Horse Racing

All horses share the same birthday irrespective of the exact date of the foaling.
This is fixed to facilitate the framing of races according to age groups, and is 1 January each year in the northern hemisphere.

Until 1834, the fixed date was 1 May, in line with the end, more or less of the foaling season.

The next year the official date was shifted for Newmarket horses, to the present one, which occurs before the foaling season has properly got under way.

The majority of races on the flat are for two year olds only, or for three year olds only, with a fair proportion also confined to three year olds and four year olds only, or three year olds and upwards.

A horse of either sex before its first birthday is known as a foal; between that date and its next birthday, a yearling.

A somewhat misleading term referring to the racing on synthetic surfaces at Lingfield, Southwell and Wolverhampton, although they are proof enough against frost, even these courses cannot race in foggy conditions.

When all-weather racing began in late 1989, it was officially being introduced, primarily to offset the financial losses caused to the Levy, by the abandonment of race meetings during the winter period.

Despite early criticism and setbacks such as the banning of hurdle races because of the number of horses killed, all-weather racing has established its own following and betting public.

The standard of performance is not high but some horses thrive and excel on the all-weather surface.

Lingfield has a surface known as Equitrack consisting of hard-graded sand and covered in a polymer approximately 6inches deep and producing a cushion effect. The main difference between Lingfield, Southwell and Wolverhampton is that on the Equitrack the rainwater runs of the sand and at the other two it filters through.

Traditionally this is betting that takes place before the day of a big race often several weeks or even months beforehand, as distinguished from the usual betting immediately before any given race.

The term has been given several derivations, the most likely being a connection with the “post betting” that occurred in earlier days.

Bets used to be the struck on Newmarket Heath, for instance round the betting posts, which can be seen in the contemporary illustrations.

To bet ante-post therefore was to strike a bet as today, before the wagering which immediately preceded a match between two horses.

There are many big races notably those comprising the spring double and autumn doubles as well as the classics like The Grand National and events at Royal Ascot, Goodwood, York, Cheltenham and elsewhere on which bookmakers advertise betting prices long before the event, and which can attract a lot of business.

In the case of the Guineas races and the Derby, bets are struck as much as a year or more before the actual date, usually at considerably longer odds than are available nearer the day, and on it.

Despite the fact that many big ante-post gambles have been successful, continued existence of this form of betting suggests that bookmakers find that, despite the losses, it is a worthwhile exercise.

In the past few years there has been an extension of ante-post betting. This takes the form of offering prices in the morning of the day on which certain bigger races, are to be run.

Advertised in the sporting press, and known under various names, such as early prices, these, like the traditional form of ante-post wagering, offer the attraction of possible longer odds than those available immediately before the race or races in question that afternoon.

This, particularly on Saturdays, has become a popular and lively feature of the betting scene, with on occasions, some very successful bets being struck.

In order to compensate for inexperience, apprentice jockeys receive an allowance in terms of weight according to the total number of winners they have ridden.

This weight is subtracted from the weight their horse is set to carry in a race, except in races confined to apprentice riders.

The value of a good claiming apprentice, particularly in a big handicap cannot be overemphasized, especially at their natural riding weight.

If they are talented, their light weight and ability to make their allowance more than compensate for inexperience, can be a winning factor, with the reservation that apprentice’s do not often do well in competition with senior jockeys on courses that require very skilful and experienced jockeyship, notably the Derby course at Epsom, the round course at Ascot and the equivalent at the main Goodwood meeting.

Nothing to do with ante-post betting, not these days anyway. Horses, when they have arrived at the point from which a race is to be started are said to be at the post.

Auction races are specifically for two year old horses which have never before won and were bought as yearlings at specified public auctions


A more common condition among racehorses than the public generally realize.

To understand it and indeed to appreciate the whole process of racing,and training horses to race, it is necessary to think of the horses as equine athletes which indeed they are.

To continue the analogy, would Seb Coe have shone over 100m?

