Stars of Yesterday: Looking Back at Best Arkansas Derby Winners
We all know what it’s like to walk into a new environment for the first time, whether it’s a new school or office, or a new friend group, and feel like an outsider because they are using words and references you are unfamiliar with.
Likewise, sports like football, basketball, and soccer have all sorts of insider phrases and idioms that can feel like a different language for a newcomer, and perhaps no sport exemplifies this more than horse racing. The complex terminology can feel overwhelming to someone new to the sport, whether you just want to watch and enjoy races or try your hand at betting a few bucks. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of some common horse racing terms and betting terms to help lift that cloud of confusion and set you up for success on the path to fandom. Consider this our own version of horse racing and horse betting for dummies.
COMMON RACING TERMS
Allowance race – A race for which the racing secretary drafts certain conditions to determine weights to be carried based on the horse’s age, sex and/or past performance.
Also-eligible – A horse officially entered for a race, but not permitted to start unless the field is reduced by scratches below a specified number.
Apprentice – A rider who has not ridden a certain number of winners within a specified period of time. Also known as a “bug,” from the asterisk used to denote the weight allowance such riders receive.
Blinkers – A cup-shaped device that limits a horse’s vision. Blinkers, often used to try to improve a horse’s focus, come in a variety of sizes and shapes to allow as little or as much vision as the trainer feels is necessary.
Bullet – The fastest workout of the day at a track at a particular distance.
Claiming race – A race in which each horse entered is eligible to be purchased at a set price.
Closer – A horse that runs best in the latter part of the race, coming from off the pace.
Connections – Persons identified with a horse, such as owner, trainer, jockey and stable employees.
Disqualification – Change in order of finish by stewards for an infraction of the rules.
Dam – The mother of a horse.
Entry – Two or more horses with common ownership that are paired as a single betting unit in one race.
Front-runner – A horse whose running style is to attempt to get on or near the lead at the start of the race and to continue there as long as possible.
Furlong – An eighth of a mile.
Graded race – A non-restricted race with added money or guaranteed purse value of $100,000 or more which has been run at least twice under similar conditions and on the same surface and has been assigned graded status for the year contested by the American Graded Stakes Committee.
Handicap – This race type refers to a race where the weight each horse will carry is assigned by the track’s racing secretary or handicapper based that horse’s past performances.
Length – A measurement approximating the length of a horse, used to denote distance between horses in a race.
Off track – A track that has a wet surface and isn’t labeled as “fast”.
Pacesetter – The horse that is running in front (on the lead).
Past performances – A horse’s racing record, earnings, bloodlines and other data, presented in composite form.
Prep – A workout (or race) used to prepare a horse for a future engagement.
Post Parade – Horses going from paddock to starting gate past the stands. The post parade provides spectators with a chance to get a final look at the horse before the race.
Post Position – Position of stall in starting gate from which a horse begins a race.
Rabbit – A speed horse running as an entry with another, usually a come-from-behind horse. The rabbit is expected to set a fast pace to help the chances of its stablemate.
Rank – A horse that refuses to settle under a jockey’s handling in a race, running in a headstrong manner without respect to pace.
Scratch – To be taken out of a race before it starts.
Silks – Jacket and cap worn by jockeys.
Sire – Father of a foal.
Stakes – A race for which the owner usually must pay a fee to run a horse. The fees can be for nominating, maintaining eligibility, entering and starting, to which the track adds more money to make up the total purse. Some stakes races are by invitation and require no payment or fee.
COMMON BETTING TERMS
Account wagering – Betting by internet or phone, in which a bettor must open an account and deposit money with which to bet.
Across the board – A bet on a horse to win, place and show. If the horse wins, the player collects three ways; if second, two ways; and if third, one way, losing the win and place bets. So actually, it’s three bets.
Bounce – An especially poor performance on the heels of an especially good one.
Box – A betting term denoting a combination bet whereby all possible numeric combinations are covered for certain horses.
Bridge jumper – A person who wagers large amounts of money, usually on short- priced horses to show, hoping to realize a small but almost certain profit. The term comes from the structure those bettors may seek if they lose the bet.
Chalk – Betting favorite in a race.
Chalk player – Gambler who wagers on favorites.
Daily Double (or Double) – Type of bet calling for the selection of winners of two consecutive races.
Exacta – A wager in which the first two finishers in a race, in exact order of finish, must be picked.
Exacta box – A wager in which all possible combinations using a given number of horses are selected.
Exotic (bet) – Any bet other than win, place, or show that requires multiple combinations. Examples of exotic wagers are trifecta, Pick 6, and Pick 4.
Handle – Amount of money wagered in the pari-mutuel system on a race, full day of races, or entire racing season at a track.
In the money – A horse that finishes first, second or third.
Key horse – A single horse used in multiple combinations in an exotic bet.
Morning line – The starting odds set by the track handicapper.
On the board – Finishing among the first three.
On the nose – Betting a horse to win only.
Overlay – A horse whose odds are greater than its potential to win.
Pari-mutuel – System of wagering where all the money is returned to the bettors after deduction of track and state percentages.
Parlay – A multi-race bet in which all winnings are subsequently wagered on a succeeding race.
Part wheel – Using a key horse or horses in different, but not all possible, exotic wagering combinations.
Pick (6 or other number) – A type of multi-race bet in which the winners of all the included races must be selected. Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5, and Pick 6 are commonly used by tracks in the United States.
Place bet – A bet on a horse to finish first or second.
Quinella - Bet in which the first two finishers must be picked in either order.
Show bet – A bet on a horse to finish in the money; third or better.
Speed Figure – A metric that rates a horse’s performance in a race, which is determined by a combination of the horse’s performance and the level of competition he/she competed against.
Trifecta – A bet in which the first three finishers must be selected in exact order.
Trifecta box – A trifecta wager in which all possible combinations using a given number of horses are bet upon.
Underlay – Horse whose odds are more promising than his potential to win.
Win – A bet on a horse to finish first.
Wheel – Betting all possible combinations in an exotic wager using at least one horse as the key.