Horse Racing Dictionary


Across the board: A bet on a horse to win, place and show. If the horse wins, the player collects three ways; if second, two ways; and if third, one way, losing the win and place bets.
All out: A horse who is trying to the best of his ability.
Also-eligible: A horse entered in the race but who cannot start unless another horse is scratched.
Also-ran: A horse who finishes out of the money.


Backstretch: The straight way on the far side of the track.
Bearing in (or out): Failing to maintain a straight course, veering to the left or right. Can be caused by injury, fatigue, outside distractions, or poor riding.
Blanket finish: When the horses finish so close for the win you could theoretically put a single blanket across them.
Blinkers: Equipment worn on the bridle to restrict a horse's vision on the sides to help maintain attention and avoid distractions.
Blowout: A short fast workout, usually a day or two before a race, designed to sharpen a horse's speed.
Board: The tote board on which odds, betting pools and other race information is displayed.
Bobble: A bad step away from the starting gate, sometimes caused by the ground breaking away from under a horse and causing him to duck his head or go to his knees.
Bolt: Sudden veering from a straight course.
Breakage: In pari-mutuel payoffs which are rounded out to a nickel or dime, those pennies that are left over. Breakage is generally split between the track and state and, in some cases, breeding or other funds, in varying proportions.
Breeze: Working a horse at a moderate speed; less effort than handily.
Bullet work: The best workout time for the distance on a given day at a track.
Bull ring: Small racetrack less than one mile around.
Bute: Phenylbutazone a commonly used analgesic for horses.


Caulk: Projection on the bottom of a shoe to give the horse better traction, especially on a wet track.
Chalk horse: Odds-on-favorite or top choice to succeed.
Checked: A horse pulled up by his jockey for an instant because he is cut off or in tight quarters.
Chute: Extension of the backstretch or homestretch to allow a longer straight run at the start.
Closer: A horse who runs best in the latter part of the race, coming from off the pace.
Clubhouse turn: Generally the turn immediately after the finish line and closest to the clubhouse.
Colors: Racing silks, the jacket and cap worn by jockeys. Silks can be generic and provided by the track or specific to one owner.
Colt: Male horse under 5 years of age.
Coupled: Two or more horses running as an entry in a single betting unit.
Cuppy: A track surface which breaks away under a horse's hoof.


Daily double: Type of wager calling for the selection of winners of two consecutive races, usually the first and second.
Dam: Mother of a Thoroughbred
Dead-heat: Two or more horses finishing in an exact tie at the finish.
Dead track: Racing surface lacking resiliency.
Distanced: Well beaten, finishing a long distance behind the winner.
Dogs: Wooden barrier (or rubber traffic cones) placed a certain distance out from the inner rail, to protect the inner part of the track (usually the turf course) from traffic during workouts to save it for racing.
Driving: Strong urging by rider.


Eased: The jockey stops the horse during the race so he can't finish, usually due to an injury or equipment problem.
Easily: Running or winning without being pressed by the jockey or opposition.
Entry: Two or more horses owned by the same stable or (in some cases) trained by the same trainer and running as a single betting unit.
Evenly: Neither gaining nor losing position or distance during a race.
Exacta (or perfecta): A wager in which the first two finishers in a race, in exact order of finish, must be picked.
Extended: Forced to run at top speed.


Faltered: Used for a horse that was in contention early and drops back in the late stages. It is more drastic than weakened but less drastic than stopped.
Fast track: The optimum condition for a dirt track, dry, fast and even.
Field horse (or mutuel field): Two or more starters running as a single betting unit, when there are more entrants than positions on the totalisator board can accommodate.
Filly: Female horse up to and including the age of 4.
Firm: A optimum condition for a turf course corresponding to fast on a dirt track.
First turn: Bend in the track beyond the starting point.
Flatten out: When a horse drops his head almost on straight line with body, generally from exhaustion.
Foal: Newly born Thoroughbred, or until weaned. Male or female.
Front-runner: A horse who usually leads (or tries to lead) the field for as far as he can.
Furlong: One-eighth of a mile; 220 yards; 660 feet.
Furosemide: Lasix, the medication used to treat of bleeders.


Gelding: Castrated male horse.
Good track: Condition between fast and slow, generally a bit wet.
Graduate: Winning for the first time.
Granddam (second dam): Grandmother of a horse.
Grandsire: Grandfather of a horse, sire of the horse's dam.


Half: Half a mile, four furlongs; 880 yards; 2,640 feet.
Half-brother, half-sister: Horses out of the same dam but by different sires.
Handily: Working or racing with moderate effort, but more effort than breezing.
Hand ride: The jockey urges a horse with the hands and arms without using the whip.
Head of the stretch: Beginning of the straight run for the finish.
Heavy: Condition of track when wet similar to muddy but slower.
Homebred: A horse bred by his owner.
Hung: A horse holding the same position, unable to make up distance on the winner.


