Your Horse Racing Glossary

Horse racing has a language all its own! From horses who balk, bobble, and have just received a blowout, to baby races, blanket finishes, cuppy tracks, and routers: you may hear a few terms you haven’t come across in your day to day life. (Or that are being used in new ways; our version of a router is not like the one providing WiFi in your house!)

During the Race

ACTION – describes a horse’s manner of movement
ALL OUT – when a horse extends himself to the utmost
BALK – refusing to break from the starting gate
BOXED IN – a horse that is racing on the rail/pylons and is surrounded by other horses in front, outside and behind it
BOBBLE – a bad step usually coming out of the starting gate evidenced by a horse ducking its head or nearly going to its knees
BOLT – sudden veering from a straight course
CHECKED – when, during a race, a jockey or driver has to slow or stop the motion of his horse due to close quarters or interference
COVER – when a horse runs behind another horse moving on the outside of the field, it faces less wind resistance (i.e. it is racing with cover)
DRIVING – strong urging by rider or driver
FALTERED – a term used for a horse that was in contention early and drops back in the late stages
JOCKEY – the person who rides a horse in a race
LEAD PONY – horse or pony who heads the parade of field from paddock to starting gate. Also a horse or pony who accompanies a starter to post
POST – starting point or position in the starting gate
POST POSITION – position of stall in starting gate from which a horse starts
STARTING GATE – a mechanical device having partitions (stalls) for horses in which
they are confined until the starter releases the doors in front to begin the race

At the Barn

BACKSTRETCH – straightaway on the far side of track between the turns
BLINKERS – a cloth “mask” that goes over the horse’s head to limit a horse’s peripheral vision and help focus the horse and prevent distraction
BLOWOUT – a short, quick, timed workout, usually a day or two before a race
BREEDER – owner of dam (mother) at time foal is born
BREEZE – working a horse at a moderate speed; less effort than “handily”
BRIDLE – the equipment that goes over a horse’s head for control, consisting of the bit, headstall and the reins
BROODMARE – female horse used for breeding
GAIT – the ways in which a horse can move – walk, trot, pace, canter, gallop, run, etc.
GROOM – licensed handler responsible for the daily care of one or more race horses
HEAD – a margin between the horses; one horse leading another by the length of his head
LEG UP – to help a jockey mount his horse
LUNGE – horse rearing or plunging
PADDOCK – the area where horses are saddled
SCRATCH – to be taken out of a race
TACK – riders’ racing equipment

From the Announcer

BABY RACE – a race exclusively for two-year-olds
BEARING IN (OR OUT) – deviating from a straight course
BLANKET FINISH – three or more horses finishing a race so closely together they could be “covered by a blanket”
BOUNCE – poor race run directly following a career-best or near-best performance
BREAK MAIDEN – horse or rider winning first race of a career
CLAIMING RACE – race in which all horses entered are subject to being claimed or purchased for a specified price regardless of where they finish
CLOSER – a horse who runs best in the latter part of the race, coming from off the pace
CUPPY (TRACK) – a surface which breaks away under a horse’s hoof
CUSHION – surface of track or a layer of the track
DEAD-HEAT – two or more horses finishing in an exact tie at the wire
FAVOURITE – the horse that has the most money bet on it to win
FIELD – the horses in a race
HEAD OF THE STRETCH – the beginning of the stretch run home
IN THE MONEY – finishing first, second or third
ON THE BOARD – finishing among the first four
PHOTO FINISH – a result so close it is necessary to use a finish-line camera to determine the order of finish
ROUTER – the horse who performs well at distance races

Heard Someone Mention

ADDED MONEY – money added to the purse of a race through nomination fees, starting or entry fees, by the racing association or by a breeding or other fund
ALLOWANCES – weight permitted to be reduced because of the conditions of the race, by age or by sex or because an apprentice is on a horse
APPRENTICE – rider just beginning his/her career who has not ridden a certain number of winners within a specified period of time (also known as a bug boy)
CARD – a term for a program of racing (for example, twelve races on the card simply means twelve races will be run on that particular day)
CHALK – the favorite or the most heavily bet horse in a race
EXTRA WEIGHT (ADDED WEIGHT) – more weight than conditions of race require
MUDDER – the horse who races well on muddy tracks
NECK – a unit of measurement; a quarter of a length
RACING SECRETARY – an official who drafts conditions of races and assigns weights for handicap events
WALKOVER – a race which scratches down to only one starter who merely gallops the required distance
We’ve used sections from the comprehensive glossary created by the wonderful folks over at Woodbine (up in Canada). You can see their full version here if you’d like even more terms!