Would he have raced if he had jarred his legs badly? would he have dreamed of taking part in a contest without first and last using a tracksuit?

To translate these points into equine terms, horses also have ideal distances over which they should compete, a crucial factor when it comes to weighing up their chances in a race.

Horses wear blankets and rugs in the paddock before a race and afterwards, when perspiring, have a string vest thrown over them, and blankets again, and they no less than their human counterparts pull muscles when racing, strain tendons and because of leg trouble, chronic or temporary may break down altogether and be unable to race.

The horse’s forelegs particularly when jumping fences and to an extent when running on hard ground, come under great pressure and it is the forelegs which give trainers the greatest anxiety.

Bad legs as a chronic condition occur for a variety of reasons including heredity. A protective measure consists of bandages, sometimes semi permanent on forelegs


In the member’s enclosure on racecourses, bookmakers are not allowed to make a book. However A high proportion of those who are either annual members or paid on the day for entrance to that enclosure frequently go to the racecourse with the prime intention of having a bet.

To get over this difficulty the leading bookmakers have pitches immediately next to the rails separating the members from Tattersalls ring.

Much of the business is done with credit customers, but some cash is taken.

Rails bookmakers have their own association and they comprise the top end of the racecourse betting markets as well as being a vital to the price shifts of that market but no longer as used to be the case do they dictate those movements exclusively.

This is because 90% of betting today takes place off course.

Heavy support for a particular betting shop horse will force the price down on the racecourse because the money for it finds its way to the race course, and in particular the rails by telephone by tic tac, and now by wireless computer networks. Immediately the shorter price is relayed to the other betting rings on the course.

The interaction between the 3 main betting sources nowadays includes Betting shops, the Betting Ring and the Betting Exchanges.

The use of live websites and Satellite Information Services enables these 3 sources to interact simultaneously, and the experienced trader will have to establish the delicate balance between these 3 sources to succeed at his trade.


Racecourse betting rings are the enclosures where betting takes place.

Mainly, Tattersalls ring where admission charges also cover admission to the paddock and the lower priced silver ring.

So called because originally bookmakers would take bets made with silver coinage.

Some courses no longer have a separate silver ring.

Betting also takes place on certain racecourses in areas where there is free admission and this is known as betting on the course.


The number of betting shops has shown a downward trend since the boom times of the nineteen sixties just after they were legalized. At present in the UK there are about 8500.

In 1993 it was announced that between 1st April and 31st of August betting shops would be able to remain open until 22:00 in order to cater for the evening racing, thus correcting at least an anomaly which has existed since shops were originally legalized in the sixties.

Technology has made big advance is in recent years with prices and commentaries from SIS on view on batteries of screens.


If a horse has been successful in a pattern race or listed race he or she is said to have achieved black type. I.e. in order to draw attention to the horse’s putative importance for breeding purposes his or her name appears in bold black type in pedigrees featured by bloodstock sales catalogs.

Horses who finished fourth in such a race is however no longer entitled to a black type


A device consisting of a hood which fits over a horse’s head with shields at the eye holes which restrict the horse’s peripheral vision. The purpose is to concentrate the horses attention ahead by cutting out what might have been seen on either side.

The fitting of blinkers for the first time is indicated in the more informative race cards published in the morning papers and is always worth noting ,although, while it sometimes secures a dramatic improvement in a horses racecourse performance, it should not be regarded as a sovereign specific for poor form.

Blinkers are used more frequently these days than they used to be and have lost their reputation for being the tell-tale sign for a horse of dodgy character. In other words although there are still unreliable horses who invariably wear blinkers, there are also perfectly genuine animals whose performance is better when wearing them.

Timeform gives good comments on whether a horse is genuine or not and the effects of blinkers on performance. The converse hint to a horse’s capabilities occurs when after being tried in blinkers, he or she races next time without them.

