Talk the Talk
Some of the terms used in racing can often sound like a different language: a far cry from the grammar and phraseology that good ol’ Miss Browning used to try and hammer home in Year 7 English classes. Following is a ‘glossary’ of terminology that probably won’t find you a winner, but will at least help you understand what the coat tugger, who has bailed you up in the birdcage, is rattling on about by cursing about the mudlark who dwelt at the gates and ran stone motherless …
|AGE||All racehorses born in the southern hemisphere share the same birthday … 1 August. In the northern hemisphere, horses celebrate their birthday on 1 January. Horses do not race in Australia until their two year old season, which usually commences in late September. For example, a horse born on 1 October 2014, could start his/her racing career in September 2016. Horses quite often race on until they are 8 or 9 years old and although there are numerous examples of horses racing into their mid teens, new rules restrict a horse to finish racing at the end of their 12 year old season.|
|BAILED UP / HELD UP||A horse during the course of a race is unable to find clear galloping space.|
|BARRIERS||The stalls, or starting ‘gate’ from which a horse jumps at the commencement of a race.|
|BIRDCAGE||The section on a racetrack where horses are paraded prior to the start of the race. Also, a popular place to be at Flemington on Melbourne Cup day!|
|BLINKERS||This is ‘gear’ which a horse often wears to limit its vision of other horses so as not to be distracted during the course of the race. There are numerous other examples of gear which include ‘Tongue ties’, ‘Pacifiers’, ‘Winkers’, ‘Ear Muffs’, ‘Nose Roll’, ‘Cross Over Nose Bands’ - they are all approved uses of equipment to assist a horse during a race. You will also see a horse loaded into the barriers some times wearing a ‘barrier blanket’ - this is also done to pacify a horse and is automatically removed as a horse jumps from the barrier.|
|BLOWS / FLUCTUATES||This is when a horse’s odds fluctuate, often due to the perception that a favoured horse might not look in peak condition prior to a race and is therefore ‘eased’ in the betting.
|BOOKMAKERS||Australia is one of the few racing jurisdictions left in the world that allows bookmakers to operate on a racetrack. For instance, bookmaking was banned from New Zealand race tracks in 1911. Aside from oncourse bookmakers, racing enthusiasts can wager via a totalisator or numerous online better services.|
|CHECKED||When a horse suffers interference during the course of the race.|
|CLASS||There are various classes of racing in Australia, structured specifically for horses at a level of perceived ability. A ‘Maiden’ for instance, is exclusive to horses which have not previously won a race, while a ‘Group One’ is racing at its most elite level. Group One, Group Two, Group Three and Listed races are known as black type events and add considerably to a horse’s commerciality if a prospective stallion or broodmare.|
|CLASSICS||Usually refers to ‘Derby’ or ‘Oaks’ races: limited to three year old horses - Derby (colts & geldings) or Oaks (fillies) and are mostly contested over 2400 metres.|
|COAT-TUGGER||Someone who offers you a tip and then expects a percentage of the winnings. Quite often a person who is hard to find if the horse gets beaten!|
|COLT / ENTIRE / GELDING / FILLY / MARE||Colt: a male horse who is three years old or younger that is not castrated.
Entire: a male horse four years old or older who is not castrated.
Gelding: a male horse that has been castrated.
Filly: a female horse who is three years old or younger.
Mare: a female horse four years old or older.
|CORRECT WEIGHT||‘Correct weight’ is determined after jockeys have ‘weighed in’ (ensuring that the horses have carried the correct amount of weight) and the placings have been made official.|
|DEAD HEAT||When two or more horses cross the line at the same time and can’t be separated by the official camera. In a dead heat, the odds of a horse are divided in half to pay out each of the winners evenly.|
|EASED||A horse restrained during a race in order to achieve a better position. This can also refer to horse’s odds increasing prior to a race.|
|FARRIER||The person responsible for equine hoof care.|
|FIRST UP||A horse resuming from a spell (usually has not raced for a minimum of two months).
