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GLossary

New to the Festival? Unsure what the some of the lingo and unusual terminology means? Have no fear, you're not alone. Horse racing and particularly Cheltenham Festival can be overwhelming for new racegoers. That's why we've put together a huge resource explaining every potential term!

Festival Glossary

Hurdles / Chases / Bumpers

The 27 races at the Cheltenham Festival consist of 14 chases, 12 hurdle races and 1 flat, or bumper, race.

Chases: Sometimes called steeplechases, chases involve horses jumping larger, rigid obstacles called fences (a minimum of 4½ feet high) and are run over distances of 2-4½ miles. The Grand National is the season’s longest chase, whilst the National Hunt Chase is the longest chase run at the Festival.

Hurdles: In hurdle races the horses jump smaller, more flexible obstacles (typically about 3½ feet in height). They are run over distances of 2-3½ miles.

Both types of race consist of a minimum of 8 obstacles.

Bumper: Bumper is the informal term for a flat race for jump horses, in which they gain racing experience before going hurdling or chasing. These races are usually confined to four, five and six-year-olds and are run over distances of 1½-2½ miles. The term “Bumper” comes from the fact that in the past, only amateur riders were allowed to compete and they typically had an ungainly “bumping” style in comparison to the professionals.

The Champion Bumper is the only Bumper run at the Festival and it regularly showcases some of the most exciting young horses in training, who subsequently go on to make big names for themselves over hurdles or fences.

Hurdlers / Chasers

Hurdlers: Horses may compete in hurdle races to give them practice at jumping before they “step up” to chases. Hurdle races are often, therefore, a stepping stone to competing in chases. However, many of the best hurdlers will never run over fences as there are plenty of big prizes for the top horses to win.

The most prestigious hurdle race is the Festival’s Champion Hurdle. It is the ultimate speed test for hurdlers run, as it is, over the minimum trip of 2 miles.

By contrast, the World Hurdle, also run at the Festival, is the biggest prize for staying hurdlers (i.e. hurdlers who have more stamina than speed).

Chasers: Few horses go straight over fences. Most compete in hurdles first and then switch to fences as their jumping technique improves and/or because they are too slow for hurdle races.

The best chases are considered more prestigious than the best hurdle races, and the ultimate target for all horses is the Gold Cup. It is the sport’s most highly coveted prize and it is run on the last day of the Festival. It has been won by legends of the sport such as Golden Miller, Arkle, Desert Orchid and, more recently, Best Mate, Kauto Star and Denman.

Unlike with hurdles, the biggest prizes over fences are run over longer trips. The Gold Cup, for example, is run over 3 miles and 2 furlongs.

However, the ultimate prize for speedier chasers is the Champion Chase, run over two miles on the Wednesday of the Festival.

Another category of chase is the Hunter Chase. These races are confined to amateur riders and to horses that have hunter certificates. Hunter certificates are issued to horses that have hunted for at least four days in the season before racing starts in January. In addition the jockey must be an amateur who has obtained a certificate from the hunt secretary.

The Foxhunters is the only Hunter Chase run at the Festival. It takes place immediately after the Gold Cup and because it is run over the same course and distance it is often referred to as the amateur Gold Cup.

Novice or not?

A novice is a horse who has not won a race under a particular code (hurdling or chasing) before the current season.

The best speedier novice hurdles will be aimed at the Supreme Novices Hurdle, whilst the best staying novice hurdles run in the Neptune Investment Management (formerly Ballymore Properties) Novices Hurdle .

Likewise, the speedy novice chasers run in the Arkle and the stayers have the RSA Chase as their target.

In simple terms, the horses that perform best in the Supreme Novices Hurdle will often be aimed at the following season’s Champion Hurdle, those that shine in the Arkle will go on to compete in the Champion Chase and the RSA Chase is often seen as a stepping stone to future Gold Cups.

That said, there is nothing to stop novices running in normal hurdles or chases. The last novice to win the Gold Cup was Captain Christy in 1974, whilst Alderbrook was still a novice when capturing the Champion Hurdle in 1995.

