You Wire to Wire!
To Bet Horses - Glossary of Racing Terms
Every horse celebrates a birthday on January 1, regardless
of the actual date of birth. Yes, this would mean a horse
born on December 31st would be a yearling on January 1st.
However, the breeding industry avoids this problem by
timing the breeding season to start in February. (Mares
carry their foals for approximately 11 months.)
only race against other two-year-olds.
Three-year-olds normally only compete amongst themselves
during the first half of the year then begin to challenge
older horses as they gain experience. Many handicappers
watch for older horses racing against three-year-olds. It
takes a special three-year-old to challenge their elders
and win. Handicappers also watch four-year-olds as they
come of age. Because most three-year-olds are protected
for a majority of their racing lives, as a-four-year old
they may have trouble making the transition to becoming a
competitive older horse.
- When a horse is the favorite -- or has the most money
bet on it -- that horse is termed the "chalk."
Interestingly, this term comes from the pre-computer era
of the bookie. When a bookie recorded bets on a
blackboard, the odds would change over and over as more
and more people bet on the favorite. The horse became
known as the "chalk" because the horse's name
would disappear in chalk dust as the bookie constantly
erased and lowered the horse's odds.
book. The Racing Secretary at all tracks writes
a condition book for upcoming races every two weeks. The
condition book allows horsemen to schedule their horses
for races. Del Mar's condition book is available on-line.
The condition book also reminds horsemen of upcoming
stakes and nomination deadlines.
In California, when two or more horses entered in a
race belong to the same owner, they are called
"entries" or "coupled" horses. In
other states, a coupled entry is defined when two or more
horses are trained by and/or owned by the same person. The
coupled entry is comprised of two or more horses and are a
single betting interest. For example: In California, Mrs.
Smith owns horse A and horse B. Mrs. Smith's entry would
thus be 1 and 1a. This is considered a bet on #1 for
betting purposes. Once in awhile, there will be more than
one coupled entry: Mrs. Smith owns Horses A and B while
Mr. Jones owns Horses C and D. Mr. Jones' entry would be
numbers 2 and 2a. In other states, if the same trainer
conditions Horse A and Horse B, these horses will be
coupled, and/or if the two horses are owned by the same
person, they will be coupled.
this seems complex, what it means is that you get two
horses for the price of one. However, it usually means
that a horse you thought would be at long odds may be
affected by the other "coupled" entry. The
industry has not determined how to address this issue.
Some bettors believe that common interests mean that the
horses should automatically be coupled (to prevent
conflict of interest). Other bettors believe it isn't fair
that the other horse has lower odds because of common
ownership (or conditioning). This is the reason that each
state has differing rules on coupling.
- Amount of money wagered on a single race or a full-day
of racing (e.g., the handle for the day was $2,000,000).
Some people feel that this is one of the hardest games
of skill. Others feel that they can quantify it on their
computers, spit out some selections and make their bets.
Some folks agonize over their selections each night for
hours before the they go to the races, while others take
no more than an hour per race card. Whichever you become,
here are some "lessons" as developed by the
DRF.Most people learn these lessons with a friend or
someone knowledgeable at the track. It is not necessary
that you take these lessons or make the racing experience
into something difficult. Many people like to be able to
spot a horse that others wouldn't choose at long odds.
However, in order to win bets at long odds, one does need
to know how to handicap!
A prediction by the Track Line Maker of what the
final odds will be based on how the public wagers.
It depends on the line maker whether the prediction is
accurate. Many people often get confused thinking that the
Morning Line is an indicator of the possible winner. This
is one critical area of handicapping.
public can and does choose the wrong horse, termed a
"false" favorite. Many people bet exclusively on
favorites without handicapping the races. If the horse is
a false favorite, the other bettors -- especially those
who do not like to bet low odds -- will seek out a more
qualified horse. The payoff is usually much better. The
trick is finding those horses that are false favorites and
not talking yourself into believing a favorite isn't
qualified to win today's race.
A history of each horses' racing performance: how he/she
ran, placed, the jockey, at what track, etc. The past
performances are often referred to as the "pp's."
Reading the Daily Racing Form, or any document that
contains the past performances, is not as difficult as it
position. The post position is the position
from which the horse breaks out of the gate. Most of the
time a horse comes out of the same gate number as his/her
program number. However, if there are coupled entries in
the race, that isn't possible. Both the 1 and the 1a
cannot break from the 1 slot so they draw for the post
positions. Your program will show you which post position
the horse breaks from.
handicappers keep track of post positions believing there
is a track bias. They may have observed, for example, that
the outside is playing better than the inside (or
reverse). As a result, they might be willing to bet a
certain horse that is not quite as good as the others
because of its post position.
The time the horses are expected to reach the starting
"post"; when a race begins.
