FAQs & Terminology

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Horse Terminology – Types of Horse Races

Derby: A stakes for three-year-old horses, held normally over the classic distance of 2400m
Furlong: Approx 200 metres
Guineas: A stakes for three-year-old horses, held normally over the distance of 1600m
Group Races (Black Type Races):The best horse races in the country, which are decided by the Australian Racing Board. There are four types of Black Type races: Group 1 (the highest), Group 2, Group 3 and Listed (Group 4)
Handicap: A race where horses are assigned weights to be carried based on the conditions of the race
Hurdle Race: Contested over obstacles; a jumping race over lower fences than steeplechase races
Maiden: A race for non-winners
Middle Distance: Races of approx. 1600m up to 2000m
Oaks: A stakes race for three-year-old fillies, normally held over the classic distance of 2400m
Sprint: A race up to 1200m
Weight for Age: Fixed scale of weights to be carried by horses

Horse Terminology – Racing and Wagering

All In: A bet taken usually at fixed odds early in betting
Apprentice Claim: Weight concession to an apprentice rider
Apprentice Rider: Normally under contract to a stable, learning to ride
Barrier Blanket: Assists horses who protest being loaded in the barrier starting gates
Birdcage: A portion of the racecourse where the runners are paraded before the start of a race
Blinkers: Device to limit a horse's vision to prevent him from swerving from objects or other horses on either side of him
Blows: When a previously favoured horse is unwanted in betting before the race and the bookmakers increase the odds
Bookmakers: A person licensed to conduct betting on or off the course
Box/Boxed: Two or more runners to finish in any order in a multiple bet such as Quinella, Exacta, Trifecta
Box Trifecta: Usually four or five horses are "boxed" in a trifecta. If three of the horses selected all finish in the first three placings, the punter collects for a winning trifecta
Checked: A horse that receives some type of interference
Claim: A reduction in the amount of weight carried by a horse being ridden by an apprentice
Correct Weight: Placings in a race are official
Daily Double: Select the winner in two races
Dead Heat: Two or more horses finishing in an exact tie at the finish line
Dividend: Places are paid for First (Win & Place), Second & Third (Place only). A fourth place getter is included for betting on the First Four only; no place dividend is paid on the fourth place getter
Each Way: Have equal amount of money on the horse for a win and for a place
Each-Way Odds: Usually is four to one; you receive all your money back if it comes second or third as long as eight or more runners in race
Eligible: Qualified to start in a race, according to conditions
Emergency: Additional nominated runners are accepted but will only gain a run if others in the field are scratched
Entire: An ungelded horse
Exacta: Select the first two horses in a race in the finishing order
Exotics: A multiple bet such as Quinella, Exacta, Trifecta, First Four & Quaddie
Favourite: The most popular horse in betting and therefore the one who starts at the shortest odds
First Four: Select first four horses in the correct order in a pre-selected race
First Up: A runner resuming from a spell, being a break from racing for three months or more
Flexi-Betting: To invest a smaller amount than the full dollar value of the wager and receive a reduced percentage of the final dividend
Fluctuation: The movements of the odds of a runner moving up or down in the betting ring
Handicap Race: For which a handicapper assigns weights to be carried
Head: Margin between runners
In the Money: The horse finished a race winning some prize money
Lame: Pain in limbs causing deviation in normal running
Lay: When a bookmaker offers better odds because they believe the horse cannot win
Long Shot: A runner being at long odds and is unlikely to win
Moral: An absolute certainty to win the race
Neck: Margin between horses, about the length of a horse’ sneck
Nose: The smallest measuring margin between runners
Odds-Against: The prices in the betting ring are longer than even money (e.g. $4.00 for $1.00 invested)
Odds On: Odds of less than even money
Pacifiers: Hood with gauze eye covers to restrict the vision of an excitable horse
Paddock: Before the race the Clerk of the Course leads the horses from the saddling paddock to the mounting yard
Photo Finish: A result so close it is necessary to use a finish-line camera to determine the winner
Place: This is when a horse runs First, Second or Third and you receive a dividend; must be eight runners or more
Plunge: In the bookmakers ring, a sudden rush of money for a particular horse
Protest: An objection lodged by the jockey, connections or the stewards regarding the outcome of a race
Quadrella: Select the winner of fourpre nominated races on the card
Quinella: Select the first two horses in a race in any order
Roughie: A horse at a long price in the ring with little chance of winning
Running Double: Select the winner in two consecutive races
Scratched: To be taken out of the race
Second Up: Next run after a first-up run, following a spell of 90 days or more
SP Bookie: An illegal bookmaker; a person who takes bets without a licence
Stewards: Racing officials responsible for enforcing the rules of racing
Top Fluc: A bet accepting the odds which are the highest fluctuation in the betting ring
Treble: A bet involving three consecutive races nominated by the TAB
Trifecta: A wager selecting the first three runners of a race
Weight For Age: Fixed scale of weights to be carried by horses