|FIRST STARTER||A horse making his/her racetrack debut.|
|FRONT RUNNER||A horse who usually seeks the lead early in the race (and hopefully at the end of it too!).|
|HANDICAPPING||In ‘Handicap’ races, the official Handicapper determines the weight of a horse based on performance and/or potential. As a rule of thumb, it is commonly considered that one length equals 1.5 kilograms and therefore, if a horse wins by three lengths, it has theoretically won by 4.5 kilograms.|
|HOOP||Another name for a jockey. They are known by several other names too if beaten on a horse you have backed!|
|IMPOST||The weight allocated to a horse during a race.|
|IN FOAL||A pregnant mare.|
|KNOCKED UP||Not to be confused with ‘In Foal’ … this describes a horse that has weakened noticeably over the concluding stages of a race.|
|KNUCKLED OVER||When a horse stumbles or trips when leaving the barriers.|
|LATE MAIL||Last-minute tips that take scratchings, jockeys, track conditions and ‘advice’ from informed sources into account.|
|LONG SHOT||A horse at big odds.|
|MARGINS||Most margins are self explanatory: a ‘Nose’ (shortest margin you can win by), a ‘Head’, a ‘Neck’ or by ‘Length(s)’ - a length is approximately three metres (the ‘length’ of a horse).|
|MUDLARK||A horse that prefers soft or wet tracks.|
|MUG PUNTER||A person who is not very good at betting.|
|NEAR SIDE / OFF SIDE||When a facing a horse head on, the near side is to the right and the off side is to the left. A horse is always led from the ‘near’ side.|
|ON THE NOSE||Backing a horse to win only.|
|PIG ROOT||The act of a horse bucking. Not a good sign!|
|PLUNGE||A rush of bets for a particular horse: usually just prior to the start of a race.|
|RIDDEN OUT||A horse that has been urged along vigorously during the race.|
|ROUGHIE||A horse at long odds.|
|SCRATCHED||A horse that has been removed from a race. This can be due to illness, injury or track conditions.|
|SIRE & DAM||A sire is the male parent of the horse, while the dam is the female parent.|
|SPRINTER||A horse that runs better over shorter distances.|
|STAYER||A horse that performs best when racing over longer distances.|
|STEWARDS||Appointed officials to enforce the rules of racing.|
|STRAPPER / GROOM||The person who attends to the horse on race day, but also usually looks after the day to day welfare of the horse.|
|STONE MOTHERLESS||When a horse has finished a clear last in the race.|
|SWOOPER||A horse whose style of racing is such that they ‘settle’ back in the field and ‘swoop’ over the concluding stages. Think Chautauqua, or if you’re really old, Bernborough!|
|TOP FLUCTUATION||A bet type which gives you the highest odds during on-course betting. These bets generally need to be placed at least half an hour before the race.|
|TRACK RATINGS||A track’s ‘rating’ can vary from ‘Firm’ to ‘Good’ to ‘Soft’ to ‘Heavy’ with the scale of these ratings classed from 1 (dry, hard track) to 10 (heaviest category - very wet underfoot).|
|UNDER DOUBLE WRAPS||A horse who is running very well without the jockey ‘urging’ the horse along.|
|UNDERS||A horse whose odds are too low in relation to its chances of winning. In other words, taking ‘unders’ means you’ve bet on a horse whose odds should have been higher.|
|WRITE YOUR OWN TICKET||Not to be taken literally but usually referring to a galloper that has very little chance of winning and a bookmaker will give you any odds you request.|
|YEARLING||A horse - either colt or filly - that is between one and two years old. Yearling sales in Australia are very popular and are often the source for racehorses that are not owned by the breeder.|
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Tips For Enjoying Your Day
1. Arrive Early
Get the most out of your day racing and arrive at the track early. Once the actual races commence, the day moves at a fairly fast pace and you don’t want to miss any of the action, especially on big carnival days.
2. Buy A Race Book
One of the first things you should do when you arrive at the track is buy a race book. You can usually find them for sale at the main entrance points – if not, ask a staff member to point you in the right direction. The race book sets out in detail the runners in each race and provides you with plenty of handy information. Think of it as your racing bible for the day!
Have a read through and get acquainted with the horses running, their trainers, and jockeys. You might like to pick a particular trainer or jockey and follow their success throughout the day.