The schedule of races on a specific day.
and Handicap Races. Del Mar for one, has one
of the richest stakes schedules in this country which
includes just about every racing distance and surface,
Stakes Schedule. Graded stakes and handicap races are
the highest level of racing at any race track. The best
horses usually compete in stakes competition. The owner
must pay nomination fees and entry fees in order to run
their horse. An example of a very early nomination fee
is the Breeders Cup. This fee ($500) is paid in the
foal's weanling year. Other fees are due a month or
several weeks before the race is scheduled to run. The
owner may also have to pay a fee to enter the horse
during the entries. These fees are usually paid back in
the purse. The nominations will frequently include many
horses. The conditions of the race will determine who
gets to race. (At present the industry is experiencing a
horse shortage. As a result, it is often not necessary
to leave horses out of races.)
Racing Secretary assigns weights to horses in a handicap
race. The toughest horse must bear the highest weight,
while the least competitive horse will have the lowest
weight. Assigning different weights is an attempt to
level the playing field between competitors, just like a
handicap in golf. There are also weight breaks for
younger horses or for a filly racing against colts. A
stakes or handicap race can also list age conditions
or "three and up."
Stakes. The main difference between an
overnight stakes race and a stakes race is the amount of
entry fees a trainer must pay to enter the horse.
Overnight stakes do not usually require nomination,
entry and starting fees. Nominations for overnight
stakes are generally taken up to a week (or less) before
the race. Overnight stakes bring out quality horses to
compete for excellent purse money, though usually not as
much as in the highest quality stakes races.
Races. A claiming race means that the horses
may be purchased by a qualified, licensed person for the
claiming price listed in that race. Many people do not
understand why someone would want a horse to be claimed.
Just as in other professional sports, not all horses are
good enough to be top competitors in stakes level races.
Racing in the claiming ranks allows the owners, as well
as the horses, the opportunity to win against horses of
the same caliber. Depending on the track, a horse may be
entered for as low as $10,000 or as high as $100,000.
There is also another type of race called the optional
claimer. In this case, the horses may be eligible to be
claimed or they may be allowance horses, competing under
allowance conditions, and therefore are not eligible to
be claimed. This type of race was created to combine two
types of races and help the Racing Secretary have a
fuller field of horses for this type of race.
Allowance Races. A horse entered in a starter
allowance race cannot be claimed. The horse, however,
must have run at a certain claiming level (depending on
how the conditions are written) during a designated time
(for example "since August 1998"). The starter
allowance generally brings together the best of the the
Race. Allowance races are exactly like their
name implies. Allowances are made or "conditions
are set" in order for the horse to be eligible in
that race. Examples of allowance races are: Non-Winners
of 2 (races), Non-Winners of 3 (races), Non-Winners of 4
(races). As you can see, each level is more competitive.
A horse that has never won two races might have a hard
time winning a race against horses that have won three.
There are often other conditions like "of a race
since August 5th, 1998" or "at a mile or
over." Sometimes there are monetary conditions set,
such as "Non-Winners of $3000" or
"Non-Winners of 5000 lifetime." A good
handicapper will make note of these conditions. Some
horses entered in the race may be competitive against
Non-winners of $5000 lifetime, but not at all
competitive against Non-Winners of three races.
races are exciting for the fan and industry alike as we
all learn whether a horse is going to be good enough to
continue on to the stakes level of racing. It depends on
the trainer and owner, of course, but often a horse will
be run through all of their conditions before they are
ever entered in a stakes race. Some feel that it is
important to season a horse by going this route. Others
feel that it is better to strike while the iron is hot
and go after the better purses in stakes level racing.
Some horses can't make the cut and go from the allowance
to the claiming ranks and back over their careers.
Races. The term "maiden" means
non-winner, the horse has never won a race. Some
maidens, in fact, have never raced at all (nonstarter).
There are two types of maiden races. Generally, the
maiden special weight race is the best. A horse cannot
be claimed out of a maiden special weight Race. The
purses are also better than the maiden claiming race as
well. Most of the time the maiden special weight races
have the best youngest horses on the race track. They
are often the best bred horses and often have the best
connections (owners, breeders and trainers).
When a horse is withdrawn from a race in which it's
scheduled to run. Depending upon the type of wager you've
placed, you're entitled to either a refund or your
interest will automatically be transferred to the betting
are allowed to "scratch" their horses up to
24-hours after entries are taken, sometimes because a more
suitable race has become available. There are many reasons
to scratch a horse, however, including illness or injury.
If the scratch occurs before the writing of the program,
the numbers of the other horses change, which is where the
confusion lies between entry and program numbers. If the
scratch occurs after the program has been written and sent
to the printer, the scratch is called a 'program scratch.'
In that case, the other horses in the race do not change
are many rules regarding scratches. If a horse is
scratched due to injury or illness, for example, the horse
can't immediately be entered in another race. Depending
upon the injury or illness (for example, if the horse was
administered medications), there may be a time frame when
a horse may not be entered.
The option to watch and wager on the races live via
television broadcast. If you are unable to enjoy live
racing at the track, you can attend any one of hundreds of
simulcast wagering facilities nationwide that carry the
Del Mar television broadcast, including California's own
Southern and Northern California Off-Track Wagering
Board. The infield graphics board, or tote
board, provides the following information: the amount of
money wagered on each horse individually in the win, place
and show pools, updated odds, fractional and final race
times, the results of the preceding race and additional
messages including program changes, post time for the
upcoming race and the time of day. The tote board is