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Making Sense of Horse Racing Terminology

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Horse racing gets right back in the saddle in 2021 with huge events on the horizon such as the Aintree Grand National and the Epsom Derby.

However, for the uninitiated this can be a tricky sport to follow with so much equestrian terminology that can boggle a horse racing newcomer. In this article we break down some of the most commonly used phrases and terms, so you can follow the racing safe in the knowledge that you know what’s going on out on the course.

Make sure you know the difference between a Flat Race and a Jump Race

Types of Races

Horse races can vary greatly from event to event. The most popular variety of race to watch and bet on is the Flat Race, which as you can probably tell just means the horses doing laps of a circuit with no obstacles involved. A good example of this are the races that make up the US Triple Crown, such as the Kentucky Derby.

The second variety of race is the Jump Race which can also be confusingly known as a National Hunt race or Steeplechase.

Most Jump Races involve horses leaping over fences, whereas steeplechases see horse and jockey tackle any number of varying obstacles, from ditches to water features. The most famous steeplechase of them all is the Aintree Grand National whose huge field of runners gallop round a four-and-a-half-mile track and navigate thirty challenging fences, ditches, and water traps, all while betting punters cheer them on from the grandstands.

With so many obstacles to overcome, picking a winner of steeplechases like the Grand National can be tricky.

Horse race goers should also be aware of handicap races, whereby the favourites to win a race are weighed down to give the rest of the field a fighting chance. This can often throw up some surprise results.

There is a big difference between a Gelding and a Filly

Horse Age and Sex

The next thing to keep in mind is what sort of horse will feature in each race you watch, because the terms used to describe a horse’s age and sex can also impart plenty of other useful info about the beast and their potential performance.

A Colt for example is a male long nose of up to 4 years of age. Meanwhile a Filly is a female horse of the same age.

Sire and Dam are the titles given to a horse’s parents. Stallions are male horses primed for breeding. There is even a name for a male horse that has been unfortunate enough to get castrated with them being called Geldings.

Grading of Races

Last but not least there is the grading of races to consider, as top tier races are referred to as Group 1 races and slightly lesser races fall into Groups 2 and 3.

Be aware that this grading works slightly differently between Flat Races and Jump Races just in case you were getting too confident about how all this worked.


posted Feb 24, 2021 by Divya Bharti

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