A Guide To Racing Terms

Have you ever watched the Grand National and wondered what on earth people were talking about when they refer to handicapping, betting odds or steeplechase? This concise guide will reveal more about some of the mysterious terms used in horseracing. 

All Weather 

traditionally horse races are run on grass but the use of an all-weather surface means racing occurs all year round and shouldn’t be called off just because there has been a heavy frost.


There are certain diseases or health issues associated with racing because of the elite level of performance required. When a horse is known as a “bleeder”, it is because they suffer with a severe nose bleed after strenuous exercise. The more formal name is exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage (EIPH). Trainers are always looking for horse feed or supplements to try and reduce the risk of EIPH but in reality it is usually only dealt with using medication or pharmaceutical products.

Bumper race

This is also known as a National Hunt Flat race and is usually run over two miles without any jumps. It’s a great way to introduce a young horse to racing without having to worry about jumping too! 


refers to the most prestigious flat races in the English racing calendar. There are five Classics: the 2,000 Guineas, 1,000 Guineas, Oaks, Derby, St Leger. The most high profile races over jumps include the Grand National, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the King George VI Chase held at  Kempton on Boxing Day.


This is the formal notification from a trainer that they intend to run a horse in a certain race. Horses are commonly declared at either the 24-hour or 48-hour stage prior to a race having been entered weeks or months in advance. Until the horse is declared there is no way of knowing if the trainer is really serious about the horse’s ability to win the race. 


the conditions of the racecourse. After periods of lots of rain the going is described as heavy – in other words it is deep and takes more effort to run on. Different horses suit different conditions and a trainer may decide not to run a horse if the going doesn’t suit them. 


Horse racing enables horses of varied abilities to race competitively against each other via the allocation of weight. The higher the handicap rating of a horse, the more weight they are required to carry. Handicapping is the best way to provide winning opportunities for most horses as it enables those of varied ability to race against one another, with a realistic chance of success. 


A horse who has yet to win a race and yes it can be a male horse too. 


the traditional feed associated with feeding to racehorses. In modern times, equine nutrition and horse feed has become much more sophisticated, recognising the importance of nutrition for performance. Oats are often still a part of a horse feed but they would be fed in conjunction with vitamins, minerals and protein all balanced to meet the needs of an elite athlete.


Horse racing is inextricably linked to betting and the odds are those offered by bookmakers which relate to how likely they think it is that a particular horse will win a race. This is calculated by all sorts of factors including the horse’s recent form as well as knowledge of the conditions and whether or not they suit each horse.


A speller, or spell time, is time spent by a horse between the final run of one campaign and when they commence exercise for the preparation ahead. A speller may be injured and require time out of training to recover or may just be in need of a holiday to recover mentally as well as physically. A speller will have a change of horse feed as they no longer need the high energy racing rations they were fed in training. 


A horse that has a lot of stamina and is known to finish races strongly. Although a lot of this is also related to the skill of the jockey in timing their race to the finish line, some horses use up a lot of energy trying to get to the front early in the race. They are often the horses that don’t finish well. 


Also known as Gastric Ulcers, they are a common problem in racehorses. Caused by a number of factors including diet and exercising on an empty stomach, equine nutritionists work with trainers trying to find the right balance of horse feed that keeps the horse healthy but allows them to perform at their best

Weighed In

Every horse must carry a certain amount of weight in the race and to ensure the rules are adhered to, every jockey has to weigh in before and after a race. The ‘weighed in’ announcement after the race is a huge relief as it means the result is valid and those that have won can properly celebrate! 


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