Horse Racing Terminology and Definitions

Term Definition
ABC Wagering

ABC Wagering is a wagering system invented by Steven Crist that allows you to rank the horses according to their appeal to you. "A" runners are the ones most likely to win, "B" runners are somewhat likely to win and "C" runners are unlikely but might have a shot. Given those ranking you can construct your bets more efficiently.

American Quarter Horse/ Quarter Horse

It is also called Quarter Horse, known for the quarter horse racing. They excel at sprinting short distances. For more detailed information about this horse breed and other Horse Racing Breeds, see "Horse Racing Breeds".

Arabian Horse

One of the oldest breeds with archaeological evidence of horses in the Middle East, dating back 4,500 years. It is best known for Endurance Racing and recognized for its distinctive head shape and high tail carriage. For more detailed information about Horse Racing Breeds, see "Horse Racing Breeds".

Artificial or Synthetic Track

From its name, artificial, this track is man-made and allows racing to occur in bad weather conditions, also sometimes referred to as All Weather surfaces. Synthetic tracks have drainage characteristics that are better than natural surfaces.The subtypes of synthetic tracks are polytrack, tapeta, cushion, fibersand, pro-ride, visco-ride, and Equipolitrek. For more detailed information about all the definitions and characteristics of Synthetic Track and the other two surface tracks, see “Track Surface”.

Across The Board

Across the Board bet is a bet on a a runner to Win, Place, and Show. If the runner wins the player collects all three prices, if the runner comes in second the player collects the Place and Show prices, and if the runner comes in third the player collects the Show price only.


A) The way a horse moves. B) To wager. I.E. (Number 1 has all of the action).

Added Money

Money added to the purse of a race by an industry fund to the amount paid by owners in nomination, eligibility, entry and fees.


Money added by the host track to pool. (Seed Money)


A person legally empowered to conduct business for a stable owner or jockey, may buy or sell horses for an owner or breeder.


Running slower than normal in a race.


When a runner is pushing it to the edge, going faster and harder than normal.

Allowance Race

A race where the runners are allowed to carry different weight based on age, sex and/or past race performances.


A horse that is officially entered in the race, but will only run if other horses are scratched below a specified number.


Toward front.


Rider which has ridden less then a specified number of races. May be denoted with an asterisk in the program.


Area between the grandstand and race track. Normally a paved spectator area.

Artificial or Synthetic Track

 From its name, artificial, this track is man-made and allows racing to occur in bad weather conditions, also sometimes referred to as All Weather surfaces. Synthetic tracks have drainage characteristics that are better than natural surfaces. It is a racing surface typically composed of sand, fiber, wax, and rubber. The term “synthetic” makes it different from other natural racing surfaces like dirt and turf.

Ashland Stakes

It is an American Thoroughbred horse race every early April since it became part of the 1936 Keeneland Race Track inaugural events. The first two editions of the Ashland Stakes were open to fillies and mares, 3-years of age and older. In 1940, it became exclusive for 3-year-old fillies and currently runs at a distance of one and one-sixteenth miles. Before, the Ashland Stakes raced at various distances since its inception: 1936–1937, 1981 to present: 1+1⁄16 miles; 1940–1973: 6 furlongs; and 1974–1980: 7 furlongs, 184 feet. The race is a Grade I event and a prep race to the Triple Tiara of Thoroughbred Racing, including the Kentucky Oaks, the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, and the Mother Goose Stakes. It is also an important part of the spring meet at Keeneland each year. Once called the Ashland Oaks after Henry Clay's homestead and breeding farm called Ashland.

Baby Race

A race for two year old horses.

Backside / Backstretch

Employee and stable area many times located behind the track.


Bandages are used on horses in a race to support their legs and help protect against injury.

Barrier / Tape

Starting device used in steeple chase racing which is stretched across the racetrack and springs back out of way when released.


Signal sounded to indicate betting is stopped. May happen when the gate opens or prior.

Belmont Stakes

It is an American Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds run at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. It is nicknamed The Test of the Champion, The Test of Champions, and The Run for the Carnations. It is the traditional third and final leg of the Triple Crown, run over 1.5 miles (2,400 m). Colts and geldings carry a weight of 126 pounds (57 kg), while fillies carry 121 pounds (55 kg). It is usually held on the first or second Saturday in June, five weeks after the Kentucky Derby and three weeks after the Preakness Stakes. The 1973 Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown winner Secretariat holds the track record (which is also a world record on dirt) of 2:24.

Beyer Number

Popular handicapping ranking popularized by author Andrew Beyer, assigns a numerical value to each runner based on final time and track conditions.