A visor is a pair of blinkers modified with a slit cut in the eye shields so that a horse is given some peripheral vision, allowing, for example, other horses alongside it to be seen. A hood leaves the eyes clear but covers the ears because some horses are adversely affected by noise.

Use of both visor and hood like blinkers will be publicized on race cards.


Nothing to do with went like a bomb, which, self evidently is something quite different. A horse which has blown up or which blew up in the straight is one which without explosion of any kind whatsoever, rather the reverse in fact suddenly loses its place in a race after going well up to that point.

Also known as “stopping to nothing”

These can be divided into

• those who make a book on the racecourse
• those who operate betting shops off course
• those who operate a telephone credit service or a postal betting service
• firms who operate spread betting services

A number of big firm bookmakers will combine two or even all of the first three activities. On the racecourse bets are settled at the prices quoted for, if agreed with the backer at starting price.

However they settle them, their activities on course and off course are governed by what goes on in the market, on the racecourse.

A betting market is formed immediately before each race. Prices fluctuate according to the total of money known to be on a particular horse in the ring as a whole.

Amounts of significance are signaled by Tic Tac from the rails to Tattersalls and back, and to the silver ring and bookmakers outside. I.e. on the course itself.

The amount a price will contract or go out in the market varies also, according to whether the market is a weak or strong one.

The prices originally on offer in the early stages of any betting market are not however, based on the money bet, but usually on how the bigger Tattersalls board’s operators think the market ought to go.

The earliest prices chalked up are very often shorter than they realistically should be. In the days up to and beyond the great post-war, betting to a true market price was dictated by on course money, largely by big backers and by the professionals, commission agents acting on behalf of others, including trainers and owners, or trainers and owners themselves.

The huge growth of off course betting since the nineteen sixties has changed all that. Seldom do trainers walk up to the rails, get a price about their horse, and affect the market accordingly.

Most money is wagered off the course and is transmitted, and news of it is transmitted, by telephone to the tic tacs acting for the big bookmakers. The entire market reacts accordingly within a few seconds.

The money which causes this is called office money and in the case of big amounts placed off course which crucially affect the market, the horses are known in the ring as betting shop horses.

This concept is crucial to understanding trading on the Betting Exchanges.

It is the Betting Exchanges and the Betting Shops which affect prices on the course. Not the other way around.

Data from online bookies and live on course feeds can be used to confirm price movement data, but should not be used to predict it. Most of the heavy betting nowadays is coming via Betfair and Betdaq.

As the market gets underway and the money starts to reinforce the bookmaker’s original opinions of the prices, it will cause them to alter prices on the general principle of supply and demand.

A punter can learn a great deal from following the market that is, seeing how the odds are altering. The market can give strong hints on what to back, and, even more important, what not to back.

On the racecourse, this involves having a look at how the prices are going at successive stages in the ten minutes or so immediately before a race.

In the betting shop, with the aid of successive prices marked on the board and shown on video, following the market is rather easier, and watching the television makes it equally simple.

All the market moves can readily be seen on television, and, depending on the channel, are backed up with information on why the prices are going the way they are.

In betting shops with television or video a similar advantage is enjoyed by the punters.

On the racecourse, following the market is rather hard work, because the bookmakers erase the prices successively as they change; but, in general, punters who take the trouble should reap the reward.

Weak markets/ strong markets:

Royal Ascot provides one of the strongest betting markets of the year on the flat, and the Cheltenham festival does so in national hunt racing.

The weakest markets are at small, under patronised courses where the racing is poor.

Here, A few hundred pounds can cause prices to tumble several points, whereas in a strong market the same amount multiplied several times over would cause no price change.

In 1999, an interview with Victor Chandler, the leading bookmaker, some fascinating observations were made on some of the changes that have overtaken the betting scene.

The racecourse punter has never had it so good. To be a punter now is heaven. With no expenses, being a professional punter compared to a bookmaker has to be the best choice he said.

