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Welcome to the plain English explanation of UK horse racing terminology and jargon. Many of you will have heard horse racing phrases like "handicap race" "bay horse" and "claimer" from TV horse racing presenters, trainers and jockeys without having a clue about what they were talking about? Hopefully this explanation of some of the more common horse racing jargon and terminology will add to your greater understanding and enjoyment of horse racing.
ALL WEATHER RACING: Year-round Flat racing on an artifical surface at Lingfield, Newcastle, Kempton, Southwell and Wolverhampton.
AMATEUR: A non-professional jockey who can be identified on any racecard by their title: Mr, Mrs, Ms, Captain appearing before their name.
APPRENTICE: A young jockey contracted to a trainer while learning how to race ride.
BAY: A horse which has a brown body and black mane.
BLINKERS: A type of hood that fits over a horse's head to prevent it from seeing sideways and help it concentrate it's> attention ahead during a race.
BLOWN UP: When a horse starts to drop out of contention during a race due to lack of fitness.
BROKEN DOWN: When a horse sustains an injury - normally a tendon or soft tissue injury requiring a long rest to recover.
BUMPER: A National Hunt flat race over a distance of 13 - 20 furlongs. NB: 8 furlongs = 1 mile.
CHESTNUT: A horse with a "ginger" body, mane and tail.
CLAIMER: An apprentice flat race jockey.
CLERK OF THE COURSE: The person responsible for the overall management of a racecourse during raceday.
COLOURS: A jockey's shirt or 'silks' which identifies the owner of the race horse.
COLT: A young, ungelded (see gelding) male horse aged up to four years.
CONDITIONAL JOCKEY: A National Hunt jockey, under 26, who receives a weight allowance for inexperience until he has ridden a certain number of winners.
CONDITIONS RACES: Weights carried are determined by the sex of the runners, with female runners carrying less weight than males; the age of the runners, with younger horses receiving weight from older runners, referred to as weight for age; and quality of runners, with horses that have won certain values of races giving weight to less successful entrants.
CUT IN THE GROUND: A description of the ground condition, when there is 'give' in the surface, AKA 'soft going'.
DISTANCE: The length of a race. Five furlongs is the shortest, four and half miles (The Grand National) the longest. Also refers to the margin by which a horse wins or is beaten. This can range from 'a short head' to 'a distance' which is more than 30 lengths.
DRAW: A Flat racing term denoting a horse's position in the starting stalls.
DRIFTER: A horse whose betting odds have lengthened.
FILLY: A female horse aged up to four years.
FORM: Refers to a horse's race record. Denoted by figures next to it's name on a racecard i.e. 1=1st, 2=2nd etc.
FURLONG: The unit of distance in a horse race. One-eighth of a mile or 220 yards or 201 metres.
GALLOPING TRACK: Generally a wide-open track that suits bigger horse with big strides i.e. Ascot or Newbury.
GELDING: Horses which have been castrated (gelded) as the temperament of a stallion is not usually suited for an extended racing career.
GET THE TRIP: Usually said of a horse that is expected to complete the race distance.
GOING REPORT: Refers to the condition of the racecourse turf. The turf is classed as Hard, Firm, Good To Firm, Good, Good To Soft, Soft, Heavy. Ideally the course going should be Good. Any changes in the predicited going before or during raceday may result in some trainers withdrawing their horse from a race because they believe it will be at a significant disadvantage.
GRADE RACE: Refers to the category of a Natonal Hunt race. The most prestigious races are Grade 1, and include the Betfair Chase, Cheltenham Gold Cup, King George VI Chase and Ryanair Stayers' Hurdle, to name just a few. The Aintree Grand National, despite its' prestigious reputation, is ranked the lowest, a Grade 3 race.
GROUP RACE: Refers to the category of a flat race. Group One races are the premier class and include the Classics> (Derby, The Kentucky Derby, 1000 Guineas). Group Two races also have international prestige and Group Three races are usually domestic races and regarded as being preparation for the higher Groups. Pattern races are designed to ensure competitive horse racing throughout Europe.
HACKED UP: When a horse wins easily.
HANDICAP: A handicap race in which the the weight each horse has to carry is individually allotted according to it's past performance to make the chances of all horses in the race more equal. See NURSERY
JUVENILE: A two year old Flat horse or a three year old National Hunt horse.
MARE: A female horse over five years old.
NATIONAL HUNT: Racing over fences and hurdles AKA jump racing. See GRADE RACE
NOVICE: A horse which has not won more than two races.
NURSERY: A handicap race for two year old horses.
OBJECTION: A complaint by one jockey against another regarding a breach of rules during a race.
OFF/ON THE BRIDLE: A tired horse reduces his effort and is said to be `off the bridle". A horse with `plenty of running' still has energy and still in contact with the jockey via the bit and the reins and is said to be still `on the bridle'.
OFF THE PACE: When a horse isn't keeping up with the others horses in a race.
OVER THE TOP: A horse past his peak for the season.
PACE: The speed at which a race is run. Up with the pace means close to the leaders, off the pace means some way behind.
PENALTY: Additional weight carried by a horse on account of previous wins. In a handicap, penalties are added to the allotted weight of a horse if it has won since the weights for the race were published.
PULLING: A horse that is unsettled during the early part of a race and uses too much energy fighting the jockey by pulling against the bridle.
RACING PLATE: Lightweight horseshoes designed for racehorses.
RULE 4: If a horse is a non-runner, the odds will be revised. Consequently, the payout for winning bets will be reduced. And where your selection is the non-runner, your bet is declared void and the stake returned.
SIRE: A horse's father.
STAYERS: Horses with a lot of stamina are more likely to perform best over 3 miles, rather than 2 miles over jumps, and over 2 miles on the flat.
STEAMER: A horse whose betting odds have shortened.
STEEPLECHASE: A horse race over fences, open ditches and water jumps.
STEWARDS ENQUIRY: Under certain circumstances, the stewards of a racecourse will investigate an objection or suspected infringement of the Rules of Racing. Which may result in the race outcome being amended.
THOROUGHBRED: A horse whose lineage can be traced back to any of the three founding sires: Darley Arabian, Byerly Turk and Godolphin Arabian.
TIGHT TRACK: Generally a narrow track with tight turns that suits smaller, nippier horses, such as Cartmel or Kelso.
WEIGHT CLOTH: A cloth with pockets for lead weights placed under the saddle.
WEIGHTS: Lead strips placed in a weight cloth (as above) to bring the jockey up to the handicap weight of the race.
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