Understand the races

Racing Terms

  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z

A

Age
Every thoroughbred’s official birthday is on January 1 in the Northern Hemisphere, even though they are born any time from January to June (11 months after being conceived). In the Southern Hemisphere, their birthday is on August 1.

Agent (Jockey’s)
In the 2000s, a new profession appeared, that of the Jockey’s Agent. Paid by the jockeys that they represent, they work towards finding them the best rides with trainers. They also act as intermediaries allowing the jockey to concentrate fully on their riding, as well as organising their travel arrangements.

A horse’s physique or conformation
The general appearance of a horse. One could talk for example about a “beau modèle” (good looking horse or a horse with good conformation), “petit” (small) or “grand” (big) physique etc.

Allowance
The amount of additional weight in a race given to a jockey to help him to make the weight on a particular horse. This cannot exceed three pounds (1,5kg). In racing language, it is said that a horse “porte” (carries) two pounds, meaning he is carrying two pounds extra.

All-Weather
A shortened form of the French word “Piste en sable fibré” (fibresand gallop). It is composed mainly of sand and does not freeze, allowing it to be used by trainers to exercise their racehorses irrespective of the weather.

Amateur jockey
A rider allowed to compete in amateur races.

Amateur Lady Jockey
A female jockey that rides in amateur races.

B

Bay
The colour of a horse which is brown in colour with a black mane and tail and legs. Bay/Brown and Dark Bay are further darker variations going towards black, a colour that is very rare in racehorses.

Betting: (The betting)
The distribution of betting with the pari-mutuel on the runners in a particular race, shown by the odds (see this word)

Black-type
A method to distinguish the horses that have come in the first three of Group and Listed races (see these words) in the pedigrees produced in sales catalogues. These performances appear in bold. A horse of this level is also be called a “black-type performer”.

Blaze
Awhite mark running down the head of a horse

Blinkers
Equipment placed on the head of a horse to limit its vision. They are used to reassure nervous horses and also to ensure better concentration. Blinkers are marked on the official programme with a “Y”.

Bloodstock Agent
A commercial intermediary between owners, breeders, sales companies, and trainers. They buy horses for their clients, or can manage an owner’s interests. They generally take commission on purchases.

Breeder
Also known as a “naisseur” in French. An owner or co-owner or a mare that produces a foal, officially becomes a breeder.

Breaking-in
The time when a horse has a saddle placed on its back and is started to be ridden for the first time.

Broodmare
A female horse at stud is destined to reproduce.

C

Canter down to the start
Part of the warming up process for a horse before beginning the race.

Cap
A hat that covers the helmet of a jockey in the colours of the owner’s horse.

Castration, Castrated
A horse that has had its testicles surgically removed (like with cats and dogs) because it was too nervous, untrainable, or ill. These horses are called geldings.

CHAMP (faire le)
Betting on all the possible combinations on a particular horse or its rivals to win money. Example: “Faire le champ” of the number five for a Couplé gagnant means to bet on all the Couplés possible with the number five. Under these circumstances, as this would require several combinations, the bet would be more expensive.

Chestnut
The colour of a horse which can range from light to dark (liver) chestnut.

Claiming race
These are races where the horses can be sold or “claimed” for the minimum price marked in the official programme by interested parties. This happens through closed bids being put into a ballot box after they have run. The highest bid buys the horse. The claiming price is then paid to the owner, while the difference between the claiming price and the actual price offered, is split between the Racing Associations and the seller.

Coat colour
The colour of a horse and including its mane and tail.

Colt
A male horse that is less than five years old.

Couplé
Abet that consists of picking the first two horses past the post (“Couplé gagnant” in any order, “Couplé ordre” must be in order, or two out the first three home (called a “Couplé placé”, finish in any order). The French word “jumelé” can also be used for this bet.

Cover all bases
A method of placing several bets to ensure that you have a higher chance of winning. Watch out however, as the risk of spending more than you win is very likely!

Cover
A mating between a stallion and a mare.

Crack
An exceptional racehorse.

D

Dead-heat
when it cannot be distinguished which horse has finished in front of the other.