Chandler explained: “at Cheltenham last Sunday meeting we did a survey and asked people whether they bet at the races.

Only 37% said yes. The rest either don’t bet or bet in small sums with the tote.

That confirms that the culture of racing has changed. My on course business has been decimated in the last two years. For example three or four years ago at the Eclipse meeting at Sandown, we took 200,000 on the big race.

Last year we took £8000…on Sundays, you see an enormous number of prams they are not our punters.

These days the on course bookmaker is doing less and less business, which makes the prices paid for pitches at the recent auctions even more surprising.

Term for a horse who will not settle in his loose box aand persistently walks round and round it, thus losing weight and being difficult to train. The cure is often to give the horse a companion such as a goat.

A form of bloodstock sale taking place at a racecourse, where instead of the usual practice of what’s on offer merely being led around the sale ring, the horses are put through their paces on the course in front of propective buyers. They are allowed to breeze along two or three furlongs.

Commonly abbreviated to BHB this is the governing and administrative body for racing which came into being in June 1993 thereby taking over effective overall control from the Jockey Club.

This in itself was the most radical shakeup of racing’s power structure for more than 200 years and marked a watershed in British racing history.

For the first time racing has as its governing authority, a representative, accountable and democratic body which gives the industry an executive role in shaping its future.

The BHB’s principle responsibilities include:

• strategic planning and policy for racing;
• improving the financial position of racing;
• representing racing in dealings with government;
• the fixture list;
• race planning, including the supervision of race programs and the employment of handicappers;
• marketing and promotion of racing;
• nominating racing’s representatives on the horse race bettings levy board;
• liaison with the betting industry;
• encouraging and fostering breeding of bloodstock;
• collection and control of funds required for the administration of racing, including those required by the jockey club for the protection of the sport’s integrity;
• the development and maintenance of programs of training and education within racing;
• the contract under which Weatherbys supply administrative services to racing.

In principle the aim of the BHB is to give the leadership needed to put racing in Britain on a sound financial footing. This means ensuring that racing is making the best use of its resources, is maximizing income from outside the sport and has a clear single voice with which to have its views heard in parliament and elsewhere.

Among the BHB, members and representatives of the racecourse association, the Jockey Club, race horse owners association, thoroughbred breeders association, and industry committee.

Sometimes in the final stages of a race a horse may be tiring, and the jockey is unable to prevent him or her veering off a straight line, “bumping” an opponent and “boring” that opponent off its intended course. This may affect the opponent’s chances, and in certain instances may cost him the race, in which case there will almost certainly be an objection by the losing rider;

Equally certain, in any case, is that when bumping and boring occurs there is a strong possibility of a Stewards inquiry, during which the evidence of the film from a camera patrol and video re-run will be examined.

Expressions indicating the parentage of a horse. He or she is described as being by a sire [stallion] out of the dam [broodmares], whose origin will often be indicated in pen by brackets giving the name of his sire.

Example Commander in Chief by Dancing Brave out of Slightly Dangerous.

A phrase used in the formbook to indicate a horse that has renewed its effort after dropping back in a race

First officially used at Newmarket, and 30th of June, 1960.

Cameras originally photographed the closing stages of a race from different angles, including head on, and later the coverage was extended to provide, by means of a mobile camera, complete visual record of a race.

The overall aim is to provide evidence when of an objection is launched or there is a Stewart’s inquiry. With widespread use of closed circuit television on race courses, the video re-run reinforces the evidence of the camera patrol.

Together their use has been instrumental, in recent years, in discouraging the skulduggery and malpractice in race riding that often occurred in days gone by.

Abbreviation for race card, the official program of runners on sale on race courses.

Also appears in newspaper headings such as Chepstow card or card for Uttoxeter.

Used in such phrases as the best bet on the card is, also”going through the card”. This means, specifically, Selection, or association with every winner on the card.

For anyone bemused by C4’s presentation of betting with John McCririck’s slow motion tic tac and use of strange betting terms may be interested to know that carpet one of his favourites, derives from criminals slang for a three month stretch in prison.

