Horse races jargon
BACKED OFF THE MAP
This is what you want after you’ve already placed your bet with the bookies. A ton of money is coming for your selection which suggests it’s there to run a big race.
BOX SEATED/TAKING A SIT OR SMOKING THE PIPE
Your horse jumped well out of the barriers and settles just off the speed, conserving energy for one big crack at them at the finish.
Forget the bathroom scales, this is far more important. After a race the weight carried by a runner is checked, and ‘correct weight’ is the signal by the stewards that bets can be paid to the winner and placegetters. Will always be announced over the PA system, hence another opportunity to cheer.
No your horse hasn’t dropped dead or they’ve erected the green hessian screen around it. Usually refers to a favoured runner that drifts alarmingly in betting before disappointing. Doesn’t mean questionable riding tactics but some would agree to differ.
Usually associated with a fractious runner and means they’ve been slow to come out of the starting gates. If your runner has a wide gate in a sprint race and misses the jump, often it means you’re in a world of pain with your wager.
You don’t want to hear the race caller referring to your runner in this condition when behind or in the gates. Usually means the horse is highly aroused and unsettled. If this occurs when in the barriers, there’s a mighty good chance it will bungle the start.
GAME OF MARGINS
Nose/Short half-head/head/neck/half-length/length: The smallest official margin between horses on the line out to that of a length, which is pretty straightforward and refers to one horse length. Anything above a length is a good win, but even the smallest margin is suffice if you collect. Note: A dead-heat is where runners cannot be separated.
GET OUT STAKES
Aka the ‘Desperation Stakes’. Always the last race on the card and your last roll of the dice. The question is: How much are you willing to chance in that last-ditch effort to walk off the track in front? Can end in tears and usually does.
Doesn’t mean this character is handy with their hoofs. It applies to where the horse is positioned during a race. A horse said to be handy is on or just off the pace. Gai Waterhouse always likes to have her horses handy.
The jockey doesn’t quite have the horse in a headlock but it does mean they are attempting to slow the horse so it will not win by too much and possibly incur a hefty weight penalty next time out. Their price at their next start will also be much shorter if they have won by a significant margin. The opposite of this is ridden out, where a jockey will urge on their horse until it reaches the finishing post.
This doesn’t mean a filly or mare has become pregnant. It refers to the time when a horse becomes noticeably tired towards the end of its race and finishes a long way from the winner.
You want these, but finding them is often beyond even the most educated gambler. Also referred to as a ‘roughie’. Plain but not simple, they’re a runner that is paying big odds.
No, it’s not a story of knights and fair maidens, but alas a horse who has not won a race. And if you’re thinking of investing on one, odds are often against a fairytale ending.
This refers to inside information about a runner/runners before a race and it doesn’t come in the shape of an envelop. There is always an abundance of mail, the secret is deciphering between the good and bad. If you know of someone who regularly punts, seek them out as they are likely to have or have sourced good mail. Crucial component.
First of all let’s get one thing clear, there is no such thing unless it’s Black Caviar. Even our new turf queen Winx can occasionally find herself vulnerable, though you wouldn’t think so looking at her past 11 runs. This reference is similar to ‘Put Your House On It’. You’re guaranteed to hear these terms trackside.
No, it’s not a harmless piece of mischief where you end up rolling in the mud on wet afternoon, but a horse that thrives on wet tracks. Wet weather racing can turn form on its head and empty pockets quicker than you can open your umbrella.
Yes, there is a distinct possibly that this could be an unfortunate member of your clan, just make sure it’s not you. A person who is a deadset horror on the punt. No Robinson Crusoes here.
OFF THE BIT
If you hear the racecaller announce that your horse is off the bit before the field enters the home straight, be worried, be very worried. The term means your horse is being ridden on a loose rein to allow it to gallop freely. It means the horse is producing maximum output and if a long way from the finishing line, could be tiring and in trouble.
A horse is pulling is when he or she is over racing. Firstly, over racing means the horse wants to go faster and is fighting against the restraint imposed by the jockey. Pulling will drain the runner of vital strength required at the end of the race.
Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are going to see far more action trackside than the official camera equipment used to determine a winner in a tight contest. But rest assured, you won’t find a gadget more important than this one when your hard-earned is on the line.