A further category of novice is the juvenile hurdler. These are basically three year old hurdlers (who turn four on 31 December, which is the official birthday for all racehorses). Horses cannot run over hurdles before they are three.

The Triumph Hurdle is the championship contest for juveniles.

Handicaps

There are 11 handicap races at the Festival. A handicap is a race where horses carry different weights - this allows for more skill in betting.

After it has raced a few times and been adequately assessed a horse is awarded a handicap mark that allows it to be compared to all other horses under that code (horses can have different handicap marks for turf, all-weather, chase and hurdles races). A horse's handicap figure is then adjusted by the official handicappers judged on its subsequent racing performances. A better horse will carry a heavier weight in order to make the race more fair.

The mark a horse receives relates to the weight it carries in handicap races – the idea being that if all horses perform to their handicap mark on the day they will all dead heat for first place. For example, if a horse is allotted a mark of 94 (180 is the mark of a top-class chaser) and he wins a race, the handicapper may give him a 5lb rise meaning next time he runs his mark is 99 and so on. Remember this is a theoretical mark and does not relate to the physical weight a horse carries. The actual weight a horse carries is defined by the horses he races against.

As a very rough rule of thumb, 1lb equates to one length, so if a horse wins a race by 4 lengths, all other things being equal, he can expect his handicap mark to rise by a similar amount.

If a horse continues to run poorly, its handicap mark will eventually start to drop – although often not quickly enough to please the connections of that horse!

Although most handicap races are not for the very best horses, this is not true in all cases, and some of the biggest races in the world are handicaps, such as the Grand National.

The most prestigious handicaps run at the Festival include the William Hill Chase for staying chasers and the County Hurdle for speedy hurdlers.

There are also some novice and juvenile handicaps – handicap races open to novices or juveniles only – such as the Centenary Novices' Handicap Chase over fences and the Fred Winter for juveniles over hurdles.

Cross Country

One race at the Festival is run over the cross country course.

The course takes racing at Cheltenham back to its roots with a selection of natural and man made obstacles incorporating banks, ditches, hedges, water and timber rails.

Designed by Mike Etherington-Smith, who was responsible for the 3-Day Event cross country course at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the configuration of the course deliberately weaves around the centre of the course, with turns to the left and right leading competitors on a variety of routes and directions.

One of the main differences between the cross country course and the usual chase courses at Cheltenham is the materials used to build the fences. Chase fences are constructed from 'dead' materials whereas the fences on the cross country course are living, growing trees, shrubs and bushes, which are regularly trimmed for racing.

The race basically suits chasers, who jump and stay well.

Point to Points

A point to point is a form of amateur horseracing over fences for hunting horses. In Ireland many of the horses will appear in these races before they compete in National Hunt races either in Ireland or in the UK. In contrast in England and Wales horses running in point to points are more likely to be at the end of their national hunt careers. The Irish point to point is used as a nursery for future young stars: a horse that wins its debut point to point in Ireland will often sell for a lot of money.

Horses running in Point to Points must be thoroughbreds, save in the case of hunt members races and certain other club members races. The horses have to obtain a certificate from a Master of Foxhounds stating that they have hunted for at least 4 days in the season before racing starts in January. In addition the jockey must obtain a certificate from the hunt secretary.

Some Festival greats started off their careers in Point to Points including Florida Pearl, See More Business, Best Mate and Denman.

Grading

All races are graded.

The most prestigious contests are, in descending order of importance, Grade 1s, Grade 2s, Grade 3s, Listed contests, Handicaps to Bumpers - the least prestigious. The more highly graded races attract more prize money and better horses.

All National Hunt races are also classified in classes 1 - 7 (class 1 best). Graded and listed races are class 1.

Horse Racing Glossry

Amateur

A non-professional rider who can be identified on any racecard as their title Mr, Mrs, Ms, Captain etc appears in front of their name.

Blinkers

This is a type of hood that fits over a horse’s head to prevent the horse from seeing sideways and helps it concentrate its attention ahead during a race. A visor is an alternative type of blinker.

Blown up

When a horse starts to drop out of contention in a race due to lack of fitness.

