Glossary for Horse Racing Terms

Glossary for Horse Racing Terms

Before you begin betting on horse racing, there are various terms that you should know, so make sure to read this wagering terms glossary to enhance your Horse Betting Strategy.

Horse racing is full of jargon that can sometimes be confusing, but once you understand a few aspects of the horse, the track, and the actual race, you’ll be ready to wager.

Here is an introductory guide to the most important glossary of horse racing terms: 

The Horse

The foundation of betting horse racing is the horses, which can vary greatly depending on many factors. When reading the entries for a race, you will see information about the horse’s age, sex, pedigree, and more. 

Here is a look at some important betting terms glossary regarding the horse:

  • Colt: An uncastrated male horse that is 4-years-old or younger. If the colt is older than this age, it will be referred to as a horse, if still running, or a stallion, if at stud. 
  • Filly: A female horse 4-years-old or younger. 
  • Mare: A female horse 5-years-old or older. 
  • Gelding: A horse that has been castrated, oftentimes to calm its temperament.
  • Maiden: A horse that has never won a race. 
  • Thoroughbred: A breed of horse known for speed and endurance while racing long distances.
  • Quarter horse: A breed of horse that excels at sprinting short distances.

About the Track

All tracks are not created equal, and each venue around the country and world has various different tracks and features. They are different lengths and surfaces, all of which affect how the horses perform. By better understanding the track and how each runner performs on a certain surface, your betting will improve greatly.

Here is a look at some important terms regarding the track:

  • All-weather: A synthetic racing surface that is often made with sand. It is able to stand up to weather changes better than other surfaces. 
  • Turf: A type of racing surface made of grass that is easier on a horse’s body.
  • Dirt: A type of racing surface that results in dirt and dust hitting the horse and jockey during a stride. 
  • Furlong: A unit of distance measurement used in horse racing. A furlong is the equivalent of 1/8 of a mile or just over 201 meters, and race distances are often measured in furlongs.

About the Race

There are many different types of races during each live racing meet, so reading the race cards can sometimes be confusing. However, there are just a few main categories that you need to know. 

Here is a look at some important terms regarding race:

  • Graded stakes races: Graded stakes races are the most prestigious categories of races, and they are regularly the features on top race cards. There are three categories of graded stakes races: Grade I, Grade II, and Grade III. Grade I races are the most prestigious of all and include events like the Triple Crown races. 
  • Handicap: A type of race where the horses carry different weights depending on their overall rating determined by the handicapper. 
  • Maiden race: A type of race restricted to only maiden runners. 
  • Allowance race: A type of race where the horses run for a higher purse than a maiden race. These races often have conditions like “non-winner of three lifetimes” and are meant for horses not ready for stakes races. 
  • Claiming race: A type of race where all the horses are for sale until shortly before the running. They are all roughly around the same price, also called the “claiming price.” 
  • Optional claiming race: A hybrid of allowance and claiming race types meant to increase field sizes. A runner does not have to fit the conditions, but in that case, it must be offered for sale. 

Horse Race Bets Glossary

Straight Wagers

The basic straight wager beginners generally become familiar with upon their first exposure to horse racing are Win, Place, and Show. Usually, all three required a minimum bet of $2, but nowadays they can be for a minimum of $1 in most places.

Win, Place, and Show

Also known as Across the board — Three equal Win, Place and Show bets

  • If your horse finishes 1st, you win all three bets.
  • If your horse finishes 2nd, you win on the Place and Show bets.
  • If your horse finishes 3rd, you win on the Show bet.

Exotic Bets or Combination Wagers

Exacta — Pick two horses in one race. If they finish 1st and 2nd, in exact order, you win.

Quinella — Pick two horses. If they finish 1st or 2nd, in either order, you win. Also known as an Exacta Box.

Trifecta — Pick three horses. If they finish 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, in exact order, you win.

Superfecta — Pick four horses. If they finish 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, in exact order, you win.

Daily Double — Picking winners in two consecutive races.

Pick 3 — Picking winners in three consecutive races

Pick 4 — Picking winners in four consecutive races.

Pick 6 — Picking winners in six consecutive races. The biggest bet you can make. If you win, you win big.

These are the most common terms you will encounter when starting to bet on horse racing. After you have a strong grasp of this glossary, you will be able to look at any race card and understand the type of race, which horses will be running, and what the track looks like. Make sure to check our official horse racing entries submissions page.

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