No it’s not a rowdy few taking a nuddie run to the racecourse lake for a dip, Hanging Rock excluded. A concentrated flow of bets for a runner, usually in the final minutes before they jump.
Sprint Races/Middle Distance Races/Staying Races: Racing distance classification is split into three categories: Sprint anything up to 1200m. Middle distance refers to races beyond 1200m and up to 2040m, with staying races anything beyond that range.
No, it’s not a madding crowd but could be if the outcome in the event of this goes the wrong way. And don’t be afraid of the air-raid siren that blasts to signal such an event. During a race there can be several incidents that can influence the outcome. Sometimes connections will lodge an objection to one or more of those. Racetracks officials called stewards then decide based on the evidence whether the result should be overturned.
The plastic fence or running rail that horses follow around the racecourse. The rail is often movable to ensure the ground remains as even as possible after wear and tear. The general rule is the further the rail is out, the more the frontrunners are favoured. Take on trust.
SALUTE/GREET THE JUDGE
The more you see your horse do this the more you will be rewarded. It refers to a horse passing the finishing line/post in first position.
Whenever a horse is scratched it means that the horse was entered to run in a race but for some reason is not able to. This can happen for several reasons, the most common being illness or injury. Late scratchings can occur right up until the gates fly open.
SEX OF HORSES
Racing can be a battle of the sexes on either side of the fence, so if you want to stick with the girls or the boys, here’s the lowdown:
FILLY: A female horse up to and including three years of age.
COLT: An entire male horse up to and including three years of age.
MARE: A female horse aged four years or older.
ENTIRE/STALLION/HORSE: An entire male horse four years and older. Not gelded.
GELDING: A horse that has had both testicles removed. Sounds brutal but is a very common. It is hoped the operation will improve his ability to race by removing unnecessary distractions. Unlucky for some.
Not to be confused with one who can handle their drink all day. This applies to a horse suited to longer distances (Caulfield Cup/Melbourne Cup).
The topweight or horse carrying the No. 1 saddlecloth. You will definitely hear someone address a runner in this manner. Good bit of advice is when in doubt always back the toppy. Based on the handicap weights system, the best horse is supposed to carry the most weight (No. 1).
Once only a term you’d hear around a bowling green but now a very important factor when selecting a runner. Sometimes during the course of a meeting certain parts of the track will be more favourable than other parts. Determining whether there is bias can make a huge difference to your horse’s chances. If it is wet and the track is deteriorating along the fence/rails (most common area for horses to be), it may be wise to look for a horse that will be running wide and could find themselves on ground not chopped up. If all the winners seem to be coming from the same position, look for runners that have a similar racing pattern.
Not ideal but can be overcome by a talented horse and jockey. The horse is running wide — outside horses — and into the breeze with “no cover”. The key here is to find cover — drop in behind another runner until home straight. Option B is to go forward and try and dictate the race from the front.
SIGHTS WELCOME AND UNWELCOME AT THE TRACK
Horses are not like the horizontal human, the pig, when it comes grey matter and what they’re thinking, so their actions can be quite misleading.
They are childlike creatures, but here are few observations that might help you isolate the have’s and have not’s in the mounting yard.
EARS PRICKED (PARADE RING/RACING)
Usually means they’re focused and fully aware of their surroundings in the parade ring, while in a race — if they win or perform well — it can indicate they may well have a bit more petrol left in the tank. Good sign all around.
HEAD RAISED/HEAD LOWERED (PARADE RING)
The simple rule of thumb here is head down seems to reflect a relaxed horse, while head up may mean the runner is a bit flighty and burning a bit of nervous energy.
New Zealand visitor Xtravangant took this the next level recently, proudly strutting around with his fifth leg exposed for all to see. While this can be the source of much amusement, it must be treated with caution. They’ve usually got one thing on the mind and it’s not racing.
IN A LATHER
You can count out a soap opera but a horse sweating profusely usually spells trouble and we’re not talking soapsuds. To be avoided as it can usually means they’re nervous and rapidly expiring energy levels.
Not the four-legged variety and you probably won’t spot your first one until 3pm, but from then on it will be like a tsunami. Spent, heavily inebriated, loud and obnoxious and they’ll spread like Paterson’s curse. Avoid the purple haze at all costs.