Basic Terminology – Track Conditions

Fast 1: A dry hard track, firmer than a good track
Good 2: A firm track with a reasonable grass coverage, on the fast side of good
Good 3: A track with good grass coverage and cushion. Ideal track, heading towards dead
Dead 4: A track just with some give in it. Shouldn’t affect any chances although on the worse side of good
Dead 5: A reasonable amount of give in it, on the better side of slow and worse side of dead
Slow 6: Not a badly affected track, but will suit some horses more than others, just worse than dead
Slow 7: A more rain-affected track that will chop out, on the better side of heavy
Heavy 8: Just worse than slow, but just into heavy range
Heavy 9: A softer track getting into the squelchy area; genuine heavy track
Heavy 10: A very soft and wet track with; heaviest category

Basic Terminology – Thoroughbred Classifications

Broodmare: Female horse used for breeding
Broodmare Sire: A sire whose female offspring become producers of racehorses
Colt: A non-gelded male horse aged three or younger
Dam: The mother of a horse
Filly: A female horse aged three or younger
Foal: A baby horse. A horse is a foal from the time it is born until it is weaned from its mother at roughly six months of age.
Gelding: A castrated male horse
Horse: A non-gelded male horse four years of age or older
Maiden: A horse that is yet to win a race
Mare: A female horse four years of age or older
Sire: The father of a horse
Stallion: Any non-gelded male horse
Weanling: A young horse normally between six and 12 months of age – young horses are weaned (taken away) from their mother
Yearling: A one-year-old horse

Why do some horses wear blinkers?

Blinkers are used for three main purposes:

(1) To block part of the vision of the horses so as to enable them to concentrate in racing and not to be side-tracked by other factors; 

(2)  To enable the horses to run properly; and

(3) To enable the horses to develop specific skills they need. 

For instance, some horses may be curious and want to look around. Some may be nervous and will become scared or restless even if only something subtle is happening. Some horses may not run properly and keep shifting in and out, or tend to lean against horses by their side. Others may need to increase early speed when running a short distance.

Why are late finishers suitable for fast run races?

There is an old Chinese saying: "Running fast can put one at an advantageous position." But this is not so in the racing world. There are limitations to the speed and stamina of racehorses. Thoroughbreds can maintain their highest speed for no more than 400 metres. Those that run too fast in the early stages of a race will burn themselves out. Conversely, those that run slow early on have enough energy to quicken up in the latter part of the race.

Why are front-runners suitable for slow run races?

Front-runners that can maintain their leading positions in slow pace throughout the race are able to save their energy for a late burst. However, runners that lag behind early have to run even faster than those in front if they want to catch up from the back. It is difficult for late finishers to catch the front-runners if the latter can maintain a high speed in the final stages. For instance, front-runners that finish the final 400 metres in 23.5 seconds can only be caught if late finishers, which are behind by five lengths in the last 400 metres, can finish in 22.5 seconds or less. If the late finishers cannot reach that speed, usually they cannot win.

Why do horses usually need to find cover in a race?

Racing commentators, jockeys and trainers, as well as Racing Incident Reports and Comments-In-Running issued by the Jockey Club, often mention the term "cover" in sentences such as "the horse had to find cover" or "the horse was obliged to race wide throughout without cover and gave ground over the concluding stages".