Demoted, disqualified
when the result of a horse that has inconvenienced or interfered with another runner is changed from its original placing.  Can happen following an Enquiry or an objection by another jockey or trainer, when the Stewards will decide whether to demote or disqualify a horse.

Discipline
The Flat and Jumps are the two disciplines in Thoroughbred Racing. There are three specialities in jumping: hurdles, chases, and cross-country (see these words).

Draw, in French means:
1.    Inside rail;
2.    Position in the stalls given to each runner in a race. The number “1” is closest to the inside rail.
3.    The direction that the horses run, with either the inside rail on their left or their right.

E

Enquiry
An examination called by the Race Stewards to determine the consequences of an incident or several incidents during a race. They watch the replay of the race from several different angles and interview the jockeys concerned, establishing the required responsibilities of each one (they can also determine that there is no cause for further enquiry and the subject is closed), before giving their verdict. In the event of a fall, an Enquiry is automatically called.

Entire
A horse that has not been castrated, meaning that it is not a gelding.

Entry
when a horse is signed up to run in a race.

EpiqE Series
A series launched in 2016 with the aim of attracting a wider public audience to racing. They consist of 14 races at the highest level, seven in thoroughbred racing, and seven in the trotting sphere. In their own spheres, each one of these leads towards the biggest races in France, the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in thoroughbred racing, and the Prix d’Amerique Opodo (takes place at the end of January), in trotting.  You can follow the series on epiqe.fr.

Equidia
The official French racing channel is Equidia Live, while Equidia Life is dedicated to Equestrian activities. They are available on both cable and satellite, and are entirely financed by the PMU and racecourse associations.    

F

Favourite
The horse that the betting public think is most likely to win a race, shown by it having the lowest potential dividend in the race. The opposite would be an outsider.

Filly
A female horse that is less than five years old.

Foal
A horse that is less than a year old, meaning that it hasn’t yet lived long enough to see January 1 when it would become a yearling.

Forfeit
when a trainer cancels a horse’s entry in a race

Full brother
Sharing the same mother means that horses are half-brothers or sisters. Sharing the same mother and father means that horses are full brothers or sisters.

G

Green
A horse that runs hesitantly or that can show erratic tendencies due to inexperience in a race.

Gelding
A castrated horse (see this word)

Grey
A coat colour that ranges from light grey to dark grey. Horses are not born grey, but become over a short space of time after birth. They become “whiter” with age. White horses are always called grey.

Going, ground, the state of the going
Meaning the ground that the races are to be run over. It is generally measured in the morning, and then published to inform the public and professionals. It is communicated in two ways: by a number, generally the average from the measurements taken in different places on the track to get a general reading, or by a description such as “firm”, “good”, “soft”, “heavy” etc.

Going stick
An apparatus that is used to measure the softness of the ground, that is generally taken on the morning of the races. This is then published to inform the public and professionals of the state of the “going”. It is communicated in two ways: by a number, generally the average from the measurements taken in different places on the track to get a general reading, or by a description such as “firm”, “good”, “soft”, “heavy” etc.

Group
The most important races are categorised into three groups: Group 1, Group 2, and Group 3. The former is the highest level of competition, with the least amount of them (36 in France). They offer the best prize money on the flat and over jumps. For a race to become a Group 1, the first three horses past the post need to obtain a minimum rating. If, over several years, this level is not obtained, the European Pattern Committee, the society in charge of regulating these races, can downgrade the race. Inversely, they can also upgrade races. There is also a fourth category known as Listed races, which are a stepping-stone to group races, and come under the same ratings rule.

H

Hack canter
Often in long races, the horses may go much slower (often called a hack canter) before then sprinting at the finish.

Handicap
A race where the runners each carry a weight relative to their rating to equalise their chances. The best horses carry the most weight, and vice versa.

Handicapper
Someone who decides on the rating of each horse following each of its races. This is described in kilos and raised depending on the performances of each horse.

Handicap reference
This is the number of kilos in a handicap that one needs to add to the theoretical rating of all the runners to obtain the weight that each horse must carry. For example, in a handicap with a reference of 22, a horse that has a rating of 34 will carry 56kg (34+22 = 56kg).

