From the basics to the more esoteric, here’s our A-Z guide to useful horse-racing terminology that you can pick-up and run with. So when the going gets tough, don’t be a bridge jumper – avoid the drift, find a bottle and if in doubt – look out for the tic-tacs.
One of the first ‘complex’ bets that first-time punters will find themselves making – this sounds tricky but it’s actually quite simple in practice. The better makes selections on two or more races, with the outcomes of the first win affected by the outcomes of the second win – such as placing a bet on two teams to win their matches.
An apt but slightly morbid term to describe someone who places a large sum on a closed or specific bet on a horse…describing where they’re going to next if their punt fails to come through.
These types of bets come in three types of standard forms, including three combination forecast (CFC) or Tricast (CTC) or Reversed Forecast (RF). A standard combination involves punters putting their stake down on at least three horses – two of which must place to see a return. A Tricast involves settling on three horses that will come first, second and third in any order to empower a pay-out. A Reverse Forecast involves punting on the first and second horses in a race where it does not matter which horse finished first. All options involve placing separate bets, which multiplies your stake but offers the lure of combined maximised winnings if they proceed to pay out.
Something to avoid – this term is used to describe lengthening odds. When it comes to placing your punts, always look to see if there has been any degree of drift and aim to find out why.
This occurs when horses have additional weight added to their saddles to balance out the weights of their riders – this helps to level the playing field for other competitors and produce a fairer race. When it comes to punting, look for runners that are close to carrying their maximum weight, have a lighter load than usual, or have never carried close to a certain weight before to help cultivate an edge.
These are the conditions of the course for runners as influenced by the weather. This is one of the most crucial variables that can be accurately assessed before a race and should be carefully considered. In the UK and Ireland, it is broken down into seven categories from the extremely rare ‘hard’, through ‘firm’, ‘good’, ‘soft’ and ‘heavy’. Softer going is more yielding to the weight of the horse but can cause spills or reduced visibility due to adverse weather or spray. Harder going removes this give and produces more grip for the animal, getting rid of the ‘sapping’ effect that softer ground can give to an animal – but it can exacerbate injuries and result in a more damaging injury if spills occur. This balancing act between power and endurance should be considered very carefully, often only revealing itself at the last minute.
Simply, the selection that bookies, pundits, correspondents, forecasters, tipsters, and their dogs are all behind. Almost always the kiss of death for a runner, but often worth factoring in when it comes to a place bet.
The bookies take on the likelihood of an event or win coming to pass. This is most often represented in the UK as a fraction such as 2/1 and determines what your pay-out will be based on the stake that you have fronted. This branches into two sub-types, ‘Odds against’ and ‘Odds on’. ‘Odds against’ is used when the bookie stands more to lose than the punter and ‘Odds on’ for when the punter stands to lose more. For example: if a 10/1 ‘Odds on’ stake is up for grabs, a bookie will return ten pounds for every one that an average punter stakes. Conversely, if a 1/10 offer is floated, every ten pounds fronted by the punter would result in a pound pay-out for the bookies.
A unique time of punting founded in France that results in winnings being divvied up amongst all those who possess winning tickets…after taxes and other sundries are removed of course. The name came from the French ‘Parier Mutuel’ meaning ‘betting amongst ourselves’, which corrupted into the term used today.
If a horse is staked to place, it will have to finish in the top rankings of the race. The nature of what ‘placing’ specifically means can vary from course to course but conventionally includes a runner ending up within the top two, three or four. This can also be affected by the number of runners before an event and – as always – rules should be consulted before laying serious money down.
Straight and exotic bets
The core of punting involves these types of bet, where a straight punt is simply choosing a horse to win a race and, if they are pipped to the post and come in second, you lose all your stake. You can choose ‘on the nose’ to bet that the horse will win or ‘place’ or ‘show’, to come in second or third respectively. Exotic wagers then go on to build on these fundamentals and are a little more complicated, offering longer odds but bigger pay outs. But as with everything in punting, bigger wins come with bigger complexity. Some exotic bets include ‘Boxing’ which sees you place a series of punts that cover every possible permutation for horses winning a race. These include punts like ‘Exactas’ which involve you picking the first finishers in a race in the ‘exact’ order they end up crossing the line. To try and box an exacta, you place a punt that Runner 1 finishes and Runner 2 places and then invert your bet so that Runner 2 finishes and Runner 1 places. This eliminates a degree of uncertainty to your bet but can be costly in the long term. Another option available is to pick a Quinella, settling on which two horses you want to win or place but the order they do so in does not matter to achieve your pay-out. This gives you a little more wiggle room to win your bet and involves a single punt rather than the two punts that an exacta offers, though your win is likely to be diminished if your punt comes through.
Ever see bookies flailing their arms around at each other on the racetrack? That’s tic-tac. Historically used as a way of quickly and secretly passing odds and information to each other, the technique has sadly been lost to the sands of time with the rise of texting. The technique also used a lot of rhyming slang that ended up finding its way into everyday racing parlance for odds, such as ‘Bottle’ 2/1, ‘Cockle’ 10/1, and ‘Straight Up’ for Evens. Would-be Delboys may also have an advantage as cockney rhyming slang was also adopted, with Pony (25), Ton (100) a Monkey (500) finding their way into everyday speech thanks to the system.