Author: May Thawdar Oo
Horse racing is an ancient sport that has thrilled and captivated audiences worldwide for millennia.
Ever since the first wild horses were tamed on the arid Eurasian steppes over 6,000 years ago, horse racing has become closely intertwined with human civilization as it developed then and now.
That includes the development of technological innovations such as chariots, wagons, cavalries, and mounted archery. Ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian civilization, on the other hand, incorporated the latter techniques into their military strategies and for their entertainment – and eventually, betting on horse racing.
And while it’s impossible to determine exactly when horse race betting became a thing, the sport of horse racing was already a certified draw at the original Olympic games a good 2,000 years ago – when horse racing became a bona fide competitive sport.
Given the fact that the first horse races in history were recorded during 700-40 BCE, it’s highly likely that it was during the same time that Greek and Roman horse racing enthusiasts would begin wagering on the races.
As the sport spread across the rest of the world – notably, the Middle East and China – it eventually evolved into the modern sport, betting event, and multimillion-dollar spectacle with state-of-the-art electronic equipment as we know it today. We’ve put together an article examining the history of horse racing just recently.
However, regardless of how much technology has innovated the sport and how betting on horse racing has evolved through the years, the premise behind the “Sport of Kings” has always remained the same: the first horse to cross the finish line wins.
Needless to say, the enduring appeal of horse racing has translated into serious betting outlay. Total wagering handle in the horse racing industry hit €11.6 billion ($12.2 billion) in 2021, making it a key segment for iGaming and sports betting content marketing professionals.
The trouble is, horse racing has developed its own terminology, slang, and turns of phrase which can be difficult for writers breaking into iGaming and sports betting content marketing to understand.
With distance measures straight out of the Late Middle Ages, you’d understandably think as though you need to be some sort of math or civil engineering whiz to decrypt the details. Meanwhile, the wagers can sound Greek to most once you get past the basic bets.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a guide to the fundamentals of betting on horse racing for iGaming content writers and professionals who are marketing for horse race betting. We’ll also provide a glossary of horse racing terms that every horse racing follower must know.
It will help you navigate the slang, help you get familiar with the terms, and equip you with the tools to appreciate the Sport of Kings in a new and exhilarating way.
Horse Race Betting 101: A Glossary of Horse Racing and Betting Related Terms
The venerable sport of horse racing and its inseparable aspect of betting use a fair amount of jargon that might sound Greek to first-time spectators, bettors, and followers.
And to gain any degree of success in betting on horse races as a fan, bettor, or professional in iGaming, it pays to have an understanding of the most common equine, horse racing, and betting terms.
Besides helping you understand underdogs and favorites on the race card, it will give you a distinct advantage in understanding how horse racing fans and bettors think – equipping you with the requisite knowledge to write for that audience and appeal to their instincts.
We’ve put together this glossary of horse racing and betting terms so you can get a pulse on the industry.
Glossary of Horse Racing Betting Terms
Now, with the pleasantries out of the way, let’s take a look at the lingo around horse race betting and the types of bets punters can make on Derby Day. There are more bet variants than you can shake a stick at, but let’s start with the basics.
- Win. If your horse finishes the race in first position, you win.
- Place. If your horse finishes the race in first or second position, you win.
- Show. If your horse finishes the race in first, second, or third position, you win.
- Exacta. Pick any two horses in one race. If they finish the race in first and second place in the exact order, you win.
- Quinella. Pick any two horses in one race. If they finish the race in first or second place, in any order, you win. A quinella is also known as an “Exacta Box.”
- Trifecta. Pick any three horses in one race. If they finish the race in first, second, and third place in the exact order, you win.
- Superfecta. Pick any four horses in one race. If they finish in first, second, third, and fourth place in the exact order, you win.
- Box. For exacta, trifecta, and superfecta bets, to “box” the bet means you have picked all combinations of all potential finishes for the horses that you picked. To “box” means your horses can come in any order at a higher cost to make the wager.
Other Horse Racing and Betting Terms
- Collect (dividend). The collect, or the dividend, is the return of a winning bet. For instance, for a €10 bet at 5.25 odds, the collect is €52.50.
- Dead heat. A race result where more than one horse finishes at the same time for a position.
- Field. The “field” may refer to all the individual competitors in an event.
- Furlong. A measure of distance equivalent to approximately 200 meters or one-eighth of a mile.
- In the money. Being “in the money” refers to a competitor who has finished the race in first, second, or third place.
- Jockey. The individual who rides the horse during race time.
- Minutes to post (MTP). Refers to the remaining time until bets are no longer taken and the race kicks off.
- Off-track betting (OTB). Indicates a place where people can bet on horse races remotely, away from the racetrack itself.
- Placegetter. A placegetter refers to a runner that finishes first, second, or third place in a race.
- Runner. This refers to a competitor in a horse race.
- Scratch. A “scratch” refers to a competitor or runner that has initially been penciled to participate in a race but withdrew before it started. All bets on the scratched runner are voided.
