Glossary of horse racing terms

At best horse racing terms can be quite confusing but in some cases they mean absolutely nothing to the casual observer.

Hopefully this page will go some way to explaining what some of the racing terms mean and therefore spectators to enjoy our sport as much as posisble


Point-to-Point racing differs from racing "under rules" because it is a purely amateur sport. Jockeys are not paid to race, apart from their expenses.

Bay Horse

A brown horse with black mane and tail.BlinkersA device fitted to a horse's bridle which restricts their sideways vision, reduces distractions and makes them concentrate on what is happening in front of them.

Clerk of the Course

The Clerk of the Course is responsible for the general maintenance and upkeep of a racecourse, including the condition of the racetrack itself.

It is one responsibility of the Clerk of the Course to provide updates on the condition of the ground in the run-up to an event.

Club Members Races

Open to any horse which is the property of a Member of the Club or Association stated and which has been hunted and qualified with any Hunt in Great Britain during the current season.

Collecting Ring

A fenced in area of the course where horses which are about to race parade round in a circle so that spectators may see them. At an allotted time the jockeys then mount their horses and circle round again before heading off onto the course itself.

Confined Races

For those that have been hunted and qualified with the promoting Hunt or any of the Qualifying Hunts listed in the race conditions during the current season.

Conditions Races

A Conditions Point-to-Point Steeple Chase is a race open to any horse which satisfies the conditions of the race and is not defined as any of the following Point-to-Point Steeple Chases: Club, Association, Service or Society, Confined, Hunt Members, Farmers, Intermediate, Maiden, Open or Restricted.


A race division may take place if the number of horses declared for a race exceeds the safety number for that race type and course.

The two (or more) divisions race as if they are different races and meeting organisers will try to provide prizes and mementoes for each.

Each Way

Betting each way is type of bet which means that you win if a horse finish in the places as well as winning first.

The bet is divide into two, with one stake placed on the horse winning and the other stake placed on the horse being placed. An each way bet therefore costs double what a bet to win would cost.

If your horse is placed then you usually get a fraction of the odds for a win. For example if the horse was 6/1 to win and finished third you would typically get 1/3 of the odds or 2/1, giving you twice your bet back, plus the stake itself.


A horse's form is its record of racing or results.


Gallops are where horses train. They can be grass or covered in an artificial surface which makes training possible in all weather conditions. Typically gallops are stretches of ground which are used during the horse's training for them to gallop  on for a fixed distance, usually much shorter than a race distance.

Good Ground

"Good" is one of a number of phrases used to describe how hard or soft the ground is at a course.

Good ground has some give to it and horses hooves will leave an imprint in the ground as they run over it but it is not tiring to run on and races will tend to be quicker than on "good to soft" or "soft" ground.

Courses will try to avoid producing ground which is "firm" because it is not ideal for horses to run on harder ground, so watering would normally take place to produce "good" ground.


A race in which the different horses carry different amounts of weight according to their ability.

If the handicapper gets it right the all the horses should finish

Hunt(s) Members, Farmers, Subscribers or Hunt Races

Races for horses which have been hunted & qualified with the promoting Hunt during the current season, and if so desired, additional Hunt(s) up to an overall total of four, which are the property of Masters, Members, Farmers or Subscribers of that Hunt(s). To be ridden by those qualified to enter or their respective spouses or children or by a person who has paid to the Hunt(s) the subscription for one or more days Hunting who hold a Riders Qualification Certificate for the current season from the Hunt(s) concerned, or Proof of Qualification signed by the Promoting Hunts’ Secretary.

Hunter Chase

Hunter chases take place at national hunt racecourses, but are only open to horses that have hunter certificates. Hunter certificates are issued to horses that have hunted for at least four days in the season before racing starts in January. In addition, the jockey must be an amateur who has obtained a certificate from the hunt Secretary.

Unlike Point-to-Points, licensed trainers as well as amateur trainers may have runners in Hunter Chases. This often causes controversy when big name trainers run former Grade 1 horses in Hunter Chases as amateur trainers feel they are unable to compete. New rules which took effect in 2009 will prevent horses which have finished in the first 3 of a Grade 1 or 2 chase in the previous season from taking part.

The two biggest Hunter Chases are the Aintree Fox Hunters' Chase and Cheltenham Foxhunter Chase. The Aintree Fox Hunters' is run as the feature race on the first day of the Grand National meeting over one circuit of the Grand National course. This gives amateur riders the chance to jump these famous fences before the professionals.

The Cheltenham Foxhunter is run after the Gold Cup over the same distance and is often referred to as the amateur Gold Cup.

Intermediate Races

Open to any horse which has been hunted and qualified with any Hunt in Great Britain during the current season, which has NOT WON any Flat Race (other than a National Hunt Flat Race or French AQPS Flat Race), Steeplechase or Hurdle Race under the Rules of any Recognised Racing Authority or any MENS, LADIES, MIXED OPEN or INTERMEDIATE Point-to-Point races.

Ladies Open Races

Open to any horse which has been hunted and qualified with any Hunt in Great Britain during the current season. To be ridden by Ladies only.