Bumper

The informal term for a flat race for jump horses, in which they gain racing experience before going hurdling or chasing.

Clerk of the Course

The person responsible for the overall management of a racecourse during the raceday.

Clerk of the Scales

The person responsible for checking a jockey's weight against the allocated weight the horse is allowed to carry.

Colours

Shirts or ‘silks’ worn by jockeys to identify a horse to a particular owner.

Conditional

A young jockey tied to a trainer whilst gaining race-riding experience. When racing against professional jockeys Conditionals often receive weight concessions to compensate for their relative inexperience.

Conditions

The make-up of a race, as in the number of runners, the ground conditions, if it’s a sharp or a galloping track, etc. Different conditions suit the physique and running style of different horses.

Connections

Term used to refer to a horse’s jockey, trainer and owner.

Cut in the ground

A description of the ground condition, when there is give in the surface, also called ‘soft going’.

Dam

The mother of a horse.

Distance

The length of a race. It can also refer to the margin by which a horse wins or is beaten. This can range from ‘a short head’ to ‘a distance’ which is in excess of 30 lengths.

Field

Term for the runners in a race.

Form

A horse's race record. Denoted by figures next to its name in a racecard e.g. 1=1st, 2=2nd etc.

Furlong

The measure of distance used for all flat races in the British Isles. One Furlong equates to 220 yards and there are eight Furlongs in a mile.

Gelding

A male horse that has been castrated. Ouch!

Get the trip

Usually said of a horse that stays the particular distance of the race.

Going

The official description of the state of the ground. This can range from heavy to hard, with variants in between.

Green

A horse is described as "green" or "running green" when he or she shows signs of inexperience.

Hacked up

When a horse has won easily.

Handicap

Probably the single most important term used in racing. After it has raced a few times and been adequately assessed a horse is awarded a handicap mark that allows it to be compared to all other horses under that code (horses can have different handicap marks for turf, all-weather, chase and hurdles races). A horse's handicap figure is then adjusted by the official handicappers judged on its subsequent racing performances. 

The mark a horse receives relates to the weight it carries in handicap races – the idea being that if all horses perform to their handicap mark on the day they will all dead heat for first place. For example, if a colt is allotted a mark of 94 (130 is the mark of a top-class horse on the flat, over jumps it is nearer 180) and he wins a race, the handicapper may give him a 5lb rise meaning next time he runs his mark is 99 and so on. Remember this is a theoretical mark and does not relate to the physical weight a horse carries. The actual weight a horse carries is defined by the horses he races against. 

As a very rough rule of thumb, 1lb equates to one Length, so if a horse wins a race by 4 Lengths, all other things being equal, he can expect his handicap mark to rise by a similar amount. 

If a horse continues to run poorly, its handicap mark will eventually start to drop – although often not quickly enough to please the Connections of that horse!

Hands and heels

Riding a horse without using a whip.

Handy

A description of a horse who is in a prominent position during a race.

Hunter chase

A race restricted to horses that have hunted during the present hunting season.

Hurdle

The smaller of the two obstacles in jump racing, typically about 3’6” in height.

Judge

The official responsible for declaring the finishing order and declaring the Distances between runners.

Length

The measurement used to describe the distance between horses in a finish with one Length equating to the body length of an average horse. Where a horse wins a race by a distance of less than one length, the winning margin will be described as anything from a short head (the closest of margins) to ¾ of a length.

Maiden

The name given to all horses without a victory.

Mare

Female horse aged five and above. 

National Hunt

The traditional name for jumps racing. 

Objection

A complaint by one jockey against another regarding breach of rules during a race.

Off the pace

When a horse isn't keeping up with the other horses in a race. 

Open ditch

A steeplechase fence with a ditch on the take-off side.

Over the top

A horse past his peak for the season.

Pace

The speed at which a race is run. Up with the pace means close to the leaders, off the pace means some way behind.

Pecked/Nodded

When a horse's head nearly lands on the ground after jumping a fence.

