Horse Racing Terms and Basics for Betting

As popular culture like movies often show, horse racing in America is very popular. The 2015 Kentucky Derby took in over $139 million in bets. The culture and atmosphere that surround the sport perfectly align with the spirit of the fans, as new ones embrace the spectacle each year. 

There are countless articles and books that you can read about to get more of a feel for the overall sport, however, sometimes its best to just start with the basics. A lot of different horse racing terms exist and the terminology can seem foreign to fans of other sports.

To get started, lets go through some of the most basic horse racing betting terms.

The Most Common Horse Racing Terms

This should give every beginning player a good start and help them to understand more as they dive further into horse racing:

Across the Board: A type of horse racing bet on a particular horse to win, place and show. This bet provides a lot of safety as there are three outcomes where the bet can win. If the horse wins the entire race, the player will win all three. A second-place finish wins show and place, whereas third place wins on the show. 

Allowances: In every horse race, there will be a set weight limit that needs to be adhered to by all participants. However, in certain cases there are allowances for weights to be reduced. This often occurs if an apprentice or a female horse are participating. However, changes in the race’s conditions can also open up room for allowances. 

Also-Ran: This is a horse that competed in the race but did not finish in a place that warranted the bettor any money.  

Backstretch: Describes the stable area along with the far side straight of the track in-between turns. 

Bearing in or out: Occurs when a horse deviates from the track’s main course. It can be caused by any number of things. Among them include weariness, a physical or mental weakness or a rider’s inability to control the horse. 

Black-Type: This signifies the stake winner or stakes-placed horse in the sales catalogues. 

Board: The place where the most useful information for bettors will be displayed. Included in the totalisator board are the odds, betting pools and other information that will help punters at the track. 

Bridge-Jumper: This is a bettor who makes large show bets on favorites that are short priced.

(the) Call: These are the horse’s running positions at various points in the race.

Chart: The chart is an overall round up of the race which includes each horses age, weight carried, owner, trainer, purse, conditions, odds, times, pay-off prices and more. 

Coupled: This is when you have two or more horses running as a single betting unit. These horses come from either the same stable or the same owner. The highest finish by either horse will determine the winnings you take home. 

Daily Double: A type of bet where the player must correctly choose the winner of two consecutive races. This is typically for the first and second race but exceptions exist. 

Eighth: A race length of 220 yards, 660 feet.

Entry: Here is where a coupled bet comes from. An entry is two or more horses that are owned by the same stable or owned by the same person. These horses will run as a single betting unit and the player will have the opportunity to make bets on each of these horses in only one wager. 

Equivalent odds: These are the odds that the horse had at the beginning of the race. It is also the price that each winning horse will pay for each $1 bet. 

Exacta (Perfecta): One type of wager that can be placed at the track. To win this bet, the player must pick the both of the top two finishers in one race in the exact order that they finished.

False Favorite: Something bettors need to watch out for. A false favorite is a horse who was heavily bet on making them the favorite, despite the presence of stronger, more competent choices. 

Field Horse (Mutual Field): The term describing two or more horses starting the race as a single betting unit or where there are more entrants than the positions that the totalisator can hold. 

Graduate: A horse that has won for the first time. This can also describe a horse that has moved up in allowance, stakes or in handicap racing. 

Half: This is a half of a mile or four furlongs; 880 yards; 2,640 feet.

Handle: The total amount of money staked between bettors, or in the pari-mutuel in a particular race, program, meeting or a year. 

Late Double: A second daily double that is offered in the latter part of the program. 

Lock: Used in many different sports the term means the same in horse racing. It describes a competitor that is assumed to be a “sure” winner. 

Minus Pool: This occurs when when one horse has so much money bet on it that after state tax and commissions are deducted , there is not enough money to pay the minimum for each winning bet. In this situation, the racing association will normally pay up the difference. 

Morning line: These are the approximate odds quoted before wagering begins which determine the exact odds. 

Nose: This is the smallest advantage that a horse can win by. It goes by different names in other countries, most notable called a short head in England. 

Odds-On: Referring to odds that will return less than even money. Odds on of 5-4 for a horse mean the actual odds would be 4-5. 

Off-Track Betting: Betting that does not take place at the track, but rather at legal betting offices run by the state or the track. Since the legalization of sports betting, this can also take place at casinos and sportsbook offices. 

Overlay: A horse set at a higher price than what would be naturally considered due to its recent performances.

Overnight Line: The prices on the race that are quoted the night before. 

Quarter: This is a distance of a quarter mile; 440 yards; 1,320 feet.

Seven Furlongs: A distance of seven-eighths of a mile; 1, 540 yards; 4,620 feet.

Six Furlongs: A distance one-sixteenth of a mile; 110 yards, 330 feet.

Stakes-Placed: A title given to a horse who finishes first, second or third in a stakes race. 

Totalisator: Describes a machine that sells and records bet slips and displays odds. It will also calculate and display payouts. 

Tout: A man or woman who offers tips on racehorses, usually for a personal benefit given in return; or takes tips. 

Underlay: This is a horse who is racing at shorter odds (lower odds) than is expected or deserved.

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