Hence, carpet is three to one in the betting. The late John O’Neill had a far wider grasp of esoteric betting terminology, however, and his return of the starting price in the press room of northern race courses is much missed.

Horses which have lain down in their stable loose box or travelling horse box, and have difficulty in getting up again off the straw are said to be cast in the box;
Not a welcome happening on the day of a race.

A phrase used to describe a rider who is not successful enough, or, in the case of apprentices, a rider who has not yet ridden enough winners to justify having his or her name painted on one of the jockeys and riders boards, which fit into the numbers board on the racecourse.

Instead, the name is chalked or whitewashed on a blank board.

Jockeys and trainers championships are decided, respectively, by the greatest number of winners ridden and the largest amount of win prize money earned in a season.

Moreover, these are titles simply by tradition. There is no official recognition of championships whatsoever, although the jockeys championships used to generate plenty of betting on the outcome.

Common abbreviation for steeplechase, which, in turn, is derived from the fact that in Ireland in 1752, Mr. Edmund Blake was challenged by Mr. O Callahan to race their home turf four and a half miles across country from Buttevant church to that at St Ledger, the steeple of the latter being the winning post.

From that event was evolved eventually national hunt racing, the cornerstone of which is the steeplechase, but without the steeples.

A chase, these days, is a race over fences, at a distance from two miles to four miles plus, the most commonly three miles. The fences, constructed of birch, consist of plain fences, open ditches, and a water jump, which is spectacular but considered by many an unnecessarily dangerous obstacle which has cost the lives of chasers in the past.

Under the rules of racing, horses cannot be put to fences until at least July of the year in which they are four years old. In practice, it is common for chasers not to appear in public until they are five or six, often after they have had a hurdling career.

Also known as a claimer. This is a race in which any runner may be claimed after the race for an advertised sum or more.

If the owner of any runner wishes it to carry less than the maximum weight, the price at which it may be claimed is reduced accordingly. The rules of racing stipulate that the median price for which a horse may be claimed out of a claiming race is the figure published next to its name on the race card.

Since the weight actually carried by the horse in the race depends on this minimum amount for which it may be claimed, the trainer handicaps his own horse. After the race, any claims must be made in writing. Any claim must be higher or equal to the race claim figure.

A friendly claim may be made by connections of a runner in the race. It is an attempt to retain a charge by making a bid higher than any competing claim. All claims must be sealed and placed into claims box on the clerk of the scales table, not later than ten minutes after the all right signal has been authorized by the Steward’s.

Claims may not be withdrawn or altered. The horse goes to the person submitting the highest claim above the minimum price. Lots are drawn in the event of a tie.
The owner receives 15% of any surplus above published minimum claiming price as well as 90% of that minimum. The racecourse receives the remaining 85% of the surplus and 10% to a book published minimum.
Connections submitting a friendly claim must therefore pay 85% of the surplus and 10% of the minimum in order to keep their horse if the bid is successful

Races on the flat are classified in terms of prize money from the Class A down to Class G. This classification is often used in framing conditions races

Classic, when applied to a horse race is that term consecrated by long usage.

Classic races are races of longstanding, which habitually attract the best horses and are regarded as the criteria of excellence. More specifically the classics are open only to three year olds and are five in number in England.

The classics are:
New market, spring, 2000 guineas colts and fillies, first run in 1809
New market, spring, 1000 guineas, fillies only, first run 1814
Epsom 1.5 miles, summer, derby colts and fillies, 1780
Epsom 1.5 miles, summer, oaks, Fillies only, first run 1779
Doncaster 1 ¾ miles, autumn, st ledger, Colts and Fillies, first run 1776

As far as Fillies are concerned it is rare these days for them to contest either the 2000 guineas or the oaks with trainers preferring to run them in the equivalent classics open to Fillies only: the 1000 guineas and oaks.