Penalty

An addition to a horse's weight when it has won a race after the entries for a future race have closed and therefore before the official handicapper has had a change to reassess their handicap mark. The amount of the penalty depends on the value of the race won.

Permit holder

A trainer who is only qualified to train for members of their family.

Photo finish

Electronic photographic equipment which decides who has won in a close finish.

Ping

"To ping" is a verb often used to describe when a horse is jumping in particularly good style.

Pulled up

A horse who is stopped by his jockey from carrying on in a race, often because that horse is too tired to continue. Denoted by a ‘P’ on the racecard.

Racing plate

Lightweight horseshoes specially fitted for racing.

Refused

When a horse stops instead of jumping over a fence. Denoted by an ‘R’ on the racecard.

Run free

A horse going too fast too early, which then can’t settle into the race.

Schooling

Teaching a horse to race or jump. A "well-schooled" horse is less likely to show signs of inexperience or "greenness".

Scope

A horse is said to have scope if it is likely to improve with age and as it grows into its frame.

Spread a plate

When a racing plate or horseshoe comes off, sometimes causing delay to the start of a race as the horse is re-shod.

Stayers

Horses who have a lot of stamina and are more likely to show up best over 3 miles, rather than 2 miles over jumps, and over 2 miles on the flat.

Steeplechase

A horse race over fences, open ditches and water jumps.

Stewards

The group of people responsible for ensuring adherence to the rules of racing.

Stiff track

A track that requires a lot of stamina, such as one with a long home straight or an uphill finish, like Cheltenham.

Weigh in/out

Weighing the jockey before and after the race to make sure the horse carried the right weight. The ‘weighed in’ announcement means the result is official and all bets can be settled.

Weight cloth

A cloth with pockets for lead weights placed under the saddle.

Weights

Lead strips placed in a weight cloth to bring the jockey and tack up to the handicap weight.

Betting Glossary

Ante-post

Betting on an event well in advance of the day of the race.

Banker

A strongly fancied selection that will often be the cornerstone of combination bets.

Bar

This shows what the lowest odds of the horses not mentioned in the betting forecast are likely to be – for example, '20 - 1 bar' means those not quoted are 20-1 or bigger.

Best-price percentage

The bottom line is that the odds available are balanced in favour of the bookmaker. A simple example is the toss of a coin where the chances of head or tails are 50:50. However, if the bookmaker were to offer even money on either event there would be no profit margin. Hence odds of 5-6 each of two would probably be offered. 

The Best Price Percentage figure at the bottom of most odds tables calculates the percentage in favour of the bookmaker (i.e. 111 per cent means 11% in bookmaker's favour). Sometimes, the percentage will drop below 100% and therefore the odds turn in the punter's favour.

Board prices

This refers to the currently available odds as displayed on the boards of on-course bookmakers. It is from these that the Starting Price is derived.

Bottle

The 'tic-tac' term for 2/1.

Burlington Bertie

The 'tic-tac' term for 100-30.

Carpet

The 'tic-tac' term for 3-1.

Cockle

The 'tic-tac' term for 10-1.

Double Carpet

The 'tic-tac' term for 33-1.

Drift

When the price of a selection moves out (gets bigger), often due to a lack of support. That selection is said to be "on the drift".

Ear'ole

The 'tic-tac' term for 6-4.

Enin

The 'tic-tac' term for 9-1.

Favourite

The selection that the bookmaker rates as most likely to win the event.

Flip Flop

Favoured saying of John McCririck! It relates to the situation in the on-course betting market when two horses switch places, with one's price getting larger and the other’s getting smaller.

Handful

The 'tic-tac' term for 5-1.

Jolly

Another term for the favourite in a race.

Monkey

Bookmaker slang for £500.

NAP

A tipsters favourite bet from a particular day. 

Neves

The 'tic-tac' term for 7-1.

Over-round

In theory a betting book should be 100%, so a toss of a coin would be even money heads, even money tails. However the bookmakers' profit margins mean the figure is usually above 100%. 

In cases where it is less (one bookmaker betting 11/8 against on Horse A, another going evens on Horse B in a two horse race) this is referred to as 'over-broke'.

