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September 25, 2020

Placing a bet on a horse can be an exciting experience. While there is no guarantee to picking a winner, here we will simplify the process so you know your way around the basics. Everything from what to look for in a horse, how to place a bet and all the common racing lingo you’ll hear at the track.




What do I need?
Once you arrive at the races, you will be able to purchase a racebook sold at the many racebook stands and concierges throughout the course. Racebooks include all the crucial information about the races held and the horses running. This is your insight into what’s happening on the day at the track, and which jockeys are riding which horses.

How to read the form guide
The form guide is the information within the racebook and helps you make an informed decision about which horse to bet on. It explains all the key information about the horse and its recent race record, jockey, trainer and owner. It also indicates the silk colours of your horse, so you can easily identify them during their race. Most racebooks have a page towards the front dedicated to how to read the form guide, this is worth having a look at on the day. HOT TIP: Look out for the form figures which represent a horse’s finishing position in previous races.

What to look for in a horse
If you prefer to focus on the look of the horse rather than the hard facts in the form guide, head down to the parade ring 15 minutes prior to the race to inspect the stars of the track before they take off, assessing them for their fitness and attitude. Ideally a horse should seem alert but not settled. Unless it is a hot day, white patches of sweat could mean a horse is using too much energy before the race. A sleek and shiny coat could also suggest that a horse is in good health.

Choosing a bookmaker
Once you’ve decided on a horse/or horses that you like, it’s now time to choose a bookmaker to spend your precious pennies on. Bookmakers will provide you with the odds, an odd is a dollar figure placed on each horse in the race. Generally, the more successful or popular the horse is, the lower the odd therefore in order to win big, it’s best to back an outsider and cross your fingers and toes!

What bet to choose?
A safe bet to place is in fact a ‘place’. This will give you bragging rights if your horse places first or second.
Feeling confident? Go for a ‘Win’. This means your horse must finish first for you to win your bet.

If you’ve got two favourites and you want to put them both forward, opt for a ‘Quinella’. This will give you the winning ticket, as long as they cross the line in first and second order.

‘Trifecta’ this means you’re feeling lucky and you’ve got three horses you think will finish first, second and third in that exact order.

Like any gamble, it should all be for a bit of fun but nevertheless, you’ve got to be in it to win it!




The “going”
You may hear this term thrown around and it basically describes the quality of the race track. This is affected by weather leading up to and on the day, and the horse’s performance can go either way depending on this, so it’s an important factor to consider.

Track conditions
Track conditions refer to the racing track surface prior to a race meet. The conditions are determined by the amount of moisture in the ground and is assessed by a steward on the day of the race meet. See below:






Dry, hard track



Firm track



Track with good grass coverage and cushion



Track with some give in it



Track with a reasonable amount of give in it



Moist but not badly affected track



More rain-affected track that will chop out



Rain-affected track that horses will get into



Wet track getting into a squelchy area



Heaviest category track – very wet, towards saturation

Below is a list of common Australian glossary of horse racing terms

Allowances – is when weight is permitted to be reduced because of the conditions of the race, or because an apprentice is on a horse. Fillies and Mares are also granted an allowance when racing against males.

Apprentice – generally a young rider who has been riding for less than 4 years. Apprentices can claim allowances in races until they have ridden a total of 80 winners.

Black type – either a Group or Listed race that attracts horses of the highest performance. A horse with Black Type is one that has either won or been placed in a Black Type race. These horses become valuable for breeding.

Blinkers – the purpose of blinkers are to direct the focus of the horse’s attention directly in front of them and ignore what is happening behind them. Blinkers are used on horses that are wayward or have the ability to lose concentration.

Chute – an extension of the main racecourse to permit a straight run from a starting position.

Classic – race of traditional importance.

Clerk of scales – an official whom has the duty of weighing the riders before and after a race to ensure proper weight is carried.

Clocker – a person who times trackwork and race meets.

Colours – the racing silks/jacket worn by jockeys to differentiate from other horses/riders in a race.

Colt – a male horse under 4 years of age.

Correct weight – is announced when there is confirmation that all riders in a race have weighed in at the correct weight and results have been confirmed by race day stewards.

Dam – mother of a thoroughbred horse.

Damsire – the sire of the dam.

Dead-heat – two or more horses having their nose cross the wining post at exactly the same time.

Disqualification – when a breach of the Rules of Racing has taken place.

Distanced – a horse in which is well beaten, finishing a long distance behind the winner.

Dwelt – late in exiting from the starting barriers.

Farrier – a person who is responsible for attaching shoes on a horse.

Field – the horses in a race.

Filly – a female horse under 3 years of age.

Foal – newly born horse. Can be either male or female.

Gallop – the fastest pace of speed in which a horse can do. Horses will gallop during a race meet.

Gate – the starting barrier in which the horses in a race commence from.

Gelding – a castrated male horse.

Granddam – grandmother of a horse.

Grandsire – grandfather of a horse, sire of the horse’s dam.

Group race – highest standard of race. Group races are divided into four categories. Group 1, Group 2, Group 3 and Listed. Group 1 has the highest amount of prize money, the prize money then descends across the rest of the group races.

Hand – the unit used in measuring the height of a horse from withers (the highest point of a horse’s shoulder) to ground. One hand = 10 centimetres.

Handicap – a race for which a handicapper assigns weights to be carried after considering the race form of a horse.

Head – the margin between horses. E.g. One horse leading another by the length of its head.

In foal – a pregnant mare.

In the money – a horse finishing first, second or third.

Judges – the officials whom determine the order in which horses reach the finish post.

Listed race – in the same category as a Group race. The race quality listed below a Group race.

Maiden – a horse who has not won a race

Mare – female horse 4 years or older

Scratch – a horse is scratched when it is taken out of a race for whatever reason.

Sire – father of a horse.

Stallion – entire male horse.

Stewards – officials who oversee all race meetings and enforce the rules of racing.

Tongue tie – made out of either stocking, a leather strap or large rubber band to eliminate the possibility of the horse swallowing its tongue, or playing with its tongue throughout a race taking away it’s concentration from the race.

Trial – a trial is used as a training session for thoroughbreds. In NSW all horses must go to trial before they are eligible to race.


Now you should be ready to take on a race day like a true regular racegoer. Happy punting and don’t forget to have fun!

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