Glossary of North American Horse Racing
The terminology and jargon used in the world of betting on horse racing varies according to where in the world the punters find themselves. Wherever this form of wagering is enjoyed, it has seen the development of terms that are specific to the region.
This glossary gives basic definitions for some of North American horse racing’s more common terms.
Across the Board: A punter bets on a horse to win, place, and show. The bet will pay if the horse wins or places second or third.
Agent: A person who buys or sells horses for breeders or owners, or someone who assists a jockey or owner with business transactions.
Backstretch: The straight stretch on the far side of the track, between the turns. The term can also refer to the stabling area.
Bearing In or Out: When a horse deviates from a straight course due to one or a number of factors.
Bell: The signal used by tracks to announce the close of betting, or to announce the opening of the gates by the starter.
The Call: The position of a running horse at different points in the race.
Claiming: When a horse is bought out of a race for the price at which it was entered.
Classic: One of North America’s traditionally important races, such as the Belmont and Preakness stakes, the Kentucky Derby, and the Coaching Club American Oak.
Daily Double: A bet placed on horses to win two consecutive races.
Dead Heat: When a tie between two horses is exact.
Eligible: When a horse is qualified to participate in a race.
Excused: When a horse is withdrawn from a race with the stewards’ consent, which sometimes happens for medical reasons.
Faltered: When a horse that was in the lead at the beginning of the race falls behind.
Field: The horses running in a race.
Gate: The starting mechanism at a race track.
Grab a Quarter: When a horse overreaches or oversteps, and strikes a front foot with one of its hind feet.
Handicap: A race in which horses need to carry weights, or selections made based on the past performance of horses.
In the Money: When a horse places first, second, or third in a race.
Infield Racing: Racing horses on turf.
Jumper: a hurdle horse or steeplechase.
Lead Pony: The horse or pony that leads the parade from the paddock to the starting gate.
Maiden Race: A race for horses that have not won any previous races.
Nose: The smallest advantage by which a horse may win a race.
Odds-On: When there are odds of money that’s less than even.
On the Nose: When a horse is only bet on to win.
Photo Finish: When a camera is used to determine the winner of a race.
Route: A race distance at least a mile in length.
Scratch: The removal of a horse from a race.
Takeout: The tax commission placed on mutuel pools by track and government.
Tight: When a horse is ready to run in a race.
Underlay: When a horse races at shorter odds than usual.
Valet: The person who attends to jockeys, and assists with equipment and clothing.
Walkover: A gesture required by racing rules, in which a race is scratched down to one starter. The starter horse gallops a required distance.
Yielding: When a turf racing course contains a large amount of water or moisture, i.e. the track is wet.