Aluminum, rubber, or stainless steel bar attached to the bridle which fits in the horse's mouth and allows the rider/jockey to exert control over the horse.


Covering for a runner bearing the number and color corresponding to post position.


A horse that is prone to bleeding from the lungs during exercise or running. May be exacerbated by either extreme hot or cold temperatures. May be preventively treated with Lasix.


A device to limit the range of vision of a horse. Prevents the horse from being distracted/scared by the crowd or other objects/horses.

Blue Grass Stakes

It was introduced in 1974 and was named for the Bluegrass region of Kentucky. It is currently named Toyota Blue Grass Stakes because the Toyota Motor Corporation currently sponsors it. It is also a well-known prep race for the Kentucky Derby for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds run at 1+1⁄8 miles on the dirt every April on Keeneland Racecourse. However, it was raced on a synthetic "all-weather" surface from 2007 to 2014. It was a Grade I event from 1974 to 1989, 1999 to 2016, and 2022. It was a Grade II event from 2017-2021


Historically the "Tote Board" in the middle of the racetrack that displayed pool totals and odds. May refer to any display presenting odds/pool totals.


When a runner suddenly veer's off course.


When a long shot (high odds) horse wins.


Bet type that uses all selections in each possible position. I.E. Trifecta Box


Remaining pennies after rounding, may go to the state or entity taking the wager depending on state rules. (Negative Breakage is paid by the entity taking the wager)

Breeders Crown

An annual series of Harness races in the United States and Canada covering the sport's twelve traditional categories of age, gait, and gender. The Hambletonian Society pioneered the Breeders Crown in 1984 to upgrade the Standardbred breeding industry and boost Harness racing sports.

Breeders' Cup

The Breeders' Cup World Championships is an annual series of Grade I Thoroughbred horse races managed by the Breeders' Cup Limited. From 1984 (inauguration) through 2006, it was a single-day event. It became two days event in 2007. The attendance depends mainly on the capacity of the host track. Santa Anita Park set the highest two-day attendance figure of 118,484 in 2016, while Monmouth Park set the lowest two-day attendance (69,584) in 2007.


Phenylbutazone, a NSAID that is legal in many jurisdictions. Also known by Butazolidin and Butazone.


The actual position of the horses at a certain point in the race.


Many pools may payout partially if no-one selects the exact finish. In that case the left over money will be added to the next (or specified) instance of the same pool. If a pool is not "hit", this can lead to successive carryovers and very large pools. In some instances carryovers may be forced-out and paid to those with the most correct selections (5 of 6 etc.). Carryovers are more likely in pools with more legs. I.E. Pick 6 or Super High Five.


Shows the position and distance of each horse at pre-determined points of call, runners age, weight, owner, trainer, jockey, race statisics and other data.


When a jockey must slow a horse due to others in its path.


Extension of the straight stretches of the track allowing runners to get up to speed before going into a turn.


Method that any licensed person may purchase a running horse entered in a "claiming race" for a predetermined price. When a runner is claimed the runner changes owners as soon as the race begins although the prior runner still retains all purse money for the race. Thus the new owner takes the risk of the race and the old owner takes the reward.

Claiming Race

A race with a predtermined amount that any runner in the race can be purchased at. (See Claiming)


Historically significant race.

Clerk of Scales

Racing official whose duty is to ensure riders are properly weighed before and after each race.


Person that times the races and workouts of a runner.


It is a running style of horse in which the horse sits well back off the pace at the beginning of the race then tends to do best in the late stages of a race.


Ungelded male horse under four years old.


Combining wagers into the same pool from multiple wagering locations.


Requirements and rules for a certain race. Restrictions may include age, sex, winning money, winning races, weight carried, and/or distance of race.


Female parent of a horse.

Dam's Sire

Maternal grandfather of a horse.

Dead Heat

Two or more runners finishing at the same exact time in a race. (Tie)

Deep Stretch

Near the finish line in a race.

Decimal Odds

Actual probable payout for a runner to win. More accurate than fractional odds which may involve rounding.


Stakes race for three year olds.

Dirt Track

It is one of the natural surface tracks in horse racing that is composed of clay, sand, and soil. For more detailed information about all three surface tracks, see “Track Surface”.


A female horse.


A runner so far behind there is no possible way it may win.

Donn Handicap

An American Thoroughbred horse race run annually from 1959 through 2016 at Gulfstream Park. It is for horses aged four and older. It was raced on turf from its inauguration until 1964 at a distance of a mile and one-half. In 1965, its track type shifted to dirt at a mile and one-eighth until 2016. The race was named after the Donn family who owned and managed the racetrack for several years.