Make sure you have a wander about the course and familiarise yourself with the layout and the facilities. A lot of racecourses, especially those in metropolitan areas, have an array of bars and food outlets so get exploring and see what you can find!
4. Visit The Tie-Ups
The tie-ups stalls are where the horses are stabled during race day. You will usually find them towards the back of the course. Here, you will be able to see the trainer and strapper going about their pre-race preparations and watch the horses being saddled up. Head to the tie-ups roughly half an hour before the scheduled race time to see some of the action.
5. Watch The Horses Parade
Whilst having a wander around the course make sure you locate the parade ring and spend some time watching the horses parade before they race. You can tell a lot about a horse from watching it parade and some common things to look out for are:
- A healthy-looking coat – a gleaming coat on a horse is often a sign of good health and an indicator of good fitness. Horses that are a little dull in the coat or that have retained their long winter coats can sometimes need another race or two to ‘bring them on’ (improve their fitness).
- Sweating – some horses ‘sweat up’ prior to racing. In some instances, this is purely a result of the outside temperature but often it is a sign of the horse expelling nervous energy. Optimally, you want your horse to conserve all of its energy until the actual race so ideally look for horses that appear alert but relaxed when parading.
6. Have A Bet
During your wander you should have also come across the betting ring. This is where you will find the bookmakers and the tote. Placing a bet is not essential but if you do have a dollar to spare, we recommend having a little flutter! There is nothing quite like the fun and excitement of cheering home a horse and celebrating if it wins.
A wise word of advice though – only bet what you can afford to lose.
If gambling isn’t your thing, we still recommend you select a horse and have a ‘mental bet’. It’s a great way to engage with the race and it won’t hurt your pocket.
7. View Races From Different Places
Don’t spend all day in one place. Find different places to watch each race – that way you get the full experience. Head down to the rails and feel the horses thunder past the winning post, then head up to the grandstand for a bird’s eye view.
The start of a race if often just as exciting as the finish. Staying races are sometimes staged over distances that exceed one lap of the course. In these instances, the barriers will be positioned somewhere in the home straight and you will be able to get up close and watch the field jump.
8. Join In the Celebrations
Cheer the winning horse and subsequent place getters back to scale and take the time to stop and watch the winning presentation. You will get to see first-hand the sheer joy and excitement that race horse owners experience.
9. People Watch
The racing world is full of colourful, creative characters – especially during carnival time when we see fashionistas and celebrities flock to the track. Find yourself a comfortable seat and indulge in a little spot of people watching. You never know who you might see!
10. Strike Up A Conversation
The racing community is embracing of new participants and everyone has a good story (or two) to tell. Strike up a conversation with a fellow racing enthusiast and find out how they got involved in racing.
What to Wear
Racecourses can vary in their dress rules and regulations, so it is advisable to check with the specific race club prior to attending a race meeting. Most clubs will publish information on their website.
Alternatively, phone and speak to someone in their office.
However, the general rule of thumb is that if you have ticketing for the members area, you will be required to dress more formally than you would for the general public area. Furthermore, dress regulations are generally stricter at metropolitan and provincial clubs than they are at country clubs.
Here is a quick overview when dressing for the members:
Ladies should think smart and sophisticated when choosing an outfit. Pants are acceptable but no denim. If wearing a dress or skirt, the hemline should fall at the knee or below. Hats and fascinators are appropriate (especially during carnival periods) but they are not mandatory.
Men are required to wear a collared shirt and tie, pants (again, no denim) and a jacket or blazer. Dress shoes are advisable – sports shoes and thongs are not permitted.
Note: if you have a runner, you will more than likely be given complimentary members ticketing for the day.
Reading a Racebook
To the untrained eye, the information contained in a race book can seem confusing and perhaps even a little overwhelming but once you know how to make sense of it all, you will realise how useful it is.read more
Here is a run-down on how to read your race book:
There are many ways in which you can place a wager on a horse race – and even more varied means of actually having a bet.
In Australia, for instance, you can bet at the racetrack either through a registered bookmaker or at a totalisator window, while ‘off course’ you can bet at a TAB outlet – you can locate one in most suburbs and towns – or online via TAB or numerous internet betting operations.
