Horse Racing FAQs & Terminology

Horse Racing FAQs

Ready to jump into the world of horse racing and betting? In this guide, we unpack the essentials of this popular pastime so you can start making smart betting choices.

How do I bet on horse racing?

You can place bets online or at the track. Before placing your bet, make sure to have the following information ready:

  • The name of the racetrack
  • Which number race you’re betting
  • The dollar value of your bet (the minimum bet is typically $2)
  • The type of wager
  • The number of the horse(s) you’re betting on

To learn more about placing bets, check out our blog How to Bet on Horse Racing & Win.

How do odds work in horse racing?

In horse racing, the odds give a sense of how well a horse is expected to perform in a race. Typically, higher odds indicate you’ll be less likely to win, but in the event that the horse does place, your payout will be larger. Incorporating odds into your betting strategy requires balancing your risk tolerance with the potential for a larger payout.

What are exotic bets in horse racing?

An exotic bet is a type of wager in which you choose multiple horses you think will place in a certain race and what order they will place in, creating more complex odds than a win, show or place bet. There are several types of exotic bets, including exactas, trifectas and superfectas, each with its own strategies and betting odds. Learn more in our blog Exacta, Trifecta, Superfecta: Exotic Bets Explained.

How do I read horse racing odds?

Odds are often written out as two numbers divided by a slash or a dash (i.e. 10/1, 7-2, etc.) expressing the relationship between the profit and the amount invested if a bet is successful. For instance, if a horse has odds of 4/1, that means that if you place your bet with $10 and win, you will receive $40 in return.

What does SCR mean in horse racing?

SCR is an abbreviation for scratch. A horse is “scratched” when it withdraws from a race due to injury, illness or other outside factors. Learn more about why horses get scratched and what it means for bettors on our blog.

What are the different horse-racing wager types?

The three main types of wagers are win, show and place. A Win is a bet on which horse will finish first. A Show is a bet that the horse will finish first or second. A Place is a bet that your horse will finish in the top three. All other wager types are referred to as exotic bets.

What are Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5 and Pick 6 in horse racing?

Pick 3, Pick 4, Pick 5 and Pick 6 bets are very similar; the only difference is the number of races being bet on. An individual wins a Pick 3 by correctly predicting the winners of three different races; if they made a Pick 5, they’d bet on the winners of five different races.

What does post time mean in a horse-racing schedule?

The post time refers to the designated time for a race to start. No further bets can be placed after the post time.

How do will-pays work in horse racing?

Will-pays are the expected payout on a successful bet, usually referring to the payout of an exotic bet. They give you a better idea of your potential earnings and can help you decide which bets are worth the risk. Tracks may display will-pays for some common wager types, like exactas and daily doubles, but many times, a bettor will have to calculate them themselves if they want to know their potential winnings.

What’s the history of horse racing?

Horse racing has likely taken place since horses were first ridden, but the modern sport can be traced back to 16th-century England. Read our History of Horse Racing in the U.S. blog for the full story!

What are the different horse racing distances?

Common terms used to describe horse racing distances include furlong and length. A furlong is equal to 220 yards (or an eighth of a mile) and is used to measure any distance of a track shorter than a mile. Once a race’s length exceeds a mile, any remaining distance is typically measured by fractions of a mile. A length is based on the size of the first horse that crosses the finish line as measured from the tip of the nose to the tail (typically between 8 and 9 feet) and is used as a measurement of the time elapsed between horses crossing the finish line. Learn more in our blog on Horse Racing Distances Explained.

What is handicapping in horse racing?

Handicapping is the act of studying the backgrounds of racehorses — including their past performance, bloodline, training and more — in order to predict the outcome of a race, usually to make more informed betting decisions.

What is a tip sheet in horse racing?

A tip sheet is a document made by a handicapper that provides information on potential bets for horse racing. They typically list all of the horses competing, their odds and insights from the handicapper on their chances of winning. Visit our Tip Sheets page to learn more about these handy betting tools.

Horse racing glossary

Sometimes it may seem like horse-racing enthusiasts are speaking another language. Let’s take a look at some of the key terminologies used at the track so you can start speaking the lingo too.

Horses & their care

Also Eligible
A horse entered in the race but who cannot run unless another horse is scratched.
Also Ran
A horse that fails to finish in the money, i.e. does not place first, second or third.
A common piece of racing equipment containing eyecups that prevent distraction by limiting a horse’s vision.
A filly or mare used for breeding.
A horse that runs best in the latter part of the race, making up distance near the finish line.
A male horse between the ages of 2 and 5; also used to refer to male Thoroughbreds 4 years old and younger.
A horse’s mother.
A female horse that is 4 years old or younger; also refers to any female Thoroughbred under 5 years old.
A newborn horse.

A horse whose running style is to get on or near the lead at the start of a race and stay there as long as possible.

A castrated male horse.
A measurement of a horse’s height equal to four inches.
A horse bred by its owner.
A diuretic that helps prevent horses from bleeding.
Long Shot
A horse with little chance of winning.

A horse that has not yet won a race.

A female horse aged 5 or older.
The father of a horse.
Three-year-old horses.