Very often, a horse's sub-standard race performance is attributed to its inability to obtain cover in a race. In fact, quite a number of horses perform very well when they have cover, but never without. What, then, is "cover"? Why does it act as a key factor for the performance of the same runner?

"Cover" means that a horse follows the others in the race and uses them as a form of shelter before its jockey asks it to quicken up in the closing stages of a race. Horses "without cover" are those that are widest on the track with no horse in front of them.

Some horses are front-runners. They love being allowed to race in the lead where they produce their best form. Other horses, however, are not suited to being in front and are better off being restrained behind the one in front. Now if a horse races too fast in the early or middle stages of race and uses up too much energy too soon, it will have nothing left to finish off the race with. The horse “runs out of gas”.

Horses tend to over-race if they do not have cover and are harder for their riders to settle. As a result, they may try and run too freely and "pull" against the rider's hold.

Therefore, if a jockey is riding a horse that is not a front-runner, the jockey will usually try and get some cover for his mount, where it is less exposed to the breeze, and where it travels in the slipstream of the horse in front. Here it can travel comfortably and finish the race off strongly when asked.

Nevertheless, there are, as ever, exceptions to the rule. Some horses prefer to have room in the run and don't like being covered up.

Why track bias exists?

"Track bias" is a term used to describe how one part of a racetrack may be different from another part.
It could cover many different conditions in such matters as hardness of the surface, angles of the surface from a true flat position, the configuration of turns, the type of surface, where the starting gate is located and so forth.
Track bias is a feature of racing around the world. It has, however, become a widely discussed topic in racing circles over the last decade.
There are three major factors that cause track bias:

  • The design and nature of the track
  • Usage of the track
  • Weather

There are many design factors that may create a pattern of racing that can advantage or disadvantage horses. Some of these examples are:

  • Small tight turning track: This usually favours front runners.
  • Location of starting point: Starting points close to a turn favour inside drawn horses.
  • Radius of turns and design of turn: Small tight turns favour on-pace runners.
  • Track camber (cross falls on turns and in the straight): This causes bias in wet weather.
  • Length of straight run to winning post: A long straight changes from an on-pace bias to an off-pace bias.
  • Type of surface: This has a major impact on track bias. Even the type of grass affects track bias.

The usage pattern on a track will influence the performance of the track. Racing in many countries has increased considerably over the last 30 years and to help overcome some of the issues associated with the increase, the concept of the movable rail was introduced. Examples of usage affecting track bias:

  • Location of movable rail: This may affect track design and the pattern of racing. Horses racing away from wear near the rail will be advantaged.
  • Track conditions in regard to track wear: When the track shows signs of wear, it can favour back markers.
  • Excess kickback: It can favour front runners.
  • Track maintenance procedures, such as use of Verti-Drain, can also matter. Right after track renovation, the track favours front runners for the first part of the program.

Weather conditions will influence track performance. A very dry track can favour on-pace horses. A wet track will often favour off-pace horses. When a grass track dries out quickly after rain, it will often favour leaders or on-pace runners.

Why do normally well-performing horses suddenly race poorly?

Some horses that have been racing well can suddenly lose all form and race dreadfully. Some of them never regain their good form and are beaten thereafter. When this happens, it is usually because of hidden health problems.
There also are horses that are well bred and look good but who never seem to race up to their potential. Hidden problems may be to blame in some cases while another reason may be that the horses have not adjusted themselves to the environment they face.
How well a horse races depends on three factors: its quality, its fitness and preparation, and its health.
If horses develop internal health problems, they are usually in pain. Often the intensity of the pain increases with the severity of exercise. Pain reduces the horse's desire to race, and some ailments restrict its physical movement.
Common causes of pain that reduce performance of horses are:

  • joint disease
  • tendon and ligament injuries
  • bone injuries
  • foot problems
  • back and pelvic conditions
  • stomach ulcers.

Why are the joints of horses so susceptible to injury?

During a race, a horse's legs have to support more than 450 kilograms of bodyweight travelling at speeds up to 65km/h, so it is no surprise that joint injuries are common among racehorses.

Humans and horses are alike in that joint cartilage is highly susceptible to injuries. Joint cartilage suffering from excessive wear and tear likely causes arthritis, which is a common symptom after excessive exercise.