Horse
An entire aged five years old or upwards (aside from the generic meaning)

J

Jockey
A professional rider with a licence to ride in races, in contrast to an amateur or gentleman rider.

L

Length
The measurement used to determine the distance between horses at the winning post. One length corresponds to the length of a horse. If the distance is shorter, it is then marked down as ¾ length, half-length, neck, short neck, head, short head, and nose.  It is estimated that two pounds, the equivalent of 1kg, corresponds to one length at the finish.

Listed race
Arace that is just under the level of a Group 3 race.  

M

Mare
A female horse that is four years old or older.

Maiden
A horse, male or female, that has never won a race. This can also mean a race for horses that have not yet won.

Make a mistake
To peck on landing or not clear a jump properly. This should not be confused with French trotting expression “se mettre à la faute”, which means that the trotter has broken into a canter and will therefore be disqualified.

Meeting
A number of race days held at a particular racecourse that are held over a certain period of time, often consecutively. Example: The August Meeting at Deauville. In English, the word meeting would also mean a race meeting taking place on just one day.

Miler
A racehorse that performs at his best over distances from 1,600m to 1,800m.

N

Non-runner
This is a horse that is down as a runner on the official programme, but following the decision of the trainer, or sometimes a vet, or even the starter (see this word), it then does not take part in the race. This could be for health reasons, or if it refuses to enter into the starting stalls… or because he has not arrived at the racecourse!

O

Objection
If a jockey, trainer, or owner considers that their horse was interfered with during a race, they can make an objection in front of the Stewards, who will hold an Enquiry (see this word). They will then look into the race, watching it from many different angles and interview the parties involved before making their decision. They can also call an Enquiry independently if they think that they have seen an incident in a race that has interfered with race proceedings.

The Odds
An indication of the potential winnings on a particular horse when it is bet on to win. A lot of gamblers bet on the favourites, and are therefore more numerous when the winnings are distributed. This means that the odds will therefore be short (small). In contrast, if only one out of 100 gamblers bets on a horse and it wins, he will recuperate 100 bets, which means 99/1 – 99 of his rivals bets against just his one!
Traditionally, this indication of winnings is talked about as “3 against 1” or 3/1, and signifies three times your stake, 10 against 1 – 10 times your stake, and so on. If a horse at 3 against 1 wins and you have put down a €1 stake to win, you will receive €4 from this bet (your stake plus three times the stake equals four in total).
In France, to guard against confusion (3/1 equals a revenue of 4), the expected pay-out is normally marked, which is designed to show what the winnings will really be (following the same example, €4 or odds of 4,00 is marked instead of 3/1). Despite this, often the pay-out is talked about as the odds! The bigger the odds, the bigger the uncertainty of your choice, however the winnings will be much greater!

Orders
Directions given by the trainer/owner or their representative to the jockey before the race, generally in the paddock before giving them a leg up on to the horse.

Other than Thoroughbred
A racehorse that is at least 87,5% thoroughbred, but carries other bloodlines including that of Anglo-Arabs, Selle Francais, or even the French Trotter. The AQPS breed generally runs over jumps.

Outsider
A horse that is not considered one of the leading contenders in a race, in contrast to the favourite.

Owner
A person or an entity that has been licensed by France Galop to own a horse, or a share in one.

P

Pace
The speed that a race is run at. Talked about as being a fast or slow pace (in French “train de sénateur”. A “faux train” (false pace), is when the leader slows up to give a horse the best possible chance of accelerating at the end without having used too much energy during the race.   

Pacemaker
A horse that is used run out in front in a race to ensure that there is a fast gallop, thereby helping a horse that is running in the same colours to potentially run a better race.

Paddock
The place where the horses are shown to the public before the race and mounted by the jockeys. This is also where the owners and trainers and their entourages meet to give a jockey their orders.

Pari mutuel
With a pari-mutuel, the betting operator collects all the bets and subsequently distributes them after the race to all the winners following a small takeout. The odds offered by the pari-mutuel depends exclusively on how the betting is spread on each horse. Like on the Stock Exchange, it is the offer and demand that determines the price. This is the only legalised betting in France, Asia, and a number of other countries across the world.