At the race

Allowance Race

A non-claiming race with conditions on which horses are eligible to enter. For example, it may only be open to horses who have not won three races.

At The Post
The time when the horses reach the starting gate.
The straight portion of the far side of the race course between the turns.
(To) Bear In
To veer toward the inner rail or another horse.
(To) Bear Out
To veer away from the inner rail or another horse.
(To) Break Maiden
The first time a horse wins a race.
The racing program for the day.
The long, straight stretch from the gate to the first turn.
Claiming Race
A type of race in which horses are entered for a specific price and are up for sale for roughly the same price (the “claiming price”) up until shortly before the race.
(To) Close
To gain ground on the frontrunner.
A jockey’s silks (clothing) and cap in the horse owner’s colors and pattern.
Dead Heat
When two or more horses cross the finish line simultaneously and the winner cannot be determined by the photo-finish camera, the race is declared a tie or dead heat.
Deep Stretch
The area of the track close to the finish line.
To officially lower a horse’s actual finish position due to interference with another horse.
Eighth Pole
A colored post inside the inner rail marking one-eighth mile back from the finish line.
First Turn (Sometimes Clubhouse Turn)
The turn on a racing oval closest to the clubhouse or main grandstand; usually the first turn beyond the finish line.
The condition of the racing surface.
A measurement of distance equal to one-eighth of a mile (220 yards or 660 feet).
Half-Mile Pole
The pole on the race track that marks one-half mile from the finish line.
The stretch of track between the final turn to the finish line.
An investigation by officials to determine if a race was won fairly and without interference.
The rider in a horse race.
Refers to the length of the average horse from nose to tail (typically 8 feet); used to describe the distance between horses when a race is run.
A unit of measurement about the length of a horse’s neck or a quarter of a length.
The smallest distance a horse can win by.
An interference complaint made by a jockey, trainer or owner.
An official on a lead pony that leads the Thoroughbreds onto the track and into the starting gate.
The area where horses are saddled and paraded prior to a race.
Photo Finish
A photo used to determine the order of finish in a close race.
The starting gate or the time a race will begin.
Post Position
The horse’s numbered position in the starting gate, with 1 being closest to the inside rail.

Short for “scratch.” A horse is a scratch when it is withdrawn from the race.

A short race, typically of seven furlongs or less.
Starting Gate
Partitioned mechanical stalls where the horses are held until the starter signals the beginning of the race.
The race officials who enforce the rules.


Across The Board

A combination of three different bets: a win bet, a place bet and a show bet. If the horse wins, the player collects three ways; if it places second, two ways; if it places third, one way.

Approximate Odds
The predicted ratio of the payout price for a $1 wager in the win pool in a pari-mutuel system.
The odd cents by which the amount payable on each dollar wagered exceeds a multiple of $0.10.
The betting favorite for the race.
Daily Double
A wager on two consecutive races on the card where bettors have to pick both winners.
Daily Racing Form
A daily newspaper providing statistics, racing news and a record of the past performances of the horses competing in races that day.
A bet in which you choose two horses to finish first and second in exact order.
Exacta Box
A bet combining your horses to finish first and second in either combination (i.e. a 1+2 Exacta Box covers the combinations of 1-2 AND 2-1)
Exotic Bet
Any wager that isn’t a win, place or show.
A person who studies the background of racehorses to make educated wagering choices.
The total amount wagered on any particular race or a full program of races.
In The Money
A win, place or show finish resulting in a mutuel payoff.
Morning Line
The track handicapper’s approximation of the expected odds in a race before betting actually takes place.
A pool-style wagering system in which all money bet is divided among the winning tickets (save for deductions by the track operators).
The amount of money payable on winning wagers.
Pick 3
A bet won if you pick the winners of three consecutive races.
Pick 4
A bet won if you pick the winners of four consecutive races.
Pick 5
A bet won if you pick the winners of five consecutive races.
Pick 6
A bet won if you pick the winners of six consecutive races, typically the last six races of the day.
A wager that your horse will finish in either first or second place.
The total amount of money wagered on a type of bet.
A type of wager where you bet that a horse will finish in the first three spots, paying out the same amount regardless of whether they finish first, second or third.
Super Hi-5
A bet won if your horses finish first, second, third, fourth and fifth in exact order.
A bet won if your horses finish first, second, third and fourth in the specific order you selected.
Tip Sheet
A document used to provide information on potential bets for horse racing, listing all of the horses competing as well as their odds and what the handicapper believes about their chances of winning.
A bet won if your horses finish first, second and third in that exact order.
A bet that your horse will finish in first place.

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You will get discount. Daily Racing Tip Sheet which ranks horses based on gate position and provides recommended picks for each race and various betting strategies (i.e. Daily Double, Pick Three, Pick Four, Pick Five, Pick Six and Exacta/Trifecta/Superfecta Box). Daily Racing Tip Sheet which ranks horses based on handicap strength and provides recommended picks for each race and various betting strategies (i.e. Daily Double, Pick Three, Pick Four, Pick Five, Pick Six and Exacta/Trifecta/Superfecta Box).