Bluff Your Way Through Melbourne Cup Convos With These Racing Phrases

The Melbourne Cup is nearly upon us, which means workplace sweeps, free-flowing champers and people wearing silly hats. It’s also a good opportunity to show off your commanding grasp of the sport’s varied verbiage. This in-depth glossary will ensure you know your farriers from your fascinators during those important water cooler conversations.

Like most sports, horse racing has its own unique glossary of terms that separate the pros from the mug punters. It’s interesting to see how many of the phrases have gone on to enter the wider vernacular. Here’s a cross section of common racetrack words that any serious backer should know.


Acceptor: A horse that has been declared by the owner or trainer to run in a race.

All Clear: The correct weights allocated to a horses depending on the type of race they are in, including jockey, gear and any lead that is required to make up the specific weight.

All In: A bet taken usually at fixed odds early in betting.

Also Ran: A horse who finishes out of the money.

Apprentice Claim: Weight concession to an apprentice rider.


Backed Off The Map: A horse heavily backed in betting.

Bagman: Bookmakers personel responsible for settling up on bets at racecourses.

Bailed Up: A runner racing inside other runners and unable to get clear running.

Bandage: The distinctive strips of cloth wound around the lower part of a horse’s legs (this is used to protect against injury).

Barriers: The starting gates.

Birdcage: Section of the racecourse where runners are paraded before the start of a race.

Bleeder: When a horse bleeds from the lungs during or after running.

Blinkers: The hood that fits over the bridle with cups placed around the horse’s eyes to restrict vision of other horses to the side and rear.

Blows: When a previously favoured horse is unwanted in betting before the race and the bookmakers increase the odds.

Bolted/Bolted in: Describes a horse that has won the race by many lengths.

Bookmakers: A person licensed to conduct betting on or off course.

Box/Boxed: Two or more runners to finish in any order in a multiple bet such as Quinella, Exacta, Trifecta.

Box Trifecta: Usually four or five horses are “boxed” in a trifecta. If three of the horses selected all finish in the first three placings, the punter collects for a winning trifecta.

Broken Down: When a horse suffered an injury.


Checked: A horse which receives some type of interference.

Claim: A reduction in the amount of weight carried by a horse being ridden by an apprentice.

Class: The grade of the race.

Coat-Tugger: Someone who offers a punter a tip then demands a percentage of their winnings.

Colt: A male horse three years and under and has not been gelded.

Connections: A horse’s owners and their representatives or anyone personally connected to the horse such as the jockey and training staff.

Correct Weight: Placings in a race are official.


Daily Double: Select the winner in two races.

Dam: Female parent of a foal.

Dead Heat: Two or more horses finishing in an exact tie at the finish line.

Dead Track: Racing surface lacking resiliency, just on the softer side of Good.

Derby: A stakes race for three years old.

Distanced: Well beaten, finishing a great distance behind the winner.

Dividend: Places are paid for First (Win & Place), Second & Third (Place only). A fourth place getter is included for betting on the First Four only, no place dividend is paid on the fourth place getter.

Dwelt: Tardy in breaking from the gate.


Each way: Have equal amount of money on the horse for a win and for a place.

Each Way Odds: usually is four to one, you receive all your money back if it comes second or third as long as eight or more runners in race.

Eased: The horse is backed off usually to find position in the race.

Eligible: Qualified to start in a race, according to conditions.

Emergency: Additional nominated runners are accepted but will only gain a run if others in the field are scratched. Entire: An ungelded horse.

Exacta: Select the first two horses in a race in the finishing order.

Exotics: A multiple bet such as Quinella, Exacta, Trifecta, First Four & Quaddie.

Extended: Running at top speed.


False Favourite: A horse that is favourite for the race but you consider another selection should be favourite

Fascinator: A silly hat.

Farrier: A specialist in equine hoof care (a blacksmith).

Fast: The firmest track rating.

Favourite: The most popular horse in betting and therefore the one who starts at the shortest odds.

Feature Race: The highest rated race on the card, determined by the category of the race and the prize money.

Field: The horses in the race.

Filly: In most cases a filly is a female horse three years old or under.

First Four: Select first four horses in the correct order in a pre selected race.

First Up: A runner resuming from a spell, being a break from racing for 3 months or more.

Flat Race: Contested on level ground, not a hurdle race or steeplechase.

Flexi-Betting: To invest a smaller amount than the full dollar value of the wager and receive a reduced percentage of the final dividend.

Fluctuation: The movements of the odds of a runner moving up or down in the betting ring.

Front Runner:
A horse who usually leads the field for as far as he can.

Furlong: Approx 200 metres.


Gallop: A fast canter. Gelding: Castrated male horse of any age.

Good Track: Condition between fast and slow.

Grew Another Leg: The runner suddenly improved during the race.

Group Races: The best horse races in the country which are decided by the Australian Racing Board. There are four types of Black Type races: Group 1 (the highest), Group 2, Group 3 and Listed (Group 4)


Handicap Race: for which a handicapper assigns weights to be carried.

Hands & Heels: Riding the horse without using the whip. Hang: The horse holds its head to one side during a race.

Head: Margin between runners.

Heavy Track: Next level up from slow. A rain affected track.

Hoop: Another name for a Jockey.

Hurdle Race: Contested over obstacles. A jumping race over lower fences than steeplechase races.


