Table of Contents


Advanced Deposit Wagering

Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) is a form of horse race gambling in which the bettor must fund his or her account before being allowed to place bets. ADW is often conducted online or by phone.

Allowance race

A race for which the track operator’s designated official (usually the Racing Secretary) establishes specific conditions that determine what weights are to be carried by any competing horse based on factors from the horse’s previous performances including races won and/or earnings. Entries are restricted to horses meeting certain earnings or other race criteria.

Allowance optional claiming

See Optional claiming


A young jockey, sometimes called a “Bug,” who is still in training. An apprentice is required to ride a certain number of winners in a specified period of time before completing his or her apprenticeship.



The straightway on the farther side of an elliptical or oval racecourse that is usually opposite the finish line.

Black type

In a catalogue, Boldface type indicates a stakes winner if in all caps or stakes-placed runner if in upper and lower mixed case print.

Blanket finish

A finish “so close that a blanket would cover all the contestants involved.”

Bloodstock agent

People who specialize in buying and selling horses on behalf of clients and offer advice on purchasing horses.

Blue hen

A mare who produces many high quality offspring who also have a significant impact on the breed.

Break or Broke

To leave the starting gate in the initial strides of a race.


To win easily or can refer to a light training workout over a short distance that is used to gauge a horse’s racing potential and performance.

Broke down

A horse that has a serious leg problem during a race where they are limping or cannot put a limb on the ground, resulting in either being removed from the track in a horse ambulance or, in the worst cases euthanized.

Bullet or Bullet work

The best workout time for a particular distance on a given day at a track, indicated by a printer’s “bullet” that precedes the time of the workout in listings. Called a “black-letter” work in some parts of the country.

North American Horse Racing Terminology - Claming Race


Claiming race

Race in which any competing horse is subject to be purchased for a preset price. A claim is made before the race and can only be acted upon by a licensed owner or their agent. The price is set by the conditions of the race. If the horse wins prize money during the race, the money goes to the previous owner.


An extension to a straightaway on either the homestretch or the backstretch used for establishing a distance to eliminate the need to begin the race on a turn.


A horse that performs best during the latter part of the race, usually coming from behind against most of its race competitors.


Conditions are “the eligibility requirements of a horse running in a race, such as age, sex, number of wins, and amount of money won.”


The owner and trainer of a horse. The term can also be extended to other members of a racing team or partnership.


Dead heat

Term to denote a tie at the finish of the race between two or more horses. A tie with three horses is very rare.


A stakes race for three-year-olds. The name is often used for the most important race for three-year-olds in a state or region, for instance the Kentucky Derby, Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, Arkansas Derby.

Did Not Finish (DNF)

A horse that did not finish the race, for any of a number of reasons



When a jockey deliberately slows down a horse during a race, often to prevent injury or harm to the horse.

Eighth pole

A pole to signal that the finish line is one-eighth of a mile away. Eighth poles are green and white striped.



A horse that has a preferred running style to run at or near the head of the field.


A distance equal to 220 yards (1⁄8 mile or 200 m).


A race for two-year-old horses for which they have been entered while still a foal; the owners make payments over time to keep their horses eligible. Purses are usually large.


Graded stakes race

A classification system begun in 1973 to rank stakes races in North America, similar to the Group races of Europe. Classification noted with Roman numerals I, II, or III.



1. A race designed to create equality by the horses being assigned different, specific weights determined by the track handicapper based on an assessment of each entrant’s potential. 2. The process of selecting winners based on past performances. 3. The amount of weight, sometimes called an impost, carried by the horse.


Working or racing with moderate effort, more than a breeze.

Hand ride

When the jockey urges a horse just with his/her hands and does not use the whip.

Head of the stretch, top of the stretch

The beginning of the homestretch.

Hit the board

To finish in the top four placings, literally, to appear on the tote board.

Homestretch or stretch

The final straight section of the track leading to the finish.


In the money

1. For a horse to finish in the top three placings, where bettors win money. 2. Less often, for the horse to finish in the top four, where the horses win prize money.



Two-year-old horses.



Used to describe the distance between horses during a race and at the finish line. One length is approximately 8 feet or 2.4 m and represents the length of one horse.


Maiden race

Specific race for runners that have never won a race, usually by age, but not always.

Morning line

The approximate odds before wagering begins and exact odds are established.


New shooter

A horse which skipped the Kentucky Derby to run in the Preakness Stakes or Belmont Stakes.

Nom de course

A name, usually a pseudonym, used by a racehorse owner under which their horse is registered to compete.


The shortest margin of victory in a race.



Stakes race for three-year-old fillies.

Optional claiming

A race where a horse can either meet the conditions of the race or be entered for a claiming price.



The speed of a race. To run a horse “off the pace” means that the horse will not be in the lead for the early part of the race but will advance to the front shortly before the finish of the race.


Saddling and parading area where horses can be seen prior to the race. See also paddock for agricultural uses.

Photo finish

A race result so close that the judges cannot decide the order of finish until they consult photographs taken of the race finish.


Markers placed at specific distances around the track marking the distance from the finish line, named after the distance remaining, not the distance run, i.e. the quarter pole, eighth pole, sixteenth pole each measure the distance left in the race. One-sixteenth poles are black and white striped. Eighth poles are green and white. Quarter poles are red and white.


1. The starting point of a race 2. Post position (see below) 3. (verb) To reference or record a win.

Post parade

When the horses in a race travel from the paddock to the starting gate (“post”), past the grandstands.

Post position

The number of the individual stalls in the starting gate where horses will begin a race. The first stall (#1 or inside position) is next to the rail at most racetracks with higher numbers on the outside of the track. Post position can be a hindrance or tactical advantage for horses depending on their racing style.