A horse running as hard as possible under urging from the jockey/driver.


Device covering horses ears to prevent noise from distracting it.


Gently slowing a horse during a race.


Qualified to start in a race.

Endurance Racing

Endurance racing originated in the old years when there was still a need to ride long distances. Hence, riders value highly the types of horses who can endure continuous travel in the most strenuous rides across infinite distances without being delayed by any obstacles. As such, endurance riding tests were created to see the horse’s stamina. For more detailed information about Horse Racing types, see "Horse Racing Types".

Entry Fee

Money paid by an owner to put their runner in the race.


Two or more horses with common ownership or common trainers which run as a single betting interest. Rules vary between jurisdictions.


Refers to any wager other than win, place, or show.


Track condition where it is dry and evenly packed.


Railing on inside of track.


All runners in a race.


Female horse under four years old.


Track condition on a turf course where it is dry and evenly packed.


Manual race start signal.

Flat Racing

The most common form of horse racing seen worldwide.Tracks are typically oval and generally level, but some countries, like Great Britain and Ireland, have different variations. For more detailed information about Horse Racing types, see "Horse Racing Types".

Florida Derby

An American Thoroughbred horse race for three-year-old horses held annually at Gulfstream Park. It is a Grade I race run at 1+1⁄8 miles on the dirt.


A pool which will be paid fully even if no one selects the correct order.


Runner which normally leads the pack, may do poorly once in the middle of the pack.


660 Feet = 220 yard = 1/8 of a mile.


Horse racing futurity is usually for two-year-old horses whose competitors are nominated at birth or before. Multiple horse races carry variants on the name "Futurity Stakes." Similar races for three-year-olds are called a Derby. It is renowned for being the Kentucky Derby in the US and the original "Derby", the Epsom Derby in the UK. Futurities in general is to identify and promote the best young horses in a given discipline.


Commonly known as Lasix. Medication to help prevent bleeding in some horses.


Particular characteristic of the way a horse walks, such as: walk, trot, canter, or gallop.


Opening in the railing where horses may enter and leave the racecourse.


Grandmother of a horse.


Grandfather of a horse.


Person that cares for horses in the stable.


Measurement equivalent to four inches.


Amount of money wagered on a pool/race/event.


Track condition where it is extremely solid.

Harness Racing

One type of horse racing where horses race while pulling a sulky and a driver behind them. A sulky is a lightweight two-wheeled carriage that carries only one person. It is informally known as a "bike" and a spider. For more detailed information about Horse Racing types, see "Horse Racing Types".

Term for when a horse is leading another by a small amount (the size of their head).


Race in which the winners will qualify to run in a later more prestigious race.


It is the part of a racecourse between the last turn and the winning post


The area inside the inner railing of the racecourse.


Judges/Stewards investigating a possible rule violation. May result in disqualification of a runner in some circumstances.

In The Money

A runner that finishes in first, second, or third place.


It originated from England and was used to portray a person who rides horses in racing

Kentucky Derby

It is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of one and a quarter miles (2.0 km) at Churchill Downs. It is held annually almost every first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, United States. It is dubbed "The Run for the Roses" and known in the United States as "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" or "The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports" because of its approximate duration.


See furosemide.


Sight measurement equivalent to the length of a horse. Denotes distances between horses during a race.


A sure thing, cannot lose. (Or so they say..)


Mechanical device used to guide the greyhounds around the racetrack.


Horse that has not won a race.


Female horse older than five years.


Race program conducted during daylight hours.

Minus Pool

A pool where a favorite horse is bet so much that when it wins the entities taking the bet must add money back to the pool to cover the legal minimum payout.


A runner that does better in wet/muddy conditions.

Mutuel Pool

Sum of all wagers on a specific bet type for a specific race (or races in multi-race pools).

National Hunt/Jump Racing

It is one of the famous horse racing types under the thoroughbred racing. It is recognized as National Hunt racing in Great Britain and Ireland, while it is informally known as “jumps” in the UK. For more detailed information about Horse Racing types, see "Horse Racing Types".


A sight measurement generally equivalent to the length of a horses neck.


A sight measurement meaning very small distance.


Stakes race for three year old female horses.


Claim of a foul or rule infraction made by a jockey against another horse/rider.


Race is final and tickets can be paid/redeemed for shown prices.

Off Track Betting

Wagering at legal betting outlets not at the actual racetrack. All wagering on AmWager is Off Track Betting.