Pony

Bookmaker slang for £25.

Rule 4

If a horse is withdrawn and there is insufficient time to form a new market the remaining horses in the race are subject to a deduction if they win or are placed. 

These are calculated according to the starting price as follows: 3/10 or longer odds - 75p in the £, 2/5 to 1/3 - 70p, 8/15 to 4/9 - 65p, 8/13 to 4/7 - 60p, 4/5 to 4/6 - 55p, 20/21 to 5/6 - 50p, Evens to 6/5 - 45p, 5/4 to 6/4 - 40p, 13/8 to 7/4 - 35p, 15/8 to 9/4 - 30p, 5/2 to 3/1 - 25p, 10/3 to 4/1 - 20p, 9/2 to 11/2 - 15p, 6/1 to 9/1 - 10p, 10/1 to 14/1 - unchanged.

Roof

The 'tic-tac' term for 4/1.

Starting Price

This is often abbreviated to SP. These are the returned prices of the horses which form the basis of the pay out to winning punters if they haven't taken a specified price themselves.

Steamer

A horse whose odds are continually shortened in the face of heavy support.

Tic-tac

The sign language with which bookmakers on the racecourse communicate.

Tissue

The betting forecast of how an on-course bookmaker thinks the betting on a race will open.

Xis

The 'tic-tac' term for 6/1.

Types of Bet

If you're unsure who to back at this year's event, check out our Cheltenham tips. Our tipsters work year-round analysing form and a wide range of other factors to identify great betting options for every day of the Festival.

Single

1 bet on 1 selection in one event.

Double

1 bet involving 2 selections in different events. Both must be successful to get a return.

Treble

1 bet involving 3 selections in different events. All must be successful to get a return.

Accumulator

1 bet involving any number of selections from 4 upwards in different events. All must be successful to get a return.

Trixie

4 bets involving 3 selections in different events. The bet includes 3 doubles and 1 treble. A minimum of 2 of your selections must be successful to get a return.

Patent

7 bets involving 3 selections in different events. The bet includes a single on each selection, plus 3 doubles and 1 treble. Just one successful selection guarantees a return.

Yankee

11 bets involving 4 selections in different events. The bet includes 6 doubles, 4 trebles, and an accumulator. A minimum of 2 of your selections must be successful to get a return.

Lucky 15

15 bets involving 4 selections in different events. The bet includes 4 singles, 6 doubles, 4 trebles, and 1 fourfold. If only one selection wins, as a consolation returns are paid to double the odds. If all four selections win, a bonus of 10% is added to total returns. 

For the bonus to apply, all selections must win (no void or non-runners). For each-way bets the consolation is paid only on the win part of the bet. Lucky 15 bets are accepted on horse racing and greyhounds only.

Canadian (Super Yankee)

26 bets involving 5 selections in different events. The bet includes 10 doubles, 10 trebles, 5 fourfolds plus an accumulator. A minimum of 2 of your selections must be successful to get a return.

Heinz

57 bets involving 6 selections in different events. The bet includes 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 fourfolds, 6 fivefolds and an accumulator. A minimum of 2 of your selections must be successful to get a return.

Lucky 63

63 bets involving 6 selections in different events. The bet includes 6 singles, 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 fourfolds, 6 fivefolds and an accumulator. If only one selection wins, returns are paid to double the odds. If all six selections win, a bonus of 20% is added to total returns. For the bonus to apply, all selections must win (no void or non-runners). For each-way bets the consolation is paid only on the win part of the bet. Lucky 63 bets are accepted on horse racing and greyhounds only.

Super Heinz

120 bets involving 7 selections in different events. The bet includes 21 doubles, 35 trebles, 35 fourfolds, 21 fivefolds, 7 sixfolds and an accumulator. A minimum of 2 of your selections must be successful to get a return.

Goliath

247 bets involving 8 selections in different events. The bet includes 28 doubles, 56 trebles, 70 fourfolds, 56 fivefolds, 28 sixfolds, 8 sevenfolds and an accumulator. A minimum of 2 of your selections must be successful to get a return.