Pull up

To pull back on the reins to slowly stop a horse. Jockeys will typically ease a horse to a stop after passing the finish line or if there is a problem with the horse, such as injury, that necessitates a withdrawal from a race.


Quarter pole

A pole to signal that the finish line is one-quarter of a mile away. Quarter poles are red and white striped.



Female horse (mare) who has competed in sanctioned Thoroughbred races.

Generic left-handed racetrack diagram: A = finish line, B = grandstand, C/black = chute , Yellow = homestretch , Red = first turn, Blue = backstretch , Green = 2nd/last turn, gray inside line = rail and the white center is the infield. Black dots note standard locations of the poles that measure distance to the finish.

Generic left-handed racetrack diagram: A = finish line, B = grandstand, C/black = chute, Yellow = homestretch, Red = first turn, Blue = backstretch, Green = 2nd/last turn, gray inside line = rail and the white center is the infield. Black dots note standard locations of the poles that measure distance to the finish.

Racetrack or Racecourse

A flat surface made of dirt, grass (turf) or synthetic material, usually arranged in an oval, where races are conducted. Races can either be run in a counterclockwise (left-handed) or clockwise (right-handed) direction around the track. Left-handed, dirt tracks are the predominant form in the United States mostly due to tradition. Tracks typically consist of two turns, a backstretch, a straight (or homestretch) arranged around a central infield and various surrounding structures such as the finish line and stands for spectators.


Inside fence on a racetrack.


A horse that is fractious and hard for the jockey to handle.

Rank outsider

A horse that is not expected to win a race.


A deliberate action by the jockey to keep a horse “off the pace”.

Ridden out

When a horse works out or wins under a vigorous hand ride but is not whipped.



To remove a horse from a race before it is run.


The silk or nylon jacket and cap worn by a jockey to indicate the owner of the horse. Each owner’s unique colors are registered with the national and/or regional racing authority. The first use of registered colors occurred in 1762 a Newmarket Racecourse in England.

Stakes race

A race where a fee must be paid to enter, which may include nominating, maintaining eligibility, entering and starting. The track usually adds more money to make up the total purse. see also Graded stakes race

Steward or track steward

One or more racetrack officials responsible for enforcement of racing regulations.


see homestretch, above.


Top of the stretch

See Head of the Stretch

Track record/Course record

The fastest time on a specific racetrack it has taken any Thoroughbred to complete a set race distance on a specific surface. The term track is used if the surface is made of dirt and course is used when it is covered in grass.



The races on the same day that precede a major or important race.



Race with only one horse going to the post. As a result, the sole starter needs only to gallop the distance of the race to be the official winner, but covering the distance is required by racing rules.

Weight for Age

Race with a fixed amount of weight carried by horses based on their age, sex or other parameters such as time of year or distance of race.

Wire to wire

When a horse leads the race from start to finish.


1.       Hollywood Park – Beginners Corner glossary

2.       “Report of Impact of Account Wagering Providers”. Retrieved 31 August 2014.

3.       Staff. “Industry Glossary”. Equibase company. Retrieved 2013-08-27.

4.       Price, et al. Lyons Press Horseman’s Dictionary p. 6

5.       Animal Planet – Horse Racing: Glossary of Terms

6.       Price (2003). Backstretch. p. 14.

7.       Staff. “Thoroughbred Terminology”. Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association. Retrieved 2013-08-27.

8.       Staff. “Blanket finish”. Retrieved 12 June 2013.

9.       Nusser, Susan (2012).  Kentucky Derby Dreams: The Making of Thoroughbred Champions. New York: Macmillan. p. 250.ISBN 9780312569907.

10.   Price (2003). Broke. p. 24.

11.   Ammer, Christine (2013). The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Second Edition. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 57. ISBN 0547676581.

12.   Price (2003). Breeze. p. 26.

13.   “Guide to Race Comments”. Retrieved 2014-01-10.

14.   Price, et al. Lyons Press Horseman’s Dictionary p. 44

15.   Eng, Richard. “Examining Different Levels of Competition at the Racetrack”. Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies.

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17.   Boardman, Samuel Lane (1910). Handbook of the turf. New York: Orange Judd Co. p. 100.

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22.   Carp, Steve (June 7, 2014). “Coburn’s reaction simply sour grapes”. Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved June 11, 2014.

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31.   “Wire to Wire”. Retrieved July 14, 2014.


  • Price, Stephen D. (2003). The Horseman’s Illustrated Dictionary: Full Explanations of More Than 1,000 Terms and Phrases Used by Horsemen Past and Present. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot. ISBN 1592280986.
  • Price, Steven D.; Shiers, Jessie (2007). The Lyons Press Horseman’s Dictionary(Revised ed.). Guilford, CT: Lyons Press. ISBN 978-1-59921-036-0.

External links

  • Frankie Lovato’s 365 Days of Racing Term Videos

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article “North American Horse Racing Terminology“, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3. Page accessed 01/31/2015.

Additional glossaries at:

  • Glossary of Australian and New Zealand punting
  • Glossary of equestrian terms

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Horse Racing Terminology

By Matt Gardner @pressthepace on Jan 18 2010, 6:14p

Across the board: A bet on one horse to win, place, and show.

Allowance or Allowance Race: A non-claiming event in which the racing secretary conditions weight allowances based on previous purse earnings and/or types of victories.

Also Eligible or “AE”: Horses entered into the field that will not run unless other horses are scratched.

Apprentice Jockey: A student jockey that will receive a weight allowance of varying degrees depending on his or her experience.