On The Board

Runner finishing in the top three positions.


A runner / combination that has been wagered on less than it warrants based on statistics.


The horse running in front. The leader.


Area where horses are saddled and paraded for the crowd before racing.

Part Wheel

Using multiple horses in each leg of a wager. Also known as just Wheel.

Past Performance

Statistics about the actual performance of a runner in its past races.

Pegasus World Cup

The Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes is an American Thoroughbred horse race inaugurated on January 28, 2017, at Gulfstream Park. It is run over the dirt at the distance of 1+1⁄8 miles (9 furlongs) for horses four years old and up. The Grade I rating was assumed from the Donn Handicap. The Pegasus World Cup surpassed the Dubai World Cup as the richest horse race in the world for the years 2017 and 2018.

Photo Finish

Finish where the order is too close to call visually, judges must view the high-speed finish camera to determine the winners.


Type of multi-race wager where you must pick the winner in each selected race. I.E. Pick 3, Pick 5, Pick 6.


Second position. A wager that pays on first or second.


Starting position of a runner in the race.

Post Time

Designated time the race should begin.

Preakness Stakes

An American thoroughbred horse race held on Armed Forces Day, the third Saturday in May each year at Pimlico Race Course. It was inaugurated in 1873, named by a former Maryland governor after the colt who won the first Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico. It was termed "The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans" since a blanket of Maryland's state flower is placed across the withers of the winning colt or filly. A Grade I race run over a distance of 9.5 furlongs on dirt. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds (57 kg), while fillies carry 121 pounds (55 kg). It is also the second jewel of the Triple Crown, run two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and three weeks before the Belmont Stakes. Its attendance ranks second best stakes after Kentucky Derby in North America among equestrian events


It is also called a prep race, a necessary race to prepare a horse for an upcoming major race.


Total money distributed to owners of the top finishers of the race.


Barrier on either side of the racing surface.

Rail Runner

A runner that likes to stay near the inside rail of a track.

Right Handed or Left Handed

Racecourses are run in two directions around the track. A racetrack can be left-handed (counterclockwise or anticlockwise) or right-handed (clockwise). The majority of the racetracks are left-handed in the United States and United Kingdom.

Santa Anita Derby

It is an American Grade 1 thoroughbred horse race for three-year-olds. It runs at a distance of 1+1⁄8 miles on the dirt every April at Santa Anita Park. Inaugurated in 1935 and acknowledged as the most significant West Coast stepping-stone to the Kentucky Derby. It became part of the official Road to the Kentucky Derby in 2013, offering the winner 100 points and thus assuring a position at the starting gate.

Santa Anita Handicap

It is an American Grade 1 Thoroughbred horse race for four-year-old horses and up and was once acknowledged as the most important race for older horses in North America during the winter racing season. It is held annually in early March at Santa Anita Park. It was inaugurated in 1935, months after the Santa Anita Park opened in late 1934. It was originally for three-year-olds and up until 1969. It instantly became one of the nation's top races because it offered a minimum purse of $100,000. It was once referred to as the "Hundred-Grander." Its other nickname is "The Big 'Cap", which is still known today.

Schooling Race

Practice race.


Removed from the race. May be removed for various reasons.


A machine that you can place a wager at a track without interacting with a teller.


Third position. A wager which pays out if a runner comes in at least third.


Jacket and cap worn by jockey's that designate the owner of the horse, or post position. (Varies based on track)


Transmission of the race to other locations.


Male parent of a horse.


Track condition - Wet with water visible on the track.


Track condition - Track is wet and somewhat soaked.


Track condition - Extremely wet, horses may sink deeply.


Short race.

Sports Illustrated

An American sports magazine owned by Authentic Brands Group and licensed to The Arena Group (formerly "The Maven"), first published in August 1954.


A race in which the owner must pay an entry fee. Generally has higher purses than other races.


Male horse used for breeding.


A type of horse breed best known for its capacity in harness racing, either in trot or pace. For more detailed information about all horse racing breeds, see "Horse Racing Breeds".

Starting Gate

Device which serves to hold the runners until the start of the race and then release them evenly.


Another type of horse racing under the Jump Racing or National Hunt. Horses in steeplechase race jump over obstacles like plain fences, water jumps, or an open ditch. It can also refer to any type of jump race in some racing rules and regulations, particularly in the United States. For more detailed information about Horse Racing types, see "Horse Racing Types".


It is the straight areas between turns of a race track.