Following is a basic outline of various betting types:
As the name would suggest, a ‘Win’ bet requires the horse you have backed to be declared the official winner. Before you can collect your winnings, correct weight has to be declared. A win bet is the most popular betting type. An amount as small as 50 cents can be wagered at the TAB, but most bets are usually for a dollar or greater. For instance, if you bet $10 on a horse that wins at $5, you will collect $50.
Betting for a place results in a dividend if your horse finishes first, second or third, as long as there are more than eight runners. You will often see NTD when dividends are placed on screen, signifying that there is ‘No Third Dividend’. Races with five runners or less, only pay dividends on first. Again, if you place a $10 bet a horse to place and the place dividend is $3, you will collect $30.
This is a combination of a win bet and a place bet. If you have a bet of $10 each way on a horse, the total bet will cost you $20. If the horse is paying $10 for a win and $2.50 for a place, you will collect $125 ($100 for the win plus $25 for the place) if the horse wins, or $25 ($0 for win and $25 for the place) if your horse runs second or third.
Fixed odds betting can be tricky. If, for instance, you place a bet of $10 on a horse at the fixed offs of $4, you will received $40 if the horse wins. However, if the horse ‘drifts’ in the market and actually starts at $4.50, you only receive the dividend at the fixed price. Alternatively, if the horse ‘shortens’ dramatically before the race starts, eg. starts at $3, your fixed odds are not affected.
There are also a number of betting types which are termed ‘Exotic’ – and very exotic too if you win!
This requires you to select first and second place, in either order. So, if you bet $2 on numbers 1 and 2 to run the quinella then either horse can win or run second (either 1-2, or 2-1). Quinella dividends are calculated by the amount of total money in the pool and a dividend is declared after the race is run.
A Box Quinella gives the option to choose as many runners from the same race to finish first and second. From a minimum outlay of say, $1, the following applies for additional horses: 3 runners = $3; 4 runners = $6; 5 runners = $10; 6 runners = $15 etc. If any two of your selections runs first and second in a box quinella, you then collect the dividend.
Based on similar lines to the Box Quinella, a Standout Quinella means you select one horse to win and any number of horses that may finish second. For example, if you had a $1 quinella with number 2 to win and numbers 4, 5, 6 and 7 to run second, then number 2 has to win the race while the other four have to run second for your bet to win. It will also cost you $4 to place the bet as there are in effect four Quinellas which are 2&4, 2&5, 2&6 and 2&7.
This is another form of Quinella but one in which you select given horses to finish 1st and 2nd in that order. If you have a $2 Exacta on numbers 1 and 2, then number 1 has to win and number 2 has to run second. Traditionally, Exactas pay a higher dividend than Quinellas but are obviously more difficult to win.
A Trifecta requires you to select horses to finish first, second and third in that order.
Similar to a Box Quinella you can wager on any number of horses in a particular race, but obviously with the increased number of entries the cost increases. Most betting agencies allow denominations as low as $1 per unit, and the following would apply: a $1 trifecta box of horses 1-3-5 would include six $1 combinations at a cost of $6 and would payoff if the order of finish were 1-3-5, 1-5-3, 3-1-5, 3-5-1, 5-3-1 or 5-1-3. Boxing 4 or greater can be calculated accordingly: $1 trifecta box of 4 horses = 24 possible combinations = $24; $1 trifecta box of 5 horses = 60 possible combinations = $60; $1 trifecta box of 6 horses = 120 possible combinations = $120; $1 trifecta box of 7 horses = 210 possible combinations = $210; $1 trifecta box of 8 horses = 336 possible combinations = $336; $1 trifecta box of 9 horses = 504 possible combinations = $504.
Importantly, it should be noted that you can, for instance, box the same amount of horses, eg. 5 horses, for say only half the amount illustrated above (ie. $30), but you would only receive half the dividend if successful.
Ultimately, whether you bet at the racetrack, in a TAB outlet or online, you will find that bookmakers or tote operators are helpful with any enquiries. And remember … always gamble responsibly!