Horse Racing Guide

How to Place a BetRacing Phrase Book

Many view having a bet as an integral part of their day at the races. This page aims to give newcomers a basic guide to betting so that when you come racing you’ll feel confident to have a go yourself.

Racegoers have 2 choices for who to place a bet with on the racecourse: Totepool (or Ripon Bet at Ripon) or a racecourse bookmaker.


How to place a bet with a racecourse bookmaker

1. Pick your Racehorse, look around for the best odds on course, try to proffer the correct stake money for your wager.

2. Ask the Bookmaker for your bet, state the racecard number of your chosen horse. Listen to the bookmaker repeat your bet to his clerk, correct bookmaker if he makes a mistake and receive your Betting Ticket as a receipt for your bet.

3. Should your horse happen to win, present your betting ticket to the bookmaker, check your winnings.

4. Check with the bookmaker when placing your bet. Place terms are no longer applicable. Bookmakers may now bet to non-standard terms, but must display this clearly.

5. In the unlikely event of a dispute after adhering to this procedure, the bookmaker will tell the punter to approach the Ring Official, who will advise the racegoer as to his rights.

6. Some course bookmakers have minimum stakes.e.g. £1, £5 or £10 but small backers are catered for in the racecourse Betting Shops.
The Customer Service Charter for On-Course Bookmakers

On-course Bookmakers and Racing for Change are working together on a Customer Services Charter. Bookmakers who have agreed to the terms of the Charter will display a gold flag on their boards so you can easily recognise them.

Betting is an integral part of the customer’s day at the races and the interaction that they have with on-course bookmakers defines the experience for many visitors. On-course bookmakers and the racecourses recognise this and have designed this Customer Service Charter to help ensure that customers receive the level of customer service that they expect and deserve.

This is a voluntary code. Those bookmakers that have signed up to this Charter can be identified by the prominent display of a gold flag above their odds display boards.

If you want to experience the level of customer service that the racecourses believe that you deserve then please look out for the gold flag.

The gold flag logo signifies that the Bookmaker has agreed to the following:

Service Levels

1. Make all customers feel welcome and deal with them politely and efficiently and answer any questions constructively.

2. Assist inexperienced racegoers, when time allows, and help to educate them on betting and racing.

3. Provide customer service feedback to the racecourse so that the views of racegoers are discussed pro-actively between the bookmakers and racecourses to ensure that the experience of attending a race meeting is an enjoyable one.
Terms of Betting

4. Bet in accordance with the Rules of Betting as published by the Tattersalls Committee. In particular, bookmakers will clearly display if they are betting win only on a particular race. Where bookmakers accept each-way bets the terms will be (or will be better than):

  • Fewer than 5 runners – All to Win
  • 5-7 runners – 1/4 odds on place 1-2
  • 8 or more runners – 1/5 odds on place 1-2-3
  • Handicaps with 12-15 runners – 1/4 odds on place 1-2-3
  • Handicaps with 16 or more runners – 1/4 odds on place 1-2-3-4

A bookmaker that signs up to this Charter must adhere to these rules at each race meeting and in respect of each race at a race meeting. A bookmaker cannot select individual races or days on which he/she wishes to abide by the terms of this Customer Charter and must offer the above level of customer service at each race meeting at which they do business.


Don’t be put off by the weird terms you may hear on the racetrack!
Like any traveller in a strange country the novice racegoer will soon pick up a smattering of the language and then rapidly become fluent.

The following terms may help those racegoers keen to enhance their language skills:


ACCUMULATOR – bet involving two or more selections in different races:
winnings from one are placed on the next

ALLOWANCE – is the weight concession the horse is given to compensate for its rider’s inexperience

ALL WEATHER RACING – flat racing which takes place on an artificial surface

AMATEUR – (rider) on racecards, their names are prefixed by Mr, Mrs, Captain, etc., to indicate their amateur status

ANTE-POST – betting (usually on the most important races) days, weeks and even months before the race is due to take place

APPRENTICE – young jockey tied by annually renewed contract to a licensed trainer while he or she is learning the business of race-riding