Stronach Group

The Stronach Group became part of the horse racing industry by acquiring Magna Entertainment Corporation's former holdings from MI Developments. In January 2020, the company announced a rebranding to the 1/ST banner for all consumer-facing operations. It is North America’s leading Thoroughbred racetrack operator of Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park & Casino, Golden Gate Fields, Laurel Park, and Pimlico Race Course, home of the world-famous Preakness. The group is also one of the world's largest suppliers of pari-mutuel wagering systems, technologies, and services.


A stud farm or stud in animal husbandry is a building for selective breeding of livestock. The word "stud" originated from the Old English stod, which means “herd of horses, place where horses are kept for breeding”.

Sunshine Millions

A series of American races for thoroughbred horses held in January at Santa Anita Park or Gulfstream Park. It originally started with half of the eight Sunshine Millions races run at one track and the other half at the other track. In 2012, the enhanced version of the Sunshine Millions featured six races at Gulfstream Park, exclusively for Florida-breds, with a combined purse of $1.3 million.


The percentage of each bet deducted prior to going into the pool. Shared by the entity taking the bet, the track, government bodies, tote systems, and others.

Tapeta Track

It is one subtype of artificial or synthetic track that is composed of sand, fiber, rubber, and wax makes up the racing surface's top 4-7 inches, instated on either porous asphalt or a geotextile membrane. One of the subtypes of tracks with a synthetic surface. It is an artificial surface, unlike dirt and turf tracks. For more detailed information about all three surface tracks, see "Track Surface".


It is a breed of horse best known for its use in horse racing, agility, speed, and spirit. These horses are commonly crossbred to form new breeds or to enhance existing ones and are "hot-blooded". For more detailed information about all horse racing breeds, see "Horse Racing Breeds".

Thoroughbred Racing Association

Industry group comprised of many race tracks in North America.

Tote / Totalizator

Computer system which aggregates wagers, displays odds, and calculates payouts.


Person which claims to have the best knowledge of who will win.

Track Bias

Some race courses may favor certain types of runners. Finding the bias in a track can help handicapping.

Travers Stakes

The oldest stakes race for 3-year-olds in the United States, inaugurated in 1864. It was named after William R. Travers, the old Saratoga Racing Association president. It is an American Grade I Thoroughbred horse race at Saratoga Race Track. It is nicknamed the "Mid-Summer Derby" and is the third-ranked race for American three-year-olds according to international classifications. For more details about the Travers Wagering Menu, see Travers Stakes.


Description of how a specific horse performed in a race.

Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Pacers

It is a combination of three major races in harness racing inaugurated in 1956. The term is mostly used in the US. It is also used in thoroughbred racing. The Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Pacers consists of Cane Pace, held at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey; Messenger Stakes, held at Yonkers Raceway in Yonkers, New York; and Little Brown Jug, held at the Delaware County Fair in Delaware, Ohio.

Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Trotters

It is a combination of three major races in harness racing inaugurated in 1955. The term Triple Crown is mostly used in the US. The term is also used in thoroughbred racing. The Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Trotters consists of Hambletonian, held at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey; Yonkers Trot, held at Yonkers Raceway in Yonkers, New York; and Kentucky Futurity, held at The Red Mile in Lexington, Kentucky.

Triple Crown Thoroughbred Racing
Turf Mile Stakes

It was inaugurated on October 11, 1986, as the Keeneland Breeders' Cup Stakes at a distance of 1+1⁄8 miles. Shadwell Farm sponsored the event from 1999 until 2020, and it was renamed Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes in 2004. Its name reverted to Keeneland Turf Mile Stakes in 2021; at the same time, it was publicized that John Magnier's Coolmore Stud would sponsor the event. It was then renamed again to Coolmore Turf Mile for the 2022 race meet. The event continues to be part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge series, with the winner automatically qualifying for the Breeders' Cup Mile. It is now a Grade I American thoroughbred horse race for three-year-olds and older over one mile on the turf. It runs every October during the fall meeting at the Keeneland Race Track.

Turf Track

It is a natural grass track and the most popular track surface for flat-track horse racing in Europe. For more detailed information about all three surface tracks, see "Track Surface".

Twilight Racing

It means racing activities at night


A runner or combination which has had more money bet on it than statistics warrants.


A runner that has never ran in these specific conditions.


The finish line.

Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG)

Formerly known as the Ontario Jockey Club from 1881 to 2001, operating the Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, and Woodbine Mohawk Park in Campbellville, Ontario


It is awarded to the player or the horse if no other players/horses are available to compete because they have been disqualified, forfeited, or withdrawn from the contest.


To exercise a runner.