To the outsider looking in, the world of horseracing and betting may seem to be a little confusing, partially due to the raft of possibly unfamiliar terms and wealth of lingo that is used.
Newcomers certainly shouldn’t be put off though as – like many things in life – it really isn’t as complicated as it might at first appear. Hopefully our handy A-Z guide will help to shed a little light upon this rich and rewarding sport, and the betting which surrounds it.
The beloved “Acca” may be the bread and butter of football betting, but is a popular option in horseracing too. An accumulator bet is any wager containing two or more selections, where all of the winnings from the first leg are placed onto the next leg and so on. On the plus side this offers the potential of a big win for a small outlay, but on the downside, should just one of your selections lose, then the whole bet will be down. In horseracing, accumulators can be placed either win or each way.
Developed in the late 1980s in order to combat the British winter, all-weather racing takes place on a synthetic or sand-based surface which is more able to withstand the rigours of our wonderful British weather. There are currently six all-weather tracks in Britain; namely, Chelmsford, Kempton, Lingfield, Newcastle, Southwell and Wolverhampton; and one in Ireland at Dundalk.
An apprentice jockey is a flat rider who is still learning their trade. In order to compensate for their lack of experience, apprentice jockeys receive a weight allowance, which begins at 7lb and decreases to 3lb, depending upon the number of winners ridden by the jockey. A runner set to carry 9st7lb, would only actually carry 9st if ridden by an apprentice with a 7lb allowance.
An ante-post bet is a bet on a race prior to the final declarations being made. This can range from a few days before the race, to as long as a year in advance for the really big events such as the flat Classics or the big races at the Cheltenham Festival.
Ante-post betting often the advantage that you are usually able to obtain a bigger price about your fancy but, on the downside, non-runners are settled as losers, so you won’t get your money back as you would with a standard bet on the day of the race.
At The Post
The runners and riders are at the starting line in readiness for the beginning of the race.
A horse described as being “backward” may not be short on potential, but has possibly not developed as quickly as his contemporaries in terms of fitness and physical maturity.
Best Odds Guaranteed
Often abbreviated to the rather unattractive sounding (BOG), this is one racing offer not to be missed. Best odds guaranteed simply means that should you take a price about a horse, who then subsequently returns a bigger winning Starting Price, your bet will be settled at the bigger odds.
Always take a price with bookmakers offering this concession, as you have nothing to lose. This promotion is now fairly standard at the best racing bookmakers but not all online betting sites offer it.
British Horseracing Authority
The BHA is the regulatory body which runs the sport of horseracing.
Blinkers are an aid used in an effort to improve a horse’s concentration. In essence they are a hood containing eye-cups which only allow the horse to see straight in front of them, and so not become distracted by all that is going on around them. A horse wearing blinkers will have a (b) by their name on the race card. b1 signifies that the runner will be wearing blinkers for the first time and such horses can be worth watching as blinkers can sometimes bring about a marked improvement.
A National Hunt race which takes place on the flat and is used to give inexperienced horses an easy introduction.
A milder form of blinkers. Sheepskin cheekpieces allow a horse to see forwards and to the side, but not behind them. Denoted by a “p” on the racecard and again may see a horse perform far better than they have previously.
Sometimes called a claimer, this is a race in which the weights carried by the runners are determined by a price value assigned to them by their owners prior to the race. The higher the value, the higher the weight carried, and vice versa. Following the race, the runners are then available to be purchased for this pre-determined price.
The créme de la créme of the British flat racing season. The five British “Classics” are the 1000 Guineas and 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, Epsom’s Derby and Oaks and the St. Leger at Doncaster.
A male horse aged four or younger who has not been gelded.
Jumps racing’s equivalent of the apprentice jockey (see above). Conditionals can again claim a weight allowance of between 3lb and 7lbs, depending upon the number of winners they have ridden. They can also claim an additional 3lbs when riding for their main employer.
The mother of a horse, good to know so you can assess the breeding and pedigree.
The amount a winning bet returns for each £1 staked. Commonly used to describe Tote returns and sometimes used in the US, Australia and other countries where decimal odds may be favoured over fractional ones.
A bet on two selections, where the winnings from the first selection all roll on to the second selection. The simplest form of the accumulator bet, it can be placed win or each way.
The number of the starting stall assigned to each runner in a flat race. Certain tracks have a draw bias, for example at the circular Chester, where it is a big advantage to be drawn low towards the inside of the always-turning track. National Hunt races do not utilise starting stalls.
This is effectively two bets to the same stake on a horse, meaning that a £1 each way bet will cost £2 in total. The first bet is simply a bet on the horse to win and will be settled at the full odds. The second bet is a bet on the horse to be placed. This can mean anything from finishing in the first two to the first four, and sometimes more, depending upon the number of runners and type of race.