It is important to realize that, originally there was no set intent to establish a pattern of classic races. It simply evolved, and had become recognized as a pattern probably by about the middle of the nineteenth century.

Classic winners have a profoundly influenced the development of the thoroughbred as well as achieving great prestige because in general they have proved themselves the best of the age and breed.

As a medium for betting, the classics generally provide excellent opportunities.

Well advertised form mostly works out, except in a poor overall year; well backed horses tend to win, and, in strong ante-post markets there are opportunities for long prices.

A horse which wins more easily than the winning distance suggests is said to have won cleverly. He or she may equally be said to have won with something in hand.

It happens often on the flat where a jockey has let the horse do only enough in order to win.

The full amount of the distance by which he or she might have won is therefore unknown to the public and more importantly to the handicapper who can only guess at the horse’s true capability.

Such horses are worth noting for the future on this sort of evidence, which will be given in the form book and amplified in the comments of raceform and chaseform, in the analysis following results in the racing post, and in superform and timeform, other phrases in the same connection are when a winner is noted as not extended and won with his head in his chest.

Male thoroughbred from the age of two, up to and including the age of four

All races other than handicaps.

The conditions of a race to determine the weight each runner will be set to carry: they may be based on age, sex, value and status of previous races won, and other factors, with weight allowance being made, for example, for not having won a race at all.

The most important category consists of weight for age races. The weights an older horse has to concede to a younger one varies throughout the flat season and national hunt season, becoming less and less as the season progresses.

The precise weights are determined by application of the weight for age scale. But there are many other kinds of conditions race.

A conditional jockey is an inexperienced national hunt rider who must be under the age of 26 and may claim allowances as follows: 7lbs. until he or she has won fifteen races; then 5lbs. up to a total of 30 races; thereafter 3lbs. up to 65 races won.

One of the outstanding features of racing in Great Britain is the huge variety of the 59 racecourses, providing differing tests of ability for horses both on the flat and over jumps, as well as pleasure in this very variety for racing enthusiasts.

On the turf, fifteen courses stage both flat racing and jumping; seventeen are devoted to the flat only, while no fewer than 24 cater for jumping only.

In addition Lingfield and Southwell stage racing on turf and artificial surfaces and Wolverhampton on artificial only. The racing post gives a description of relevant courses with plans and statistics.

Most of the jumps only courses are anything but principle race courses, but that does not make them any the less important in the broader pattern of variety. Many of them are small, friendly country courses, as different in atmosphere from the national hunt Mecca at Cheltenham as Royal Ascot is from, say, the little course staging flat racing only on the downs above bath.

They range from Perth and Kelso in Scotland to Bangor on Dee in Wales, from Sedgfield in county Durham to Plumpton in Sussex, from Market Rasen in Lincolnshire to Newton Abbott, Devon and Exeter and others in the West Country.

Some courses are right handed, some left handed and although many are approximately oval, there is a huge variety of differing shapes: Ascot triangular; Windsor and Fontwell, figures of eight, Chester, circular; Brighton is it like a big U with a kink in the lower part; Epsom fittingly is like a great horseshoe with one straight side; Goodwood is like a bent hairpin and Salisbury is like a straightened one; Carlisle is pear shaped and Hereford is almost square.

The majority of meetings in the UK last for only 1, 2 or three days. The longest continuous racing in Britain, in fact, takes place at Ascot in June and Goodwood at the main July / August meeting, both meetings last for five days.


This occurs when, even with the aid of the photo finish, a judge is unable to declare an outright winner of a race. Before the advent of the photo finish there was frequent uproar when the judge declared a dead heat, when it seemed plain to everyone else that there had been a definite winner.

In many cases, the angle of the actual finishing line is very difficult to assess correctly on some racecourses and the uproar was not justified, although in other instances it was.

