Horse Racing is a contest of speed between two or more horses ridden or
driven over a special course. Competitive horse racing is one of the oldest sports
originating in Central Asia where prehistoric nomadic tribesmen first domesticated the
horse about 4500 BC.
It became the sport of kings and nobels for thousands of years. In modern times horse
racing is still popular in most countries. Events are commercialized, highly organized and
venues for legalized gambling.
Races are classified as flat racing, harness racing, steeple chasing and Quarter Horse
racing. In flat races two or more saddle horses are ridden on tracks by jockeys over
distances from 402m to 2.4km (1 1/1 miles). The most popular form of horse racing is on
The permitted weight can be reduced because of the conditions of the race, because an
apprentice is riding a horse or because females are racing against males.
An apprentice is a future jockey. He or she must be at least 16 years of age. In less
important races apprentices receive weight allowances or distance allowances for harness
Backmarkers are horses that due to race tactics race at the back of the field.
A betting ring is the group of bookmakers taking bets on the race day on the course. The
most senior bookmakers are called rails bookmakers and have the biggest books or bags.
A birdcage is a stable or enclosure where horses are held on race day. Only authorised
people are permitted in this area.
Blinkers are leather side pieces attached to a horse's bridle to prevent
side way vision. It is used on fearful horses and on horses that don't want to go into the
If the turf is extremely wet it is described as bog track. In Australia track
conditions are listed as fast (close to perfect), good, dead, slow and heavy (very wet).
The bookmaker is the person who sets the odds for a race and takes the bets on it. Skilled
bookmakers take as few bets as possible on the winning horse and as many bets as possible
on horses that don't win.
Some horses that tire at the end of a race appear to lift their front legs higher
than usual and therefore shortening their stride. This is called climbing as the horse
seems to climb stairs.
A clocker is a person who observes and times a horse's performance from the other
side of the track at the early morning training. The results are accurate and a clocker is
a good judge of a horse.
A colt is a male horse that has not been gelded and is less than four years old. Once the
colt reaches it's fourth birthday it is called a horse. It becomes a stallion when it
performs stud duties.
In horse circles crack means the very best. It can be the horse or the jockey.
The Melbourne Cup is the only true cup race although many cups can be won in racing. It
originated in 1861 and was run over two miles, now 3200 meters. The Melbourne Cup is a
handicap race for all horses and is held on the first Tuesday of November.
The term dead heat is used when two horses cross the finish line together.
The Derby originated in England in 1780 where the first Derby was held in Surray at Epsom
Downs. The race was named after the winner of the toss of a coin between the 12th Earl of
Derby and Sir Charles Bunbury. Diomed won the first Derby owned by the steward of the
Jockey Club, Sir Charles Bunbury. Traditionally the Derby is the classic race of the turf
restricted to three year old horses and run over 1 1/2 miles.
A drench is a dose of liquid medication that is often forcefully administered to ensure
that it is completely swallowed by the horse.
Entire is a horse that has not been gelded.
A filly is a female horse less than four years old. When a filly becomes a four year old
it is called a mare. Once a mare gets to stud she becomes a broodmare.
A horse returning to the races from a spell is said to be first up. If that horse
wins its first race it is referred to as first up victory, however very few horses are fit
enough to win their first race after spelling.
A furlong is 1/8 of a mile or 201.168 meters after metric measurements where
introduced in Australia on 1 August 1972.
A gelding is a male horse where the testicles have been surgically removed. In general
geldings are easier to train.
A guinea was an English gold coin in the value of 21 shillings. In 1813 it was taken from
circulation but the term remained to price the sale of horses.
A Handicap is a race where the horses are given advantages or disadvantages in weight to
give each entrant an equal chance of winning. The weight is based on previous
performances, potential, sex and age. The good horses get the most weight and the best
horses usually concentrate on weight for age as they are severely handicapped. For major
handicaps like the Melbourne Cup the weights are announced weeks before the race day. In
Derbies, Oaks and weight for age events all horses receive set weights.
The height of a horse is measured in hands, one hand equals 4 inches or 11.6 centimetres.
Most Thoroughbred horses stand at 15 to 17 hands. A horse is generally taller than 14.5
hands or 58 inches.
A person which is extremely gifted in the management of horses is called a horseman. It is
a great compliment to be called a horseman and deserved and received by only very few
LEADERS OF THE RING
The richest and most respected bookmakers are called leaders of the ring.
In racing place and winning margins are measured in lengths. A length is the distance from
the nose of a winning horse to its hindquarters. As horses vary in size so does the
length, however the variation is very small. On average a length is slightly greater than
two meters. Margins of less than a length are a neck, a half-neck, a half-head, a short
half-neck and a nose.
LINE OF BETTING
A favourite horse is said to be on the first line of betting. On the second line
is the horse with the next lowest odds.
A race restricted to horses that have not yet won a race.
A mile is 1609 meters, eight furlongs or 1760 yards
A miler is a horse that races the distance of one mile or 1600 meters.
The Oaks race day originated in England in 1779 and is the female equivalent of the Derby
restricted to three year old fillies. It was named after the Surrey residence of the Earl
The bookmaker sets the odds or probability of a horse winning the race. As the
amount of money bet on a horse increases the odds are reduced as the horse's chances to
win seem to increase.
A horse that moves both legs on one side of its body at the same time is
called a pacer .
A winning horse is said to salute the judge. The place getters meet at the winner's stall
and the jockeys exchange salutes with the chief Stewart.
A horse that shifts out moves away from the fence to a firmer, faster part of the track or
to get a clear run. If forced to do so a horse may also shift towards the fence.
SHOUT THROUGH YOUR POCKET
When the favourite horse is beaten and the disappointed punters lose their money they
accuse the jockey of riding poorly. When the jockey returns to scale angry punters abuse
him thus shouting through their pockets.
A spell is a break from training and racing where a horse can rest and put on weight in a
A sprinter is a horse that races short distances from 800 to 1400 meters.
Stakes are racing events offering large amounts of money for the winner and the place
A steeple chase is a race over many different and
difficult obstacles. Originally it was a cross-country race with a church tower serving as
a landmark to guide the riders.
STRAIGHT OUT BET
A straight out bet is a bet for a win only. If a field is small or has a short
priced favourite horse the bookmaker takes win bets only. If a horse completely dominates
the race he will not take any bets.
A strapper is a stablehand caring for one or several horses.
A stayer is a horse that races long distances of 2000 meters or more. A good stayer is not
only able to run the distance but also fast enough to win.
Most jockeys struggle to keep their weight low enough. They use exercise, fasting and
sweating to reduce their weight and these methods are called wasting.
WEIGHT FOR AGE
Weight for age is a method of weight allocation for horses allowing horses of different
ages and gender to compete in the same race under the most equal conditions. Top races use
a weight for age scale allowing the best horse to win. The scale was introduced in England
in the 18th century and has been modified slightly over the years.
Welter is an open class handicap, often of low standard where the horses are given heavy
A yearling is a one year old horse. To standardise horses' ages every horse in Australia
turns one year older on 1 August.