This place portion of the bet will be settled at either ¼ or ⅕ of the full odds, again depending on the number of runners and type of race. Bookmakers should always list their each way terms for a given race alongside their prices.
A price available about a horse on the day of the race. Such prices are usually offered from the opening of business up to a period around 15 minutes prior to the race start time.
Even Money or Evens are simply ways of expressing the fractional odds of 1/1 (decimal 2.0). A £1 winner at “Evs” will return a total of £2 (£1 winnings plus your £1 stake).
A tote bet which involves selecting the first and second placed finishers in the correct order in any race containing three or more runners.
Eye Shield/Eye Cover
A transparent eye guard used to keep a horse’s vision clear in the presence of kick-back (the ground being churned up from horses in front). Denoted by e/s or e/c on the race card.
The shortest priced runner in a race. Where two horses share this shortest price they are referred to as joint favourites. Three or more runners sharing the shortest price are known as co-favourites.
A female horse aged four or under.
First Past The Post
Just what it says really – the first horse to pass the winning post. The relevance of this in betting terms comes when a steward’s enquiry leads to an official result which differs from the order in which the runners cross the winning line.
This can be down to a number of factors including interference, or an incorrect weight being carried. Most major bookmakers now pay out on both the “first past the post” result, and the official result should they differ. Fairly rare but it does happen.
A term used to describe a new-born horse from the time of its birth until the 1st of January of the following year.
A bet which requires the punter to predict both the winner and the second placed finisher. Pays out at a price determined by the “Computer Straight Forecast” algorithm (dependent on the odds of the horses to win the race).
Widely referred to as “the cruellest cut of all”, gelding is the process of castrating a male horse. This is generally done in order to improve his temperament and manageability. Male horses who have undergone this procedure are henceforth referred to as “geldings”.
The runners are making their way behind the starting stalls in a flat race in order to be loaded. The race will begin imminently following this period, so be quick with those bets.
Going To Post
Simply means that the runners and riders are making their way to the race’s starting point.
A race in which the weight carried by the runners is determined by their official rating. This is a rating assigned to each runner which is designed to represent their ability. The higher a horse’s official rating, the more weight it will carry, and vice versa. Handicap races aim to level the playing field, and so create a more exciting betting heat.
Used to describe a horse’s running style. Rather than racing out in front, a runner said to be “held up” will be restrained behind the frontrunners in order to come with a late and hopefully winning run. Such a horse may be described as a “hold-up” performer.
A hood is another option to calm a nervous horse and covers their ears, padding limiting the sound of the crowd. They also slightly reduce the peripheral vision of the horse and can be useful in helping a horse cope with big crowds.
A National Hunt race restricted to horses who have taken part in a recognised hunt. Only amateur jockeys are permitted to take part in such events.
The Independent Betting Adjudication Service is a company which serves to settle any disputes between gambling companies and their customers which may arise.
A tote bet which requires the punter to select the first six winners at the designated jackpot meeting. Available daily and can unsurprisingly lead to big returns.
One of the most influential organisations in British racing, the Jockey Club owns and runs 15 racecourses in addition to the Racing Welfare charity.
Another term used to refer to the favourite in a horse race.
In all-weather racing this refers to the “kick-back” of the sand-like racing surface faced by those running in behind the pacesetters.
As in, “getting the knock back”. This refers to a bookmaker either refusing to lay your bet, or laying only part of the stake requested. Chances are you are doing something right should you run into the “knock back”.
Often used to describe winning distances. One length refers to the measurement from the tip of a (hypothetical) horse’s nose to the start of its tail.
An outsider or big priced horse.
One of the most popular bets in horseracing, the Lucky 15 consists of four selections which are combined in four singles, six doubles, four trebles and one fourfold. Lucky 31s and Lucky 63s are also available for those looking to perm five and six selections respectively.
A horse who is yet to win a race, be it on the flat or over jumps.
A female horse aged five or older.
A type of bet where two or more selections are permed into singles, doubles, trebles etc. The popular Lucky 15 and Yankee fall into the multiple bet category.
The term used to describe a horseracing tipster’s best selection of the day and originating in the card game Napoleon.
Usually written “nb”, this is the “next best” tip behind the NAP.
National Hunt Racing
Jumps racing in Britain and Ireland. Includes hurdles, chases and bumpers.
A horse initially included in the final declarations for a race, who subsequently does not run.
Non-Runner, No Bet
A special concession generally offered in the build up to major events such as the Cheltenham Fesival, whereby stakes are returned on non-runners, unlike in standard ante-post betting.
This is a great deal as you can back horses earlier, potentially at bigger odds, safe in the knowledge you won’t lose out if the horse doesn’t run. Note that some bookies offer a free bet rather than actual cash.
A handicap horse race for two year old runners.
On/Off The Bit/Bridle
A horse looking to be travelling well and not under any serious pressure or being encouraged by the jockey is said to be “on the bit”. Conversely, a horse not looking to be travelling particularly well, and possibly being vigorously ridden, is said to be “off the bit”, or “off the bridle”.