Owners, trainers, to say nothing of an army of outraged punters would have been correct in their assessment that they have been robbed by the judge’s eyesight, or lack of it, because in a dead heat the owners of horse’s concerned share the prize money and bets on the winners are settled to a reduced state.

The first dead heat decided by a photo finish occurred at Doncaster in October, 1947 the horses being Phantom Bridge and Resistance. Sprint handicaps tend to result in more dead seats than other events when several horses may be within inches of winning, in what is sometimes called a blanket finish.


1.The distance is a point 240yds from the winning post. There is no mark on the racecourse to indicate it, but it is frequently referred to in form summaries and the formbook e.g. lead at the distance soon went clear. However, courses are marked out along the strait with prominent signs indicating how many furlongs from the winning post. The distance is thus 20yds before the one furlong marker is reached.

2.Horses are sometimes judged (rarely on the flat, but quite often at jumps meetings to have won by a distance. This, technically, is also 240yds but usually means that the winner and runner up are separated by such a margin that the judge cannot make an accurate estimation by eye.

3.The distance of a race. No race on the flat can be less than five furlongs. There is no limit on how long a flat race can be but in practice there and not many races beyond two miles. The longest race in the calendar is the Queen Alexander stakes at Royal Ascot over 2 ¾ miles. In National Hunt racing, no chase or hurdle can be less than two miles. The longest jumping race is the Grand National: about four miles 856yds.

4.Winning distance. The shortest winning distance is a short head (not much more than a cigarette paper judged on a photo finish film) then a head, then a neck, then half a length, and so on.


Hurdles singly used to mark direction in national hunt racing, usually when part of the course is waterlogged or when unusable for some of the reason, when that part of the course will be said to be “dolled off”.


The draw for which position a horse shall occupy in the stalls at the start of a Flat race is made on the day before the race at the overnight declarations office, and is drawn by lot. There is no draw for places in National Hunt racing.

Number one in the draw occupies the extreme left hand position, the number being indicated over the front of the stall, the horse drawn two goes into stall number two, and so on. On certain courses a low number in the draw, or high number, over certain distances and depending on the going, may give advantage in running, so it is important to study what effect the draw may have, especially with big fields, and how horses are drawn.

The draw is published in the newspapers and appears both on the racecard and numbers board but it took a long hard campaign to secure this advantage to those off the course wanting a bet, as well as to trainers and jockeys wishing to plan in advance how their horse should be run.

The overnight draw gives time for reconsideration and the benefits in ordinary day to day flat racing is striking as far as of course punters are concerned in particular.


A horse whose price lengthens appreciably, or drifts in the betting before a race, say from 3/1 out to 8/1. It means that the bookmakers expected it to be backed, possibly by stable connections, but there is little money for it, and so, prudently quoting a shortish price when the market opens, the price is gradually lengthened.

Not, usually, a hopeful sign for the punter, although it sometimes happens that a horse from a stable which does not bet in big amounts is put in at a short price when the market opens, drifts, and wins.

The opposite to a drifter is a springer, a horse whose prices tumbles dramatically, say from a 7/1 or 811 or even longer, perhaps to be returned six to four favourite.

This is a hopeful, if not infallible, sign for the punter able to watch price movements, if not on the course, on television or in the betting shop. Springers to watch for particularly are those in two year old races, especially when they concern previously unraced two year olds. Springers to treat with caution however, occur with poor and/or small fields and a consequently weak betting market where quite small amounts of money on a horse can cause dramatic fluctuations in prices.

Also, even in a reasonably strong betting market, the fact that a horse’s price tumbles does not automatically mean that it will win; but, at least it’s usually means that it is fancied by those who know most about its chances, and the money is down.

The modern buzzword for a particular kind of springer, specifically one backed down from generous early morning prices is a “steamer”.


A horse that does not immediately get away when the stalls open, is said to have “dwelt at the start”. It also happens in National Hunt racing where there are no starting stalls, but the longer the race the less important this becomes in its effects on the outcome of the race, or the horses performance in its.