Impost: Weight carried or assigned.
In hand: Running under moderate control, at less than best pace.
In the money: Finishing first, second or third.
Inquiry: Reviewing the race to check into a possible infraction of the rules. Also, a sign flashed by officials on tote board on such occasions.


Juvenile: Two-year-old horse.


Lasix: See furosemide.
Length: Length of a horse from nose to tail, about 8 feet.
Lock: Slang for a "sure thing" winner.
Lug (in or out): Action of a tiring horse, bearing in or out, failing to keep a straight course.


Mare: Female horse 5 years old or older. Also, female of any age who has been bred.
Minus pool: A mutuel pool caused when one horse is so heavily played that, after deductions of state tax and commission, there is not enough money left to pay the legally prescribed minimum on each winning bet. The racing association usually makes up the difference.
Morning glory: Horse who performs well in morning workouts but fails to fire in actual races.
Morning line: Approximate odds quoted before wagering begins.
Muddy: Deep condition of racetrack after being soaked with water. Horses who run will on wet tracks are generally referred to as mudders.


Neck: Unit of measurement, about the length of a horse's neck; a quarter of a length.
Nose: Smallest advantage a horse can win by. In England called a short head.


Objection: Claim of foul lodged by rider, patrol judge or other official. If lodged by official, it is called an inquiry.
Odds-on: Odds of less than even money. In England it is simply called "on," thus a horse "5-4 on" is actually at odds of 4-5.
Official: Sign displayed when result is confirmed. Also racing official.
On the bit: When a horse is eager to run.
On the nose: Betting a horse to win only.
Overlay: A horse going off at a higher price than he appears to warrant based on his past performances.
Overweight: Surplus weight carried by a horse when the rider cannot make the assigned weight.


Paddock: Area where horses are saddled and kept before post time.
Pasteboard track: Lightning fast racing strip.
Photo finish: A result so close it is necessary to use a finish-line camera to determine order of finish.
Pick six (or more): A type of wager in which the winners of all the included races must be selected.
Place: Second position at finish.
Place bet: Wager on a horse to finish first or second.
Pole: Markers at measured distances around the track, marking the distance from the finish. The quarter pole, for instance, is a quarter of a mile from the finish, not from the start.
Post: Starting point or position in starting gate.
Pool: Mutuel pool, the total sum bet on a race or a particular bet.
Post parade: Horses going from paddock to starting gate past the stands.
Post position: Position of stall in starting gate from which a horse starts.
Post time: Designated time for a race to start.


Quarter horse: Breed of horse especially fast for a quarter of a mile, from which its name is derived.
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.


Ridden out: Finishing a race without rider urging him to do his utmost.


Saddle cloth: Cloth under the saddle on which number denoting post position is displayed.
Scale of weights: Fixed weights to be carried by horses in a race according to age, distance, sex, and time of year.
Scratch: To be taken out of a race.
Shadow roll: Usually a lamb's wool roll half way up the horse's face to keep him from seeing his own shadow.
Show: Third position at the finish.
Show bet: Wager on a horse to finish in the money; third or better.
Silks: See colors.
Sire: Father of a horse.
Sloppy: A track that is wet on surface with firm bottom.
Slow: A track with some moisture in it that is not fast, between good and heavy.
Sophomore: Three-year-old horse.
Starting gate: Mechanical device with stalls for horses to stand in until the starter releases the doors in front to begin the race.
Steadied: A horse being taken in hand by his rider, usually because of being in close quarters.
Stick: A jockey's whip, also called a bat.
Stickers: Calks on shoes which give a horse better traction in mud or on soft tracks.
Straight: Betting to win only.
Stretch: Final straight portion of the racetrack to the finish.
Stretch runner: Horse who finishes fast in the stretch.
Stretch turn: Bend of track into homestretch.
Stud: Male horse used for breeding. Also breeding farm.


Take (or takeout): Commission deducted from mutuel pools which is shared by the track and local and state governing bodies in the form of tax.
Taken up: A horse pulled up sharply by his rider because of being in close quarters.
Tongue strap or tie: Cloth or rubber strap used to tie down a horse's tongue to prevent it from choking in a race or workout.
Tout: Person who professes to have, and sells, advance information on a race.
Track record: Fastest time for a distance at a particular track.
Trifecta (or triple): A wager picking the first three finishers in exact order.
Turf course: Grass course.


Under wraps: Horse under stout restraint in a race or workout.
Underlay: A horse racing at longer odds than he should.


Warming up: Galloping horse on way to post.
Washy: Horse breaking out in nervous sweat before race, sometimes to the point it will be dripping from his belly.
Whip: Instrument, usually of leather, with which rider strikes horse to increase his speed.
Win: Cross the finish line first.
Win bet: Wager on a horse to finish first.


Yearling: Thoroughbred between the first New Year's Day after being foaled and the following January 1.