This is the betting facility provided by the bookmakers in the betting ring at the racetrack itself. An average of the prices offered by these firms determines the starting price (SP) for all runners in Britain and Ireland.
On The Nose
A bet “on the nose”, is a term used to refer to a straight win bet, as opposed to an each way wager.
Over The Top
This is used to describe a runner whose best days may be behind him – at least for the current season. Such animals are generally in need of a break.
The top of the pile in terms of racing classifications. On the flat, Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3 contests make up the pattern. Over jumps it is the Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3 contests which fall under the pattern umbrella.
An additional amount of weight to be carried by a horse in a race, usually due to the horse having won a race since the weights for the race in question were announced.
A finish to a horse race which is so close that it often isn’t clear to the naked eye who has won. In such instances a photograph taken on the winning post is examined in order to determine who did in fact come home in front.
This popular tote wager requires punters to select a runner to be at least placed in each of the first six races of a meeting.
Another tote bet, this operates in exactly the same manner as a placepot, but requires the punter to select a runner to be placed in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth races on a card.
An on-course bookmaker who operates along the rails which separate the different enclosures at the track.
A bet on two named runners to finish first and second, but in either order. This is effectively two bets i.e. a £1 reverse forecast would cost £2 in total.
One of the least favourite rules for the punter. The rule 4 is a deduction which is applied to winnings, in the event that a horse is withdrawn from a race between the time that a punter takes a price and the race actually taking place.
Should the horse be withdrawn at a very late stage, meaning a new market cannot be formed, Rule 4 deductions will then also apply to bets placed at SP. Rule 4 only applies to day of the race betting; ante-post bets are exempt. The level of the deduction varies according to the odds of the withdrawn horse or horses.
A horse said to have “run free” or be “running freely” is generally doing as he likes and not racing at a pace suitable to the distance of the race. Such runners tend to overexert themselves in the early stages before paying the price later.
A horse who either fails to take the proper course or neglects to jump a particular obstacle is said to have “run out” and is disqualified.
A generally low grade race in which the winner is offered for public auction immediately after the race, and the other runners in the field can be claimed for a price specified prior to the off.
This is the price which is currently on offer from the on-course bookmakers in the immediate build up to the race. These prices are transmitted to betting shops and websites, providing punters with the option of accepting the price currently on “show”, or taking the Starting Price instead. Which option to take is largely a matter of judgement, with show prices often fluctuating significantly in the build up to a race.
The simplest of all bets. One bet on one horse in one race. Can be placed to win or each way.
The father of a horse. As with the dam, good to know as an indication of what to expect from the progeny.
Unless otherwise stated all bets will be settled at the Starting Price (SP). The Starting Price is the average price available in the betting ring at the track, at the time the race begins.
This is an investigation into the result of a horse race by the stewards at the track. This investigation is usually called as a result of a perceived breach of the rules of racing, be it due to interference or otherwise. The stewards have the power to amend the result of the race should they deem the breach to be of sufficient severity.
An aid which keeps the tongue in place under the bit – used to assist with both the control and breathing of a horse.
The Tote is British and Irish Racing’s biggest Pool Betting operator. Unlike in fixed odds – where bets are settled either at the price taken or SP – in tote betting, all of the money staked goes into a “pool” which is then equally divided amongst the winning stakes – minus a percentage cut for the operator of course. Tote returns are always quoted as dividends i.e. the total amount returned to a £1 stake.
An accumulator bet containing three selections.
This bet is the next level up from a forecast, requiring the bettor to predict the first, second and third in the correct order. Only available on handicap races containing eight or more runners. In common with forecast bets, tricast returns are calculated using a rather complicated mathematical formula based on the odds of the selected horses.
The distance of a race.
Under Starters Orders
The race is about to begin. The horses are either all in the starting stalls for a flat race, or lined up at the starting line in a National Hunt contest.
A widely used phrase in racing. A good value bet is effectively a bet where the chances of the horse winning are better than the odds available would imply.
Another aide to a horse’s concentration. Very similar to blinkers but with slits in the eye cups allowing some peripheral vision.
An invalid bet. Stakes will be retuned on single void bets. A void selection contained in a multiple will be treated as a non-runner.
A race in which there is only one runner. The remaining competitor merely has to “walk over” the finishing line in order to be declared the winner.
The weigh-in is a check that the jockey plus saddle and tack weigh the same after the race as they did before it. Effectively a check that the horse actually carried the assigned weight during the race. The result is only made official once the weigh in has been confirmed.
A popular multiple bet made up of four selections permed into six doubles, four trebles and a fourfold. Basically a Lucky 15 but without the singles.
A horse in the year following its first birthday. Note that all horses are assigned a birthday of 1st January, no matter when they were actually born.