- Sulky. A sulky is a cart with two wheels and a driver’s seat pulled by horses and used for harness racing.
It’s easy to misuse or be completely puzzled by equine terms for those who haven’t got the faintest idea of horse-related jargon.
- Colt. A colt refers to a male horse under four years old (Australia) or five years old (UK).
- Filly. A filly is a female horse under four years old (Australia) or five years old (UK).
- Foal. A horse below one year old.
- Gelding. Geldings refer to castrated male horses.
- Mare. A female horse that is at least four years old and above.
- Pedigreed. A horse with a bloodline or ancestry traceable through many generations. This ancestry is recognized by a breed registry.
- Purebred. A horse that has been raised through selective breeding techniques.
- Stallion. An uncastrated male horse at least four years old and above.
- Thoroughbred. A horse breed known for its extensive use in horse racing. While the term may be used to refer to a purebred horse, it generally refers only to the specific horse breed known as a Thoroughbred.
- Yearling. A horse between one and two years old.
Horse Race Betting 101: How to Bet on Horse Racing Offline and Online
Fancy making your first flutter on the races? You’ve got several options: head to the racetrack or betting kiosks and place a bet in person, or go to an online sportsbook or casino and place your bets using your preferred device.
Knowing the right words to say will help you gain more confidence and goodwill in NOT holding up the line. If you’re betting in person at a racetrack, you’ll need to let the teller know the following details:
- Race track and race number
- Bet amount
- Type of bet you wish to place
- Horse’s saddlecloth number
It would go something like this:
“Churchill Downs, race three, €10 to win on #8.”
If your bet wins, you would cash in your ticket at the counter after impressing other bettors with your newly-learned vocabulary.
You can also go to off-track betting locations such as casinos, grills, and pubs where you can bet on televised races while you play, eat, or knock back a few cold ones.
Better still, thanks to the power of modern betting technology, you can bet anytime, anywhere through online casinos and sports betting sites using your computer or mobile device of choice.
Horse Race Betting 101: How Do The Odds Work?
Odds are often displayed either under the traditional fractional system or the newer decimal system.
In a nutshell, odds are just mathematics that determine the probability of an outcome happening, as well as the money you stand to win on betting on that particular result.
Fractional odds are usually displayed as something like this: 12/1, 4/1, or 3/1.
In spoken terms, these odds are referred to as “Twelve-to-one,” “four-to-one,” or “three-to-one.”
For instance, 4/1 means you would win 4 units for every 1 unit you stake (including your stake). The same can be said with 7/2 odds: for every 2 units you stake, you receive 7 units and your stake if you win. 3/1 means you’d win 3 units for every unit you stake.
When you see fractional odds like 1/2, it means that for every two units you stake, you get 1 unit plus your stake if you win. 1/3 means that for every 3 units you stake, you win one, including your stake if you win. These odds mean that the horse you are betting on is highly-favored to win the race.
Lastly, when you see “Evens,” this refers to a 1/1 fraction, meaning you would win exactly one unit for every unit you stake. This also indicates that the horse is hotly tipped to win the race.
Decimal odds, on the other hand, are displayed in the following format: 4.25. Simply multiply this number by the amount you wish to wager to calculate your gains if you’re betting on win. Your stake is already factored into these odds as opposed to fractional odds.
Every race has a favorite – the horse most likely to win the race – which is indicated by having the shortest price on offer. You would generally see them labeled with an “F” beside their odds when they are favored to win the race.
Sometimes more than one horse is favored to win the race; these will be indicated with “JF,” or joint favorite.
Horse Racing and Betting Are Here to Stay In 2023 and Beyond
Don’t believe the doomsayers: horse racing as a sport and as a major betting segment are both here to stay.
The numbers tell a completely different story from the premature obituaries – the pivot towards online horse betting has driven record total money wagered in 2021 (€11.6 billion), even at the height of racetrack closures. This has led to the highest annual wagering numbers in the United States, despite having 30% less racing events in 2020.
Online horse race betting is yet to peak – with the constant evolution in the industry, such as the rise of betting on online virtual horse racing and blockchain gaming with NFTs entering the industry, the Sport of Kings will remain in its lofty place among the biggest gambling markets.
Needless to say, iGaming professionals need to be familiar with the fundamentals – and lingo – of horse racing and how to bet on horses to succeed in their craft.
For instance, if a particular iGaming content writer has never actually followed, bet on, or understood horse racing and betting lingo, then you can bet your bottom dollar that you’ll get subpar to mediocre content at best.
That’s why it’s important to hire writers with real connections and expertise about the audience they wish to write for. If you’re a professional working in the iGaming sector, you know this for a fact.
How did you like May Thawdar Oo’s blog post “A Beginner’s Guide to Horse Racing and Betting Related Terms”? Let us know in the comments if you have anything to add, have another content idea for iGaming blog posts, or just want to say “hello.” 🙂