Impost: The weight to be carried by the horse for a race.

In Foal: Pregnant mare.

In The Money: The horse finished a race winning some prize money.

In The Red: Odds in the bookmakers ring are very short, less than evens.


Knocked Up: The runner stops racing in the straight usually due to a hard run in racing.

Knuckled: The horse almost fell on its knees or stumbled.


Lame: Pain in limbs causing deviation in normal running.

Late Mail: Last minute tips that take jockeys, scratchings and track conditions/bias into account.

Late Scratching: A runner that is withdrawn from the race after 8am on race day.

Lay: When a bookmaker offers better odds because they believe the horse cannot win.

Length: A horses length from nose to tail.

Long Shot: A runner being at long odds and is unlikely to win.


Maiden: A horse who has not won a race.

Maiden Race: A race for non winners.

Mare: Adult female horse four years of age or older.

Middle Distance: Approx 1600 metre races.

Monkey: Five Hundred Dollars. Usually a casino chip.

Moral: An absolute certainty to win the race.

Mounting Yard: The area where the horses are paraded before a race and jockeys take their mounts.

Mudlark: A horse that excels on wet tracks.

Mug Punter: A person who is poor at punting/betting.


Near side: Left side of a horse.

Neck: Margin between horses, about the length of a horses neck.

Nose: The smallest measuring margin between runners.

Noseroll: A sheepskin roll attached to the bridle on the horses nose to keep the head in line with the body.


Odds-Against: The prices in the betting ring are longer than even money (e.g. $4.00 for $1.00 invested.)

Odds On: Odds of less than even money.

Off Side: Right side of horse.

On The Nod: A person betting with a bookmaker on credit.

On The Nose: To back a horse for the win only.


Pacifiers: Hood with gauze eye covers to restrict the vision of an excitable horse.

Paddock: Before the race the clerk of the course leads the horses from the saddling paddock to the mounting yard.

Photo Finish: A result so close it is necessary to use a finish-line camera to determine the winner.

Pig-Root: The horse bucks and tries to throw the jockey.

Place: This is when a horse runs either 1st, 2nd or 3rd and you receive a dividend. There must be eight runners or more.

Plunge: In the bookmakers ring, a sudden rush of money for a particular horse.

Protest: An objection lodged by the jockey, connections or the stewards regarding the outcome of a race.

Pulled Up: To stop or slow a horse during the race.

Punter: Person placing a wager.


Quadrella: Select the winner of 4 pre nominated races on the card.

Quarantine: A process used to isolate foreign horses for a short period of time to ensure they are not carrying any diseases.

Quinella: Select the first two horses in a race in any order.


Rails: The prime position in the bookmakers ring.

Ridden Out: A runner that finishes the race under average urging by the rider.

Ridden Upside Down: A horse did not race in the way that suits it best, e.g. a front-runner that was ridden at the back.

Ring-In: A horse that has been illegally substituted for another acceptor in a race. Eg. Fine Cotton Ring-In.

Roughie: A horse at a long price in the ring with little chance of winning.

Runner: A horse in the race.

Running Double: Select the winner in two consecutive races.


Saddle Cloth: Cloth under the saddle displaying the horses number.

Scratched: To be taken out of the race.

Second Up: Next run after a first up run, following spell of 90 days or more.

Silks: Jacket and Cap worn by jockeys to identify themselves.

Sire: The male parent. Slow: Rain affected track. Better than heavy.

SP Bookmaker: An illegal bookie, a person that takes bets without a licence.

Spell: A horse that has had a break from racing for 90 days or more

Stallion: A male horse for breeding.

Stayer: A horse that races in lond distance races, eg. 2000 metres and more.

Stewards: Racing officials responsible for enforcing the rules of racing.

Straight Six: Select the winner of six consecutive pre nominated races.

Strapper: The Groom, a person employed by the trainer to attend to a horse. Duties may include feeding, grooming, riding at training and leading in the mounting yard.

Stone Motherless: The horse was last in the race.

Suspension: The period of time a jockey or trainer is suspended due to an infraction of the rules of racing.

Swooper: A horse that likes to finish on from the tail of the field at the end of the race.


Top Fluc: A bet accepting the odds which are the highest fluctuation in the betting ring.

Track Conditions: The rating given to a racetrack on race day.

Treble: A bet involving three consecutive races nominated by the TAB.

Trifecta: A wager selecting the first 3 runners of a race.


Under Double Wraps: The horse won easily without extending to its full ability.

Unders: A runner whose odds are too short in relation to its chances of winning.

Untried: Not raced or not raced at a certain distance.


Wager: A bet.

Warned Off: A licensed person is forbidden from entering a racecourse or associating with other licensed people.

Weight For Age: Fixed scale of weights to be carried by horses.

Well-Held: The horse won easily without being fully extended. Win: Your selection crosses the line first and correct weight it given.

Winkers: Sheepskin which attaches to the cheek straps of the bridle to keep the horses attention forward.

Write Your Own Ticket: The horse is so unlikely to win a bookie would give you any odds you asked for.


Yearling: A young horse, typically two years old.

[Via Pro Group Racing and Racing Victoria]

So who’s your hot tip to win this year’s Melbourne Cup? Share your punts in the comments section below!

This story has been updated since its original publication.

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