Beginner's Corner

Racing/Wagering lingo

Common Terms

Blinkers A piece of equipment worn on the head of some horses to limit peripheral vision.

Break A harness racing term for a horse that has gone off-stride.

Bug An apprentice jockey in his/her first year riding races. Bug riders are entitled to carry less weight than more experienced jockeys.

Closer A horse in a race who rallies from off the pace and comes from behind.

Coupled entry Two or more horses in a race running as a single entry (usually due to common ownership). A bet on one coupled horse is equal to a bet on both.

Dead heat Two or more horses finishing in an exact tie.

Driver A jockey for harness horses.

Even money Odds of 1-1 where the profit from a winning bet is equal to the amount of the bet.

Favorite The horse in the race considered to have the best chance to win.

Front-runner A horse who takes the early lead in a race.

Furlong A distance measurement used in horse racing equal to one-eighth of a mile. Thoroughbred races are almost always run at distances between 5 furlongs and 1 miles (12 furlongs). Harness races are run at 1 mile.

Harness race A race for Standardbred horses where the horses are steered by a driver riding on a sulky behind the horse. Harness horses are restricted to certain gaits such as trotting or pacing.

In the money A first-, second-, or third-place finish.

Inquiry / objection A review of the race by the judges to check for a possible rules infraction that could lead to a horses disqualification.

Lasix A medication legally administered to most horses on race day, used to aid breathing, increase blood flow, and prevent respiratory bleeding.

Longshot A horse who is running in a race at high odds A horse generally thought by many to have a small chance to win.

Odds-on A strong favorite that offers less than even money odds.

Overlay A horse whose odds are greater than you think they should be. A horse being overlooked by the betting public.

Paddock The area including the walking ring where the horses are walked and saddled before the race.

Photo finish A race result so close that it requires the use of a finish line camera to determine the order of finish.

Post position The gate a horse will break from out of the starting gate.

Post time The time of the race, particularly for the first race of the day.

Purse The total value of a race. Prize money is usually distributed to at least the first five finishers in a race.

Route A race run at a distance or a mile or more.

Scratch A horse that has been withdrawn from a race.

Splits Fractional times of a race, usually posted every quarter mile.

Sprint A race run at a distance less than a mile.

Stalker A horse who races slightly behind the front-runners, but not far from the lead.

Steeplechase A race where horses must negotiate jumps.

Sulky The buggy pulled by a harness horse where the driver sits.

Underlay A horse whose odds are less than you think they should be.

Wheel / part-wheel You "key" on a horse to finish first, second or third (in trifectas), and then wheel it with all of the other horses in the race (wheel), or certain other horses in the race (part-wheel). The cost of the wager is determined by how many combinations are involved in the bet.

Workout Timed early morning training drills in preparation for a race. 

Track conditions / turf conditions

Fast Ideal track conditions with dry, even footing.

Good A track slightly slower than fast with some moisture in it.

Muddy A racetrack that has been soaked with rain. Footing can be deep and slow.

Sloppy A wet track with standing water on it. Footing is splashy but even.


Firm Ideal grass course condition, equivalent to a fast track.

Good Grass course with a slight give in the ground.

Yielding A softer turf condition indicating the course has considerable moisture in it.

Soft A rain-soaked grass course characterized by extremely deep, slow footing.

Types of races

Stakes race The highest class of race reserved for the best horses. Owners typically pay entry fees to run their horses.

Handicap race A stakes-caliber race where horses are assigned varying weights based on the quality of their past performances. The best horses in the race carry the most weight in order to improve the chances of the lesser-accomplished entrants.

Allowance race Races that are open to horses that all fit into certain conditions, such as non-winners of three races, etc.These races generally attract fast, well-regarded horses that run for good purses.

Claiming race The most common kind of race. A type of race where a horse is placed at a class level that is roughly equal to its value. Higher-priced claiming races are better than lower-priced claiming races. These races are divided into price categories for which horses can be claimed (purchased) out of a race. Claiming races are meant to provide competition between horses of similar value.

Maiden race A race exclusively open to horses that have never won a race.

Maiden claiming A claiming race for maidens who have never won a race.

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