Horse Racing Glossary of Terms

There are literally hundreds of terms that are unique to horse racing, but unless someone is a jockey or interested in breeding or training thoroughbreds, many of them are largely irrelevant. For many racing fans and casual bettors, there is a lot of racing terminology that can help them more fully understand the sport.

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Glossary of Horse Racing Terms

ACROSS THE BOARD – This is actually three separate bets to win, place, or show. The win bet only pays off if the horse comes in first place, the place bet pays for at least a second-place finish, and the show bet pays off as long as the finisher comes in third or better.


ALLOWANCE RACE- A race in which there are conditions for some entrants to carry weights different than others.


ALSO-RAN- An entrant who finishes in fourth place or worse, failing to pay off on bettors’ wagers.


BACKSTRETCH- The straight portion of the track on the opposite side from the grandstand. It’s also where the stable area is located.


BACKSIDE- Refers to the stable area of the racing facility.


BLINKERS- Piece of equipment that covers the sides of a horse’s head that limits peripheral vision and keeps them from getting distracted and swerving on the track.


BREAK MAIDEN- Refers to a horse getting their first career win. It can also apply to jockeys.


CHART- A summary of a race, including a description of field requirements, the purse breakdown, tracking of each horse’s position at points in the race, jockeys, trainers, owners, and betting payouts for all wagers taken for the contest. This is an important research tool for bettors evaluating individual performances.


CHUTE- A part of the track that extends the backstretch where the starting gate can be placed for certain lengths of races.


CLAIMING- A way to purchase a horse for a specified amount depending on the outcome of a race.


CLAIMING RACE- Races where horsed are subject to be purchased or “claimed” for a particular price.

CLUBHOUSE TURN- Usually the last turn of a race after which the horses finish in front of the clubhouse.


DAILY DOUBLE- This is a wager where the bettor picks the winner of two races in a row, many times in the first two on a card.


DISQUALIFICATION (DQ)- When a horse is cited for an infraction and their results invalidated, changing the race finishing order.


DROPDOWN- When a horse runs a race with a lower quality of competition than in recent races.


EXACTA (or PERFECTA)- A bet on horses finishing first and second in exact order.


FAST TRACK- A description of the best racing surface.


FIELD- All horses entered in the race.


FILLY- A description of female horses age four years of age and younger.


FOUR FURLONGS- A distance of a half-mile or 880 yards.


FRACTIONAL TIME- Times recorded at intervals in the race, generally at ¼ mile increments and at the head of the stretch.


FURLONG- A distance equal to 1/8 of a mile or 220 yards.


GOOD TRACK- An intermediate condition not up to fast standards.


HANDICAPPING- The act of predicting the outcome of a race by evaluating the past performances of the horses that are entered.


HEAD- A description of the distance between horses during or at the end of a race.


HEAD OF THE STRETCH- The start of the last straight portion of the race to the finish line.


IN THE MONEY- Finishes of first, second or third to pay win, place, or show bets.


INFIELD- The area that is enclosed by the track, generally an additional place for spectators to gather.


INQUIRY- A look at the race to ensure that there are no issues between horses that could change the order of finish.


JUVENILE- A horse that is two years old.


LATE DOUBLE- Some cards will offer a second daily double, generally including the last three or four races on a card.


LENGTH- A distance equal to the length of a horse, typically eight feet, that is used to describe the spread between horses.


MAIDEN- Refers to a horse that has yet to win a race.


MAIDEN RACE- A race that is open to horses that haven’t won a race.


MUDDY TRACK- A description of a track that has been saturated with water creating a less than ideal surface.


OAKS- A term used in a stakes race title for fillies.


OFFICIAL- A lighted sign on the results board that is lit when race results are finalized, after which winning bets can be cashed.


OFF TRACK- This applies to any track that is in worse condition than good, usually due to wet conditions.


ON THE BOARD- A term that refers to horses that finish in the top four in a race.


PARIMUTUEL- Wagering where the funds that are bet are divided up among all bettors after other payments are made.


PHOTO FINISH- Refers to the process of reviewing a finish so close that it needs to be reviewed using the video or photo taken at the finish line.


PICK SIX - A bet that pays off for picking the winners in six consecutive races on a card.


PLACE- A term for a second-place finish in a race.


PLACE BET- Betting on a horse to finish second or better in the race.


POLE- Literally round poles that indicate the distance from the finish of a race, usually in ¼ mile increments.


POST POSITION- The placement of a horse’s position in the starting gate, beginning with the number one closest to the rail.


POST TIME- The scheduled start of the race, usually the deadline for placing wagers.


QUARTER POLE- The pole ¼ mile from the finish line.


QUINELLA- A bet on the first two finishers in a race, in either order.


SCRATCH- When a previously announced entry is taken out of a race prior to the start.


SEVEN FURLONGS- A distance equal to 7/8 of a mile.


SHOW- A third-place finish in a race.


SHOW BET- A wager on a horse to finish third or better in the race.


SIX FURLONGS- A distance equal to ¾ of a mile.


SIXTEENTH- A distance equal to 1/16 of a mile or a half furlong.


STAKE- A race where the sponsors put up purse money that is over and above any entry fees paid by the horses’ owners. They generally refer to the most prestigious races at a track.


TRIFECTA (or TRIPLE)- A wager which pays off if the bettor picks the top three finishers in a race in exact order.


TRIPLE CROWN- A series of thoroughbred races for three-year-olds comprised of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes, usually run between the first weekend in May and the first or second Saturday in June.


TURF COURSE- Term used to describe a grass racecourse.


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