A Brief Guide to Horse Racing Terms

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Horses bolt down the track to the finish.
BetMGM @BETMGM Oct 28, 2021, 3:53 PM

Whether you’re new and learning how to bet on horse racing or an experienced bettor who’s interested in refreshing their memory, it’s important to understand all the horse racing and horse racing betting terms that people use regardless of whether you bet at a traditional sportsbook or take part in online horse racing. 

We have divided the different types of horse racing terms into three categories: racing jargon, betting lingo, and popular events and related terms. Take a look at some of the most important terms related to horse racing and online sports betting in our brief guide.

Racing jargon

This is some of the jargon that will be used in any horse race, regardless of whether there is betting involved or not:

Abandoned – A race that is called off or canceled, usually due to bad weather.

Brought down – If a horse falls as a result of another horse’s actions, not if the horse accidentally falls on its own.

Dead heat – If a finish is too close to declare a clear winner, even with photo or video cameras, it is declared a dead heat. This means that a tie is called for the horses that crossed the finish line at the same time.

Furlong – A unit of distance that originated in England. A single furlong is 220 yards in length. A mile is made up of eight furlongs. It was also once used to measure farmland.

Hacked up – A horse that wins a race comfortably, without any real competition from the other racers.

Length – The distance between horses in a race, more specifically using the horse as a metric. In horse racing, this usually refers to a distance of about 8 feet. 

Maiden – If a racing horse has yet to win a race, it is referred to as a maiden. 

Marathon – If a race is longer than 1.25 miles, it is called a marathon.

Neck and neck – A race where at least two horses are running alongside each other as they approach the finish.

Outsider – A horse that has a very low chance of winning a race.

Purse – The total amount of money that will be paid to the top finishers in a race. This varies from race to race and is influenced by several factors, such as the track and quality of racehorses.

Silks – The colors worn by the horse and rider during a race.

Turn of foot – This refers to how quickly a horse can accelerate and put distance between itself and its competitors. 

Betting lingo

When attending a race, you’re bound to hear some betting terms being used by other racing fans. This is some of the horse racing lingo used by bettors:

Across the board – This is a bet that in essence combines three bets into one. You wager on to win, place, and show. If the horse wins, you collect all three payouts, if it places you only collect the place and show payouts, and if it shows you only collect the show payout.

Ante-post – A wager that is placed at least one day before a race, although sometimes a wager is still considered ante-post as long as the horses aren’t yet confirmed in the final declaration stage.

Banker – A horse that is almost certain to win a race.

Box – A bet that covers every possible combination of finishes in a race that applies to different wagers such as exactas, trifectas, and superfectas. 

Daily double – A bet where you choose a winner for two consecutive races on the same day.

Each-way – A wager that consists of two bets: A win bet and a place bet. If the horse you chose for a win does so, you win the amount you wagered for both the win and the place bet. If the horse you chose only places, you only get the amount you wagered from the place bet.

Exacta – A wager in which you must specify which horses will come in first and second and the position each horse will finish. 

Morning line – A list of entries for a race and the estimated odds for each horse before the final odds are confirmed.

Pick 3/4/6 – You must choose three, four, or six consecutive winners from three, four, or six races respectively.

Place – A type of bet where you win if the horse finishes first or second.

Quinella – You must choose two horses to finish in first and second place, in no particular order. 

Show – A wager where you choose a horse to finish first, second or third. 

Straight – A bet on a horse that you think will cross the finish line first and win the race.

Superfecta – A wager where you must correctly predict the top four finishers in a race.

Trifecta – A bet where you must correctly predict the top three finishes in a race.

Wheel – A type of wager involving multiple bets where you pick one horse that you know will finish in a certain position in each bet, and then bet on all the other horses to finish in the other open position in the bet. This can apply to different types of exotic bets.

Popular events and related terms

Whether you’re interested in single horse racing events or horse racing tournaments, there are undoubtedly some names and terms you’ll hear more than others:

Dubai World Cup – An annual horse race that’s been taking place since 1996. It is hosted at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai.

Kentucky Derby – An annual horse race that first began in 1875. It is hosted at the Churchill Downs horse racing complex in Louisville, Kentucky.

Royal Ascot – An annual horse race that has over 300 years of history, with the inaugural event held back in 1768. It is hosted at The Ascot Racecourse, in Ascot, Berkshire, England.

Triple Crown – More formally known as the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, it is a series of horse races held specifically for thoroughbreds that are three years old. The races take place at the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.