Your Complete Guide to Horseracing Jargon, Phrases and Language

27th January 2020

In this blog we explain some of the horseracing jargon, phrases and language that you may come across during a glorious day out at Goodwood Racecourse.


Explaining Horse Racing Betting Terms

What is a bookmaker?

A person or company who accepts your bets on a race day, shortened to ‘bookie’.

What does 15/8, 9/4 and 17/2 mean?

These fractions are used in racing when /1 is not precise enough. 15/8 is slightly smaller than 2/1, whilst 9/4 is slightly bigger and 15/2 is 7.5/1. You can work these out by converting them to decimals, simply dividing the first number by the second.

How do I work out how much money I have won?

Although most bookmakers provide that information on your slip, you can work out your winnings by dividing the first number by the second and then multiplying by the amount of money you put on. If you put £10 on a horse at 5/1, you would win £50 and get back your initial £10 on top (£60 returned). If you put £5 on a horse at 9/4, you would win £11.25 plus your £5 (£16.25 returned).

What happens when there’s a non-runner?

The horse did not take part in the race, so any bets (apart from ante-post bets) on that horse will be refunded.

What is a length?

A 'length' is the length of a racehorse from nose to tail. It is a unit of distance used to measure how far in front one horse is from another.

What does a 'nose', 'neck' or 'head' mean?

They are unit of distances smaller than a length, equivalent to the length of the appropriate body part.

What does SP mean?

It is the starting price - the odds a horse was at before the race began. Unless you took a price before, these are the odds you will be paid out on.

What does each-way or ew mean?

Each-way means you are splitting your bet in half, where one half is all about winning, but the other half is focused on placing (finishing 2nd, 3rd, and sometimes 4th). This increases your chance of getting money back, but means if your horse does win, you win less than if you had just bet ‘on the nose’ (to win). Whilst the first half to win remains the same, the other place half of your bet is divided by the bookmaker at a fraction of the odds (usually a quarter or a fifth). If your horse wins, you get the win part as well as the place part, but if the horse places you just get the place part.

How do I know how many places there are?

It depends on how many runners there are. 1-4 runners mean you will only win money if you pick the winner, 5-8 runners mean there are 2 places, 8-15 runners give you 3 places, and handicaps with runners of 16 or more will give you 4 places.


What does nap mean

Tipsters call their best bet their 'nap', to signify the bet they are most confident about.

What is an accumulator?

It is a bet involving multiple horses. If all the horses win, the payout is much larger than just one bet on one horse. A double, treble, fourfold, fivefold and higher are all popular accumulators.

What does ante-post mean?

These are bets placed long before the actual race day, with bookmakers usually offering bigger odds. However, they are subject to different rules such as no refunds if your horse is a non-runner, but conversely no Rule 4 (see below) if other horses don’t run. It is always worth checking whether your bet was placed under ante-post rules.

What does bar mean?

A phrase to signify ‘the rest’, after the top few in the betting. Any horse not mentioned by name therefore means it is at a bigger equal to, or bigger than bar.

What is a Rule 4?

If there is an important non-runner after you place your bet, your bet will be subject to a Rule 4 and not receive as much money back as you’d expect to if you win. The shorter the price of that non-runner, the more affected you will be. This is because the race has changed since you took your price. Ante-post bets are not affected.

What is a dead heat?

This is when the judge cannot split two horses across the line, even by a nose. Therefore, both are declared winners and both are paid half (including in betting). The next horse is placed third.

What is a forecast or tricast?

A forecast is when you pick two horses to come 1st and 2nd, whilst a tricast is when you pick three horses to come 1st, 2nd and 3rd. If you don’t want to be specific about which order each horse will come in, you must select ‘reverse forecast’ or ‘combination tricast’, but these do mean you will spend more money or lower your stake.

What is a Trixie?

A Trixie is the selection of three horses that make up into four bets; three doubles and one treble.

What is a Yankee?

A Yankee is the selection of four horses that make up into eleven bets; six doubles, four trebles and one fourfold.

What is a placepot?

A placepot can be bet via the Tote. You must select a horse to place in the first six races at the racecourse. The pay-out is a pool, so it is dependent on how other people selected their horses; your return is likely to be much greater on big race days and when no favourites place.


Explaining Form Terms

What is a racecard?

This is the essential partner to a day at the races, much like a programme at other events. It has all the race form, details of the course and extra information. You can pick them up from racecard huts at Goodwood Racecourse.

What does C & D mean in a racecard?

C means a horse has won at the course, while D means it has won at the distance. When the letters are close together, CD, it has won over this distance at this course.

What does BF mean in a racecard?

This horse was a beaten favourite, so it didn’t win but was fancied to do so, on their last run.

What does D or DQ mean?

This horse was disqualified. It must have gained an advantage somehow, for example by impeding and stopping another horse from winning during the race.

What does P, F or U in a racecard mean?

P = Pulled up (the jockey stopped the horse from finishing, usually if it had no chance of winning or if something had gone wrong)

F = Fell (the horse fell and parted company with the jockey)

U = Unseated rider (the horse didn’t fall but they still caused the jockey to fall off)

B = Brought down (another horse brought the horse to fall through no fault of their own)


Explaining Racing Terms

What is a handicap?

