signaled by tic tac between the rails, Tattersalls, the silver ring and bookmakers out on the course itself.

The level of this fluctuation within the market depends largely upon the strength of the market.

In the early stage of a betting market being formed, the prices are not generally decided by the amount of money wagered, but rather on what the larger Tattersalls board operators think the price of each horse should be.

Very often the early prices available are somewhat shorter than they should be.

Before the war, the true market price was generally dictated by money on the course, often provided by the bigger backers and professionals, commission agents acting on behalf of others such as trainers and owners, or the owners themselves.

Since the 1960's there has been an explosion in off-course betting which has considerably changed how the markets function. It's unheard of nowadays for an owner to go to the rails, command a price about a horse, and so affect the market accordingly.

More money is wagered off-course than on-course nowadays, information regarding these bets is transmitted by phone, and online via the internet to tic tac's acting for big bookmakers. The on-course market now reacts within seconds.

Off-course money is often referred to as "Office Money".

Where big bets are placed off-course affecting the market about a horse, this horse is known in the ring as a "betting shop horse"

This concept is crucial to understanding trading on the Betting Exchanges.

It is now the Betting Exchanges and the Betting Shops themselves which affect prices on the course. Not the other way around.

Data from online bookies and live on-course feeds can be used to confirm price movement data, but should not be used to predict it.

Most of the heavy betting nowadays is coming into the market via Betfair and Betdaq.

During the pre-race market, money coming in for a horse will either reinforce the bookmaker's opinion or go against it; prices alter accordingly with supply and demand.

Watching and learning from the market is crucial to your performance on the exchanges. The market is your bible in respect of what you should or should not back.

Following the market on the course is actually more difficult than off-course nowadays with bookmakers erasing prices and overwriting them as they change. The prices are visible on the boards at the course and the major action is in the 10 minutes prior to the off.

On the exchanges and top websites, or in the betting shop, following the market is made really easy with television, videos and streaming online media.

In the shops and online the major price moves are backed up with commentary and text regarding the likely causes of price moves.

Weak and Strong Markets:

The strongest betting markets of the year are provided by the Cheltenham festival for National Hunt racing and Royal Ascot on the flat.

Less patronized courses where the racing is poor or trainers are "testing" provide considerably weaker markets.

In a weak market a few hundred pounds can causes a price to move dramatically, whereas in a strong market, tens of thousands of pounds would not move the market at all. This should be noted carefully if trying to move a price on an exchange, a tactic reserved only for real experienced punters

Conversations with Victor Chandler in 1999 revealed some fascinating observations and changes within the betting arena.

"The racecourse punter has never had it so good. To be a punter now is heaven. With no expenses, being a professional punter compared to a bookmaker has to be the best choice" he said.

Chandler continued: "at the Cheltenham meeting last Sunday we did a survey and asked people whether they bet at the races.

Only 37% said yes. The rest either don't bet or bet in small sums with the tote."

Victor continues "That confirms that the culture of racing has changed. My on-course business has been decimated in the last two years. For example three or four years ago at the Eclipse meeting at Sandown, we took 200,000 on the big race.

Last year we took £8000...on Sundays, you see an enormous number of prams they are not our punters."

The on-course bookie is doing less and less business nowadays, however the prices paid for pitches at the auctions is still considerable, demonstrating that they are a long way from going bust.

Box walker

A horse who is unsettled and walks round and round its box. The horse can begin to lose weight and become hard to train. The horse is often found to need a companion and is often given a goat.

Breeze up

When horses are allowed to "breeze up" along a racecourse for a few furlongs in view of prospective buyers for the purposes of bloodstock resale. This gives buyers a better look at a horse as oppose to the conventional method of just being led around the sale ring.

British Horse Racing Board

The administrative and governing body of racing. It came into existence in June 1993 and effectively took over control from the Jockey Club.

This marked a significant watershed in British racing history and provided a much needed shake-up of the existing power base within racing that had been in place for over 200 years.

Racing now had an accountable, democratic, representative governing authority, so giving the industry an executive role in shaping its own future.

The BHB's principle responsibilities include:

-  planning strategy and policy within racing;

-  improving the financial position of racing;

-  representing racing in dealings with government;

-  the fixture list;

-  race planning, including the supervision of race programs and the employment of handicappers;

-  marketing and promotion of racing;

-  nominating racing's representatives on the horse race bettings levy board;

-  liaison with the betting industry;

-  encouraging and fostering breeding of bloodstock;

-  collection and control of funds required for the administration of racing, including those required by the jockey club for the protection of the sport's integrity;

-  the development and maintenance of programs of training and education within racing;

-  the contract under which Weatherbys supply administrative services to racing.

The principal aim of the BHB is to provide leadership towards putting British racing back on a firm financial footing.

In order to do this the BHB must aim to ensure that racing uses its resources efficiently, maximizes income from outside racing and has a single clear voice when airing its views to parliament, the press, amongst the BHB, members and representatives of the racecourse association, the Jockey Club, race horse owners association, thoroughbred breeders association, and industry committee's.

Bumping and boring

Towards the latter stages of a race when the horses are tiring, a jockey may find his horse veering off the straight i.e. "bumping" and "boring" other horses off their original course. Naturally this is unfortunate for an opponent and in certain cases may prevent a horse wining a race.

There are frequent objections when this happens from the losing rider.

In cases of bumping and boring there will usually be a steward's inquiry. Evidence will be taken from film provided by the camera patrol and the video re-run.

By and out of

Relates to the parentage of a given horse. i.e. a horse is described as being "by a sire" (stallion), or "out of" the dam (mare). The origin will usually be indicated in pen in brackets giving the name of the stallion.

Example: Commander in Chief by Dancing Brave out of Slightly Dangerous.