BACKWARD – used of a horse which needs time to mature

CLAIMER – of a race: a claiming race; of a jockey: an apprentice

COLT – male, ungelded horse up to four years old

CONDITIONAL JOCKEY – the jumping equivalent of an apprentice

COURSE SPECIALIST – horse which tends to run well at a particular track

DAM – mother of a horse

DISTANCE – the length of a race: 5 furlongs is the minimum and the 41⁄2 miles of the Grand National the longest. Also, the margin by which a horse wins or is beaten by the horse in front: this ranges from a short head to ‘by a distance’ (more than 30 lengths); a ‘length’ is measured from the horse’s nose to the start of its tail

DISTANCE. THE – an unmarked point 240 yards from the winning post (thus ‘below the distance’ means closer home than that point)

DRAW – for flat racing only, describes a horse’s position in the starting stalls, drawn randomly the day before

EVENS or EVEN MONEY – when your stake exactly equals your winnings – thus £5 at evens wins a further £5

FILLY – female horse up to four years old

FOAL – horse of either sex from the time of its birth until 1 January the following year

FURLONG – 220 yards (one eighth of a mile)

GELDING – castrated horse

GOING – the description of conditions underfoot on the racecourse. Official Jockey Club going reports progress as follows:
Heavy – soft – good to soft – good – good to firm – firm – hard

GREEN – (of a horse) inexperienced

HAND – unit of four inches in which a horse’s height is measured, at the shoulder

JOLLY – betting parlance for the favourite in a race – the horse with the shortest odds

JUDGE – official responsible for declaring the finishing order of a race and the distances
between the runners

JUVENILE – two-year-old horse

MAIDEN – horse which has not won a race

MARE – female horse five years and over

MONKEY – betting parlance for £500

OBJECTION – complaint by one jockey against another regarding breach of rules during a race

ODDS ON – odds where the winnings are less than the stake (which is of course returned to you): thus a winning £2 bet at 2-1 on wins you £1

ON THE BIT/ON THE BRIDLE – describes a horse going well within himself, still having a grip on the bit

OVER THE TOP – where a horse is said to have gone if he has passed his peak for the season

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 ring, parade ring and winner’s enclosure

PATTERN – the elite races, divided in Flat racing into Groups One, Two, Three and Listed, and in jumping into Grades One, Two and Three

PENALTY – weight added to the allotted handicap weight of a horse which has won since the weights were originally published

PHOTO FINISH – electronic photographic device which determines minimal distances in a close finish

PLATE – shoe worn by horses for racing

PLATER – horse which usually runs in selling races (selling ‘plates’)

PONY – betting parlance for £25

RULE 4 – betting rule covering deductions made from winning bets if a horse is withdrawn after the betting market has been formed but before the ‘Under Starter’s Orders’ signal; the amount deducted depends on the price of the withdrawn horse

RUN FREE – describes a horse going too fast, usually early in the race, to allow it to settle

SCHOOLED – trained to jump

SCOPE – the potential for physical development in a horse

SHORT RUNNER – a horse who barely stays, or doesn’t stay, the minimum distance – five furlongs on the flat, two miles over jumps

SIRE – father of a horse

SPREAD A PLATE – when a racing plate or horseshoe becomes detached from an animal’s hoof, this sometimes causes a delay while the horse is re-shod

SPRINGER/STEAMER – a horse which shortens dramatically in the betting

SP/STARTING PRICE – the official price of a horse at which bets are settled in the betting shops

STEWARDS – the panel of men and women – usually a total of four – who are responsible for seeing that the Rules of Racing are adhered to

STEWARDS’ ENQUIRY – enquiry by the stewards into the running of a race

TIC-TAC – the bookmaker’s method of relaying odds information on the racecourse, by means of hand signals

– occurs when the race is off; an announcement that the horses are ‘Under Starter’s Orders – they’re off’ is made as the horses leave the stalls (or start in jump races):
if a horse is withdrawn by the starter all bets are refunded

WALKOVER – ‘race’ with only one runner

WEIGH IN/WEIGH OUT – weighing of jockey before and after a race to ensure that the correct weight has been carried; the announcement ‘weighed in’ signals that the result is official, and all bets can be settled

YANKEE – combination bet involving four selections in different races: six doubles, four trebles and one four-horse accumulator – eleven bets

YEARLING – horse of either sex from 1 January to 31 December of the year following its birth