A common type of race where horses carry different weights depending on their overall rating; better horses carry more weight than their lesser rivals in the hope that this gives all entrants an equal chance of winning.

What is a furlong?

A furlong is around 200 metres, and 8 furlongs make up a mile. For example, a 12 furlong race is a mile-and-a-half.

What is the difference between all-weather, national hunt and flat?

All-weather racing is flat racing (without jumps) on an artificial surface and only a few racecourses have these surfaces. National hunt racing is another way of saying jump racing, where horses race over obstacles, whereas flat racing is without jumps!

What is an apprentice?

An apprentice (or in jump racing, conditional), is an inexperienced jockey who is learning their trade. They will only have had a certain number of winners and as a result get a weight allowance when they ride. In a racecard, if a jockey has (7), (5), or (3) after their name, they are an apprentice and they take off that amount in pounds off a horse’s overall weight. If a horse is carrying 9 stone 5 pounds and the jockey is J Andrews (3), the horse only carries 9 stone 2 pounds.


What are the rails?

The rails are the white structures around the course that keep the course on track. They are made of amenable plastic which will move if hit by a horse, in the interest of safety for both horse and rider.

How does the draw affect a horse?

At some racecourses it can very important to be drawn in a certain place. If the race starts on a bend having a wide draw means covering extra distance, while on some courses the ground is perceived as better in one place than another.

What is the judge?

The judge confirms the result after the race has finished, they are the first voice you hear after the race commentator.

What is the going?

Also known as the ground, it explains what condition the track is in. ‘Firm’ is the hardest track, and favoured for speedy flat racing, while ‘heavy’ is the softest track and most likely seen in jumps racing. ‘Good’ is the mid-point between these two.

What does on the bit/bridle mean?

This term is used to explain a horse traveling well, with the jockey sat motionless in the saddle. Inversely, ‘off’ the bit or bridle means the horse is being pushed along by the jockey and possibly struggling.

What is a bit?

A bit is the piece of metal that goes through a horse’s mouth to aid the jockey-horse communication.

What is a bridle?

The equipment around a horse’s head that connects the bit with the jockey’s hands.

What does spread a plate mean?

The horse’s metal shoe, or ‘plate’, has come off.

Who are the Stewards?

The Stewards are there to ensure the rules of racing are complied with at all times.

What is a Stewards’ Enquiry?

The Stewards have decided that the result may need looking into, due to interference or another problem that may have caused one horse to gain an unfair advantage. On a racecourse, this is publicised with a tannoy announcement.

What is a walkover?

When only one horse turns up, it is declared a walkover and no betting takes place. The horse does however have to prove its wellbeing by trotting a furlong to claim its winnings.

What does at the post mean?

The horses have arrived at the start.

What is Group racing?

These are the best, most valuable, and most desired races to win in the world, starting with Group 1 down to Group 3.

What is a Listed race?

These races are the step below Group races, but are still considered ‘black type’ races.

What is a black-type race?

They are the best races, and include any race prefixed as Listed or Group (or Grade for jump racing). The term ‘black-type’ is a reference to sales catalogues; horses that have won or placed in these races are displayed in bold.


Explaining Horse Terms

What is a colt, gelding, filly and mare?

A colt is a young male horse aged 2-4.

A gelding is any male horse that had been castrated.

A filly is a young female horse aged 2-4, whilst a mare is any female horse 5+.

What is a yearling?

A horse that is a year old and is too young to race.

Why are all horses born on January 1?

Unsurprisingly, not all horses are actually born on this day! Foaling usually occurs from January to May. This is a standardisation the industry uses to put horses into age brackets, so any horse born in the same year will be classed as being the same age.

What are a dam and sire?

The dam is a horse’s mother, while sire is the horse’s father.

What does ‘green’ mean?

This term describes a horse that is unexperienced and is showing it, possibly by running across the track and not understanding the jockey’s communication.

What are guineas?

Guineas are an old form of currency still used in some sales rings to buy horses. It is £1.05 to the British pound.

Why aren’t there any white horses?

There are a small number of racehorses considered white, but most are officially ‘grey’ as they are not white enough. Grey horses do become whiter as they age, however.

What are cheekpieces, blinkers and hoods?

These are all pieces of tack that help keep a horse focused.

Cheekpieces are the fluffy pieces of fabric either side of a horse’s ears or, for ‘cheekpiece nosebands,' on its nose.

Blinkers are devices that cover part of the horse’s vision, focusing the horse’s attention forward rather than around.

Usually used on horses that find crowds or different environments difficult, a hood covers a horse’s ears to reduce outside noise. Some trainers use earplugs instead for an even stronger effect.

What is a tongue-tie?

This piece of equipment primarily helps the jockey maintain control over a horse, but also helps the horse breathe. It prevents the horse from putting their tongue over the bit, which could make them difficult to control.

Put your new knowledge to the test and explore one of our 2020 racedays, click below to explore out fixture list.




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