What Are the Terms Used in a Horse Race?

A horse race is a sport where horses are ridden and compete in close, highly competitive contests. The sport has its critics, who allege that it is inhumane and corrupted by doping and overbreeding. But there are those who believe that the “Sport of Kings” represents the pinnacle of achievement for its competitors, and that it should be celebrated.

Whether or not you support the practice of racing, it is important to understand the terms and the language used in a horse race. Having the correct vocabulary will help you communicate better with those involved in horse racing and give you a deeper understanding of the sport.

White plastic rails are used to mark out the track on a racecourse. A horse ‘on the rails’ means it is running close to the far or standing rail, which can help it keep a straight line in a race finish. ‘Against the rails’ means the opposite – a horse has manoeuvred itself into a position where it is not on the far or standing rail.

In a race, the winner is usually declared after all the runners have finished. However, if two or more horses are dead-heated, the winner is determined by splitting the winning bet. A dead-heat is not a race win, but it can be an effective way to place a bet without losing any money.

A type of horse race in which each horse is assigned a weight to carry, with allowances for younger and female horses, and for ‘good’ (i.e., well-bred) horses competing against ‘bad’ (i.e., unfit) horses. The highest category of races are Group 1s, and the best Flat and jumps races are Graded.

Someone who breeds and trains racehorses. A breeder owns the dam at the time of foal and takes care of the horse from birth to the time it is ready to be sold or raced.

A race where the winning horse must be able to complete a distance of at least a mile and six furlongs on the Flat or a minimum of two miles over jumps. This is often a key test of the quality of a horse and may be regarded as its most important event. A horse that runs a good race at this distance is usually considered to be ‘a good middle-distance type’.