Maiden Races

Open to horses that have been hunted and qualified with any Hunt in Great Britain during the current season, unless it is CONFINED to horses hunted & qualified with the promoting Hunt or any of the Qualifying Hunts listed in the race conditions or to a Club, Association or Service, which has never won a race at a Point-to-Point meeting or a National Hunt Flat Race, Flat Race, Steeplechase or Hurdle Race under the Rules of Racing or any Recognised Racing Authority other than a match or private sweepstake. A MAIDEN HORSE means a MAIDEN AT THE TIME OF STARTING.

Match Race

A match race is a race contested by only two horses. They are often very tactical and not necessarily fast.

Mens Open Races

OPEN to any horse which has been hunted and qualified with any Hunt in Great Britain during the current season. To be ridden by Gentlemen only.

Mixed Open Races

OPEN to any horse which has been hunted and qualified with any Hunt in Great Britain during the current season. To be ridden by Ladies or Gentlemen.

Novice Rider

A Novice Rider is defined as a jockey who, at the start of the current season, had not won five point-to-point steeplechases.

By the end of the season they may have achieved many more than five but would still be a Novice until the end of the season.

Point-To-Point Authority

The Point-To-Point Authority is the National body responsible for point-to-point racing in the United Kingdom.

There is more information on the PPA here.

Point-To-Point Flat Race

A race held at a point-to-point meeting which is run on the flat and not over jumps. They are typically shorter than point-to-point steeple chases.

A point-to-point flat race is equivalent to a "bumper" race under professional rules but are not described as such to clearly make the difference between an amateur and professional situation.

Restricted Races

Open to any horse which has been hunted and qualified with any Hunt in Great Britain during the current season, unless it is CONFINED to specific Hunts, Clubs, Associations or Services, which has NOT WON any Race under the Rules of Racing or of any Recognised Racing Authority or any Point-to-Point Race OTHER than a Maiden race or Hunt(s) Members race.

Rider Qualification Certificate

All riders must have an RQC for the current year before they can ride in Point-to-Points.

The RQC is proof that riders are qualified to ride in Point-to-Points.

The PPA holds an insurance policy that provides liability insurance for jockeys whilst participating in Point to Points and completing their Rider Assessment. A separate Personal Accident insurance policy is also in force for jockeys from weigh out to weigh in. Further details can be obtained by calling our insurance brokers Howden Insurance Brokers on 020 7133 1387.

Safety Number

Each course and race type has a safety number which dictates how many horses may compete in a race before it becomes unsafe.

Maidens and Novice Rider races tend to have smaller safety numbers than other races.

If the number of horses declared for a race exceeds the safety number then a Race Division (or "split") may take place.

Schooling Race/Schooling Trial

A race which is over jumps but purely for practice. Runners are not listed and jockeys do not wear colours.

The Point-to-Point Authority treats Schooling Trials according to PPAGI 1- Race Framing Appendices 6 and 7.  In effect they are like Charity races/Hunt scurries, which need clearance from Inspectors and PPA, but with a few extra requirements. 

Some rule which will apply from now on:

  • These are not races – there will be no gambling, judges, commentary or results.
  • The Senior Steward must be informed and agree to them running – they are responsible on the day.
  • Number cloths need to be issued so officials can recognise who has fallen etc.
  • Riders cannot remount if they come off – its like a normal p2p race.
  • For those same reasons fence attendants have to remain in place.
  • The Safety Factor should be held at 2 below Maiden maximum and it must start at a wide fence.
  • Vets and doctors etc need to be in place.
  • If you are a multi-fixture course, consider providing fresh ground so if runners stop jumping the fences they generally still stay on the course.

Store Horse

Young horse bred for National Hunt racing but as yet unbroken.

Stewards Enquiry

A Stewards Enquiry is held if the Stewards officiating at a point-to-point or professional race meeting are not happy with the conduct of a horse and jockey in a race.

Typically they will call the relevant jockey or jockeys in to the Steward's Room and ask them for their account of what happened in the race before deciding if any rules were broken.

Sometimes a warning is all that is required but in more serious cases the result of a race may be changed and a fine may be handed out.


The Thoroughbred, also referred to as a "blood horse", as it is known today was developed in 17th- and 18th-century England, when native mares were crossbred with imported Oriental stallions imported into England from the Middle East: the Byerley Turk (1680s), the Darley Arabian (1704), and the Godolphin Arabian (1729). During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Thoroughbred breed spread throughout the world; they were imported into North America starting in 1730 and into Australia, Europe, Japan and South America during the 19th century. Millions of Thoroughbreds exist today, and more than 118,000 foals are registered each year worldwide.

Under Rules

Under rules refers to professional racing as opposed to point-to-point racing which is amateur.

When a horse comes to point-to-point racing having previously been "under rules" it generally means that their professional career has ended and they are now going to race on amateur courses.

Horse cannot race under rules and in point-to-points at the same time.


A walkover is awarded if only one horses is declared for a race.

The sole competitor does not need to complete the race for safety reasons, but must make their way onto the course and cross the finish line.

Heard a term you would like us to add to the list? Please feel free to comment below and we will add it to the list!

6 comments on “Glossary of Horse Racing Terms”

    1. A catch ride is when a jockey is asked to ride a horse they do not normally ride - often at short notice. For example, if a jockey falls and hurts themselves earlier in the day a different jockey might be offered a catch ride on a horse to replace them. Obviously this means the catch jockey does not know the horse as well.

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