How To: Talk Trackside (We Share The Lingo You’ll Need)

Image credit: Getty.

When you walk through the stiles of an Australia racetrack, you’ll encounter a whole new set of terms that can bewilder the uninitiated. To help you navigate some of the more common racing vocabulary, ATC Marketing Executive, Katie Barr, has devised this cheat sheet of words from the betting ring to the mounting yard, that will make you sound like a regular visitor to the Sport of Kings.

In the betting ring

Each way: Betting for the horse to win OR place. “$10 each way on horse Buffering in the next please.” On the nose: Placing a bet for the horse to win only. Particularly painful when your horse runs second by only a nose!

Mudlark/wet tracker: A horse who performs well on a wet track. This is important to know when it has been raining and the track hasn’t dried out.

Quinella: Betting on the horses who will finish 1st and 2nd in a race.

Trifecta: Betting on the horses who will finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd in a race.

Scratching: A horse that has been withdrawn from the race before 7:30am on the day of the race.

Late scratching: A horse that has been withdrawn from the race after 7:30am on the day of the race.

In the mounting yard

Blinkers: A piece of head gear worn by a horse to block some of its peripheral vision – this helps the horse to focus on running in a straight line rather than looking side-to-side. Horses wearing blinkers for the first time in a race can sometimes improve dramatically, so it is of interest to punters.
Precocious: A horse who is early to mature – it finishes growing earlier, is more muscular and shows quicker development than other horses. This is an important term when it comes to two-year-old races, especially the Golden Slipper, the world’s richest race for two-year-olds. You’ll hear it when sizing up horses in the mounting yard: “I like number 6 for this race, he looks like a very precocious two-year-old.”



Turn of foot: A horse has a good turn of foot if it can accelerate quickly at the end of the race, where it matters the most.

Barriers: The structure that the horses stand in for the start of a race. “Black Caviar has drawn barrier 10.

Knocked up: A horse that has tired considerably during a race.

Boxed in: When a horse cannot obtain a clear run during a race due to other horses being in the way. “Lonhro’s jockey Darren Beadman did well to get his mount into a position to win after he had been boxed in coming into the straight.”

Checked: A horse slowed down by his jockey mid-race. This is very dangerous in a race due to the high speed they are going (around 60km/h) and other horses racing close behind. “Gust of Wind caused Grand Marshall to be checked severely causing the horse to almost fall in the Melbourne Cup.”

Hit the line: Crossing the finish line. “Criterion hit the line strongly to win the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.”

Photo finish: When two or more horses cross the finish line so close together that the winner needs to be determined by looking at the photo taken of the finish.

Cheat sheet: general terms used to describe horses.

Colt: A male horse three-years-old and younger who has not been gelded/castrated.

Stallion: A male horse four-years-old and older who has not been gelded/castrated.

Gelding: A castrated male horse of any age.

Filly: A female horse three-years-old and younger. (Female equivalent to colt).

Mare: A female horse four-years-old and older. (Female equivalent to stallion).

Note: There is no female equivalent to gelding (female horses do not get desexed).

Keeping it in the family

Racing fans will often be interested in following the siblings/children of horses they have been following on the track.

Sire: Father of the horse. “Black Caviar’s sire is Bel Esprit.”  Also can be said: “Black Caviar is by Bel Esprit.”

Dam: Mother of the horse. “Black Caviar’s dam is Helsinge.” Also can be said: “Black Caviar is from Bel Esprit” or “Black Caviar is out of Bel Esprit.”

Full siblings: Have the same mother and father (same as humans): “Warwick Farm trainer Joe Pride trains the talented racehorse Ball Of Muscle, who is a full brother to Tiger Tees.”

Half siblings/half brother/half sister: Has the same mother only, not father — because one stallion can have hundreds, even thousands of children, but one mare will only have around 5-10. “2015 Cox Plate winner Winx’s half-brother will be offered for sale at the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale.”

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