New To Racing

Racing Explained

There's nothing like a day at the races for excitement, thrills and quality entertainment. Please remember to book ahead if you want to dine in one of our restaurants.

What to bring

Cash – most bookmakers only accept bets of £5 or more, though the tote will take bets from £2 which you can pay by credit or debit card.
Your racecard – all you need to know plus features and tips for £3 on the day or £2.50 in advance.
Camera – don't forget to disable the flash so you don't upset the horses.
Binoculars – bring your own or hire them at the course.

Wising up

You'll enjoy your day more if you know a little bit about betting and horses. Find out more about bets, betting systems and strategies at the OLBG Betting School.

Visit the paddock before the race

Look for:

  • good muscle tone
  • shiny coat
  • bright eyes
  • alert manner
  • a relaxed walk


  • Very sweaty horses
  • Very agitated horses

Study the form

Points to look for:

  • Past wins or places (1st, 2nd or 3rd) at the course.
  • Performance on the same going (ground conditions).
  • Performance over the same distance.
  • Your racing card has some essential information, and there's more in The Racing Post.

Making a bet

Once the horses leave the parade ring, you've got about 5 mins to place your bets and get to the stand to watch the race.
Shop around – bookies often offer different prices so be sure to shop around to get the best value.
Know what you want – state the horse's name or racecard number to the bookie and the amount you want to bet. Check the ticket they give you and keep it safe – you'll need it to collect your winnings. You can collect your winnings any time on the day.
After the race – head for the winners' enclosure and then prepare for your next race.
Ante-post betting – you can also bet before the raceday and many bookies also offer early prices on the day. Try searching online before you come to the races. 

Learn the lingo

Accumulator - A bet involving two or more selections in different races – winnings from one are placed on the next.

All-weather racing - Flat racing which tales place on an artificial surface.

Allowance - The weight concession the horse is given to compensate for its rider’s inexperience – a greener horse carries less weight.

Also ran - Any selection not finishing 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th in a race or event.

Amateur (rider) - On racecards, their names are prefixed by Mr, Mrs, Captain, etc, to indicate their amateur status.

Backward - A horse which still needs time to mature.

Bar - A betting term that denotes that all horses not already listed in the betting market for a race are at the bar price or longer odds.

Claimer - A claiming race is one in which the horses are all for sale for more or less the same price (the 'claiming price') up until shortly before the race.

Colt - A male horse under five years old.

Course specialist - A horse which tends to run well at a particular track.

Dam - The mother of a horse.

Distance - The length of a race and also the margin a horse wins by or is beaten by the horse in front. This ranges from a short head to ‘by a distance’ of 30 or more lengths. A length is measured from the horse’s nose to the tip of its tail.

Each-way - A bet in two equal parts – one backing a horse to win and the other backing it to finish in the first three.

Evens or even money - Betting odds where your stake exactly equals your winnings – thus £5 at evens wins a further £5.

Filly - A female horse under five years old.

Foal - A horse of either sex from the time it's born until 1st of January the following year.

Form - A horse's race record. This is denoted by figures next to its name on a racecard: 1=1st, 2=2nd etc. 0=unplaced, P=pulled up, R=refused to race, F=fell, U=unseated rider, SU=slipped up, BF=beaten favourite.

Furlong - 220 yards (1/8 of a mile).

Gelding - A castrated horse.

Going - The description of conditions underfoot on the racecourse. The Jockey Club reports the going as: Heavy – Soft – Good to soft – Good – Good to firm – Firm – Hard.

Green (of a horse) - Inexperienced.

Hand - Four inches. This is the unit in which a horse’s height is measured, from the ground to the withers (bottom of the neck).

Jolly - Betting parlance for the favourite in the race – the horse with the shortest odds.

Juvenile - A two-year-old horse.

Maiden - A horse which has not won a race.

Mare - A female horse five years or older.

Monkey - Betting parlance for £500.

Odds on - Odds where the winnings are less than the stake – thus a winning £2 bet at 2-1 on wins you £1.

Off the bridle - When a horse is ridden on a loose rein, losing contact with the bit in its mouth and allowing it to gallop freely – often used when a horse is tired.

On the bridle - When a horse still has a light but firm grip on the bit – usually when the horse still has 'plenty of running'.

On the nose - Betting on a horse to win only (not to place).

Pace - 'Up with the pace' means close to the leaders, 'off the pace' means some way behind the leaders.

Paddock - Area of the racecourse incorporating the pre-parade, parade ring and the winners enclosure.

Penalty - The extra weight added to the allotted handicap weight of a horse which has won since the weights were originally published.

Placed - When a horse finishes in the first three.

Plate - A horseshoe.

Pony - Betting parlance for £25.

Run free - Describes a horse going too fast, usually early in the race, to allow it to settle.

Sire - The father of a horse.

SP/starting price - The official price (odds) of the horse at which the bets are settled in betting shops.

Spread a plate - When a racing plate or horseshoe becomes detached from the horse's hoof.

Stewards - A panel of men and women, usually a total of four – who are responsible for seeing that all the rules of racing are adhered to.

Stewards enquiry - Enquiry by the stewards into the running of the race.

Weigh in/weigh out - Weighing the jockey before and after the race to ensure that the correct weight has been carried. The announcement of 'weighed in' signals that the result is official and all bets can be settled.

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