Past performances
This is the abbreviation in French of the past performances of a horse, from the most recent to the oldest (confusingly in England and Ireland, this is marked from right to left). Example: 7p5p2s0h1p… this horse finished seventh on the flat last time, before that fifth on the flat, second over steeplechases, unplaced over hurdles, and won on the flat.

Pound
kilos are the unit used in France for racing, but the smaller measurement of pounds (500 grams or 0,5kg) are often used to help correct the weight that a horse must carry. It is estimated that two pounds, the equivalent of 1kg, corresponds to one length at the finish.

Premium Meeting
A race meeting that can be bet on at the races with the PMU and in all their outlets, not just on the internet. Betting on other meetings that are not “Premium” is spread between online operators, or it may only be possible to bet at the races (these are called “PMH” Meetings “Pari-Mutuel Hippodrome”).

Prize money
A sum of money paid to the first five finishers in a race (this increases to seven in a Quinté +).

R

Racecourse Associations
Associations under the “loi 1901” (Law of 1901) that organise and regulate racing either locally or nationally (governing body).

Race Conditions
These are the criteria that need to be conformed to in order for a horse to be able to run in a certain race, such as age, sex, earnings, etc.

Rail
A white barrier that marks the interior of the track. This can be moved if necessary in view to a particular race meeting. In French, this is also called a “corde”. When the word “lice” is followed by a measurement, this is the difference between the rail at its normal position and where it is for that particular meeting. The “lice à zero” signifies that the rail has not been moved. A “lice à 6 mètres” means that has been moved six metres closer to the stands than normal for the day. This enables the grass at the inside of the track to be preserved for use another day.

Rating
This is expressed in kilos by the Handicappers (see this word), and is a theoretical assessment given to a horse in relation to its past performances. It is used to calculate the weight that a horse will carry in handicaps, and compare the quality of each horse.

Red
Originally there was a red light on the results board, with this signal now becoming synonymous with some of the different stages of a race: “Rouge aux partants” is when all the runners have officially been declared – they are all present, and “rouge à l’arrivée” is when the finish is official.

Ridden with hands and heels
A horse that is ridden by a jockey who uses just using his hands and heels to encourage a horse to go faster, but doesn’t use his whip.

Rules of Racing
The rule book and policies that govern Horse Racing. These are updated every year by France Galop’s Stewards and approved by the Minister of Agriculture. This also includes updates of the general conditions, which mainly deal with the conditions of the races and their organisation.

Run out
when a horse refuses to jump a fence or veers off the track.

S

Sales
There are several sales organised throughout the year in most racing countries. In France, the auction houses are called Arqana and Osarus.
There are several types of sales, where public bidding for lots in catalogues compiled by the sales companies takes place. These are widely available (including at the races), and detail the pedigree and race performances of each lot.
Some of the major categories of these auctions are yearlings (see this word), weanlings, or horses in training. The Breeding Stock sales take place mainly in the winter, where foals and broodmares are sold, and can often include shares in stallions. The Breeze-Up Sales (broken-in two-year-olds) take place in the spring.

Sheepskin Cheekpieces
Pieces of sheepskin that are fitted to the cheek-pieces of a bridle to limit a horse’s sight behind. They are different from traditional blinkers, where a horse to have even more limited vision. Sheepskin Cheekpieces are marked on the official programme after the name of a horse by the symbol “X”.  

Silks/Colours
are defined as the jacket and cap that a jockey wears in a race. Every racehorse owner has his own silks (or even two or three different pairs), and they are always the same no matter the horse or the jockey.  

Simulcasting
When several meetings are going on at the same time and they are organised so that it is possible to bet on each one irrespective of the racecourse or the betting outlet.

Speciality
Example: hurdles, steeplechase or cross-country are the three specialities of jump racing.

stable coupling
when horses running for the same owner in a race can be gambled on to win using just one bet. If one of the winning horses is “coupled” and you bet on the other horse to win, you still win! This only applies to simple bets to win.

Stable
Individual closed compartment where a horse lives.