Forecasts

A forecast bet is one where you predict the first and second in a horse or greyhound race.

Straight Forecast

2 selections in 1 race finishing 1st and 2nd in the order named. A Straight Forecast (FC) dividend is declared based on the Starting Prices (SP’s) of all the horses in the race. (A Straight Forecast is known in many countries as an Exacta).

Reversed Forecast

2 selections in 1 race finishing 1st and 2nd in either order. As such it is two straight forecasts.

Straight Forecast Doubles

SFC doubles are staked in exactly the same way as ordinary doubles. The only difference is that you take 2 selections per race. Both SFC predictions must be successful for there to be any return.

Straight Forecast Trebles

SFC trebles are staked in exactly the same way as ordinary trebles. The only difference is that you take 2 selections per race. All three SFC predictions must be successful for there to be any return.

Combination Forecasts

This bet involves 3 or more selections in a race, with any 2 to finish 1st and 2nd in any order. For example, a £5 combination forecast (or CFC) equates to a total stake of £30 That's 6 x £5 forecasts. 

The easiest way to calculate the number of bets in a CFC is to multiply the number of selections by the preceding number. So, for 3 selections, 3 x 2 = 6. If you picked 5 selections in a race, you would have 20 combination forecast bets (5 x 4 = 20).

Tricasts

Tricasts are only accepted on horse racing handicaps with 6 or more runners.

Straight Tricasts

This bet involves 3 selections in a race finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the order named. (The closest equivalent to a Tricast in many countries is a Trifecta or a Tierce).

Combination Tricasts

This bet involves 3 or more selections in a race finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd in any order. To calculate the number of bets in a Combination Tricast multiply the number of selections by the preceding number. For example, a £10 Combination Tricast (CTC) with four selections would cost £240. That’s 4 x 3 x 2 = 24 bets.

Tote Betting

Betting on the Tote offers a slightly simpler way for punters to place a bet. They have outlets all over every racecourse and are easy to find. 

The major difference between betting with the Tote and in the Betting Ring is that when you place a bet with the bookmakers you know the price you are getting. That is not the case on the Tote because it is pool betting. 

Pool Betting is the system whereby all the money gambled on a particular bet – for instance a single win – goes into a pool. The Tote takes out its percentage and the rest of the money is divided between the winning tickets. The odds are often similar to those offered by the bookmakers because punters will watch both and not allow one to be overly different to the other – especially on those near the top of the betting (the Tote have screens allowing punters to see what the odds are on each horse but no-one can tell the final odds until after the race). 

One thing to note about the Tote is that because it attracts more inexperienced punters, those horses with popular sounding names or connections, especially on big days, are a lot shorter odds than they should be. 

The different type of Tote bets are as follows: 

Pick the winner of the race. Minimum bet £2. Pick a horse to be placed in the race. Minimum bet £2. Your selections need to be placed as follows: 

Up to 4 runners – no place betting 5 – 7 runners – 1st and 2nd 8+ runners – 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Handicap 16+ runners – 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th. 

A very popular way of betting, this is simply a totewin bet and a toteplace bet on the same horse. Minimum total stake £4 (i.e. £2 win and £2 place). 

Pick the horses to finish 1st and 2nd in the correct order. A reverse toteexacta or a combination toteexacta will increase the chances of winning. This is obviously more difficult than just picking the winner, but the rewards are potentially much greater. Minimum total spend £2. 

Pick the horses to finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the correct order in a totetrifecta race. Minimum total spend £2. 

Pick a horse to be placed in each of the six toteplacepot races (normally the first six races on the card). You can choose more than one horse in any of the races to increase your chances of winning. Minimum total spend £2. 

A popular bet if you’ve missed the start of the toteplacepot or it has fallen by the wayside before the 3rd race. As before, just pick a horse to be placed in each of the four totequadpot races which are normally races 3, 4, 5 and 6. Minimum total spend £1. 

Pick the winners of the six totejackpot races at the nominated totejackpot meeting each day. You can choose more than one horse in any of the races to increase your chances of winning. Minimum total spend £2.

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