Stable lad
A person that looks after the horses on a daily basis. They may also ride the horses in the morning. Very often, lads look after a horse from the start of their career to the finish, which allows the horse to relax as well as being a helpful aid to the trainer as they learn to recognise how a horse reacts in different circumstances.

Stallion
A male horse that reproduces.

Stalls
Mechanical structures that are used to start a flat race. All the stalls open at the same time. Each runner has a stall number chosen at random, that is not linked to its number on the saddlecloth. E.g. The number five could start from Stall 12.

Starter
The official in charge of starting races

stay, stamina
The former is used when a horse manages to run well over a particular distance that is perhaps longer than he has tried before.  Examples: “We didn’t think that this miler would stay 2,100 metres”, or “In the Prix Royal Oak, he didn’t stay the distance as he hasn’t got the stamina.”

Stayer
A horse that performs at its best over long distances, also called a “cheval de tenue” (horse with stamina) in French.

Steeple-chase
A race with varied jumps, larger than hurdles, that require more effort to get from one side to the other from a horse.

Steward
A benevolent official that is in charge of the integrity of racing by applying the Rules of Racing.

Stud
A farm where broodmares and stallions are kept for reproduction, as well as where their subsequent offspring are born. A horse leaving training to reproduce is said to have “gone to stud”.

Stud-book
A genealogical book that keeps the records of a particular breed

Suspension
A jockey that rides dangerously in a race or has done something wrong could be subject to a riding suspension in accordance with the Rules of Racing. This generally starts eight days after the suspension is given. The jockey implicated can appeal the decision with France Galop. These suspensions are upheld throughout all racing jurisdictions in the world.  

T

Tapes
The method used for starting jump races and occasionally on the flat.

Thoroughbred
A horse registered in the General Stud Book, which contains all the genetic records of Thoroughbreds since the 18th Century. Generally, all the horses that are produced from horses registered in this book are considered thoroughbreds, wherever they are in the world.

Top-weight
The heaviest weight in a race, a term mostly used in handicaps.

To run covered up
A horse that is placed behind other runners so they surround it in a bid to conserve its energy until the finish. If it runs wide or in front from the start “nez au vent” in French), it could potentially use up all its energy with this effort.

To run wide
A horse that is ridden on the wide outside with no cover.

Trainer
Someone who prepares the horses for racing that an owner sends them. The trainer is responsible for the horses that he declares under his care. They also can often help with buying the horses, in addition to making entries, and choosing the jockeys. They also manage the daily care of the horses.

U

Under starter’s orders
An announcement given to the runners three minutes before the start, meaning that they need to get ready to begin the race.

Unraced
A horse that is racing for the first time in its life, or a horse that is racing for the first time over jumps, that has already run on the flat.

W

Weighing room
The area where the jockeys weigh themselves with their saddle, before and after the race. This part of the racecourse is reserved for professionals and owners.

Weight
This is the total weight carried by a horse in a race and includes the jockey and his equipment, with the exception of the helmet and whip. It is calculated by the race conditions. In “courses à conditions” (conditions races), it is the sex, age and past performances of a horse that determine their weight. In handicaps (see this word), the weight is calculated using the ratings of the horses, known as “valeurs” that are determined by handicappers (see this word). In claiming races, the weight is fixed in relation to the claiming price.

Weights scale
A scale of ratings in kilos where horses are classed according to their rating. Example: Tartempion is rated 39 on the weights scale, meaning that he is “worth” 39kg.   

whip
A stick like object that is designed to guide and encourage a horse to go faster. It is used by jockeys and equestrian riders. During a race, the whip should not be used more than eight times. A jockey that does not adhere to this rule will be given a fine which increases with each breach (€75 for the first time, €150 a second time, and €300 a third time), and is then followed by a suspension for the third time.

White marking on the legs
This can cover the bottom of the leg, and can be called a “white sock” if it covers all the way up to the knee or hock.

Winning Post
The marker where the race ends on the finishing line. There can be several winning posts on a racecourse, so that race distances can be varied.

Y

Yearling
A horse that is one-year-old and has already celebrated its first birthday (all horses in the Northern Hemisphere have an official Birthday on January 1).