The Australian and New Zealand punting glossary explains some of the terms, jargon and slang which are commonly used and heard on Australian and New Zealand racecourses, in TABs, on radio, and in the horse racing media. Some terms are peculiar to Australia, such as references to bookmakers, but most are used in both countries.
All Up: A Type of Bet where the winnings of one race is carried over to the next race and so forth.
Apprentice: A young jockey, usually under 21 years of age, who is still in training. Recent rule changes allow older riders just starting out to work their way through their "apprenticeship".
Apprentice allowance: Reduction in the weight to be carried by a horse which is to be ridden by an apprentice jockey. Also called a "claim". It varies from 4 kg to 1.5 kg depending on the number of winners the apprentice has ridden. Recent rule changes have resulted in an increase in the maximum amount able to be claimed—from 3 kg to 4 kg.
Approximates: The TAB prices horses are showing before a race begins.
Asparagus: Name given to a punter who arrives on course with a stack of ‘mail’, hence: more tips than a tin of asparagus.
Backed In: A horse whose odds have shortened.
Backed off the map: A horse which has been heavily supported resulting in a substantial decrease in odds.
Back up: To race a horse soon after its latest engagement. Also, punters who keep backing a particular horse are said to "back up."
Bagman: Bookmaker's employee responsible for settling bets on course.
Bank teller job: A horse considered such a near certainty that a bank teller could invest ‘borrowed’ bank funds and replace them without detection.
Banker: A key selection in an exotic bet which must win, or run a particular place to guarantee any return.
Banker: See Dead cert.
Barriers: Starting barrier used to keep horses in line before the start of a race. Each horse has a stall or place randomly allocated in the barrier draw for the race.
Battler: A trainer, jockey or bookmaker who just manages to make a living from his full-time involvement in horse racing.
Benchmark: under this system, operating in NSW, the weight a horse carries at its next start is determined immediately after its previous race, according to the merit of that run. Each Benchmark point equals half a kilogram.
Best Bet: The selection that racing journalists and tipsters nominate as their strongest selection of the day. In the UK, it is known as the nap.
Bet back: Action taken by a bookmaker when he is heavily-committed to a horse and spreads some of the risk by investing with other bookies or the totalisator.
Bet until your nose bleeds: Confident instructions to a commission agent or advice to a punter indicating that the horse is so certain to win that betting should only be halted in the unlikely event of a nose haemorrhage.
Better than bank interest: Justification by a punter for backing a horse that is very short odds on.
Betting exchange : Internet based organisations which broker bets between punters for a commission. The largest is Betfair.
Big bickies: A large amount of money.
Big note: To skite or exaggerate a position or status - to "big note" oneself.
Big Red: Nickname of the champion race horse Phar Lap.
Binos (pronounced "by-nose"): Binoculars.
Birdcage: Area where horses are paraded before entering the racetrack.
Bite: To ask someone for a loan.
Bl.: An abbreviation for a black horse, as it appears in race books, pedigrees and stud books.
Black type: Thoroughbred sales catalogues use boldface type to highlight horses that have won or placed in a stakes race.
Bleeder: A horse that bleeds from the lungs during or after a race or workout. In Australia a first-time bleeder is banned from racing for three months. If it bleeds a second time the horse is banned for life.
Blew like a north wind: Said about a horse whose odds have lengthened dramatically during the course of betting.
Blinkers: A cup-shaped device used to limit a horse's vision during a race and improve concentration.
Bloused: To be caught on the line or defeated in a photo finish.
Blow: When the odds of a horse increase during betting.
Blown out the gate: Odds have extended dramatically due to lack of support.
Boat race: A race with a number of non-triers which is said to be fixed for one horse to win.
C: The class of a harness racehorse which stands for Country Assessment; M stands for Metropolitan Assessment. A C11 M6 pacer has won an equivalent of 11 country class races and 6 metropolitan class races.
c.: An abbreviation for a colt, as it appears in race books, pedigrees and stud books.
Calcutta: Sweepstakes conducted prior to a big event with each horse being raffled and then auctioned to the highest bidder.
Carry the grandstand: Said of a horse allocated a big weight in a handicap race.
Cast: A horse situated on its side or back, and wedged in the starting stalls, such that it cannot get up.
Educated money: An amount invested on a horse from a stable or informed source.
Emergencies: Substitutes, or replacements, for horses which are scratched from a race which is limited to a number of starters. The 'emergency starters' are drawn up by ballot or lottery to take the place of any runner that is withdrawn.
Emu: A person who picks up discarded betting tickets on a racecourse, hoping that some will be of value. The person strikes a similar pose to Australia’s largest native bird when feeding.
Gear Changes are authorised by stewards and appear in form guides and race books. Gear falling into this category includes: Blinkers, pacifiers, winkers, visors, cheekers, Cornell Collars, ear muffs, nose bands, nose rolls, various bits, tail chain, tongue tie, various plates and shoes for racing. Prior to racing: barrier blankets, stallion chains and blindfolds. Gelding of entire males is also to be notified.
Getting up without names: An indication that a number of long shots have won races, hence: "They're getting up without names today."
Girth: An elastic and leather band sometimes covered with sheepskin, that passes under a horse's belly and is connected to both sides of the saddle.
Going: The surface condition of the racecourse (fast, good, dead, slow, or heavy). A trial system introduced in NSW in 2005 rates tracks on a score of 10, from 1 [Fast] to 10 [Heavy]. Victoria introduced the system for a trial period on 1 December 2005.
Good alley: A barrier draw considered to be ideal for a particular horse.
Good oil: Positive information about a horse’s chances in a race.
Gorilla: A colloquial term for one thousand dollars.
Got at: A horse is said to have been got at when it was by any means been put in such a condition that it cannot win.
Got the blows: Drifted in the betting.
Gr.: An abbreviation for a grey horse, as it appears in race books, pedigrees and stud books.
Greet the judge: To win a race.
Group race: High quality race categorised into Group One (G1), 2 and 3 and Listed races, in order of importance.
Grow another leg: Said of horses that handle wet tracks well.
h.: An abbreviation for a horse (stallion), as it appears in race books, pedigrees and stud books.
Had something on the winner: Understatement of a punter who may have bankrupted a couple of bookies.
Hairy-goat: A racehorse that has performed badly.
Half-brother, half-sister: Horses out of the same dam but by different sires. It does not apply to horses by the same sire.
Ham: As in 'What a Ham'. Term used for a horse that has been in a good paddock/looks a little large around the edges.
Hand: Unit of measure (equals 4 inches) of a horse’s height. Thoroughbreds typically range from 15 to 17 hands. The measurement is taken from the ground to the horse's withers - the point where the neck meets the back.
Handicap: A class of race for which the official handicapper assigns the weight each horse has to carry.
Handicapper: The racing official who assigns the weights to be carried by horses in handicap races.
Hang: To veer away from a straight course during a race.
Hard earned: Money.
Head: A margin between horses. One horse leading another by the length of his head.
Imports: Horses imported to Australia are indicated by an abbreviation the country of their birth, such as New Zealand (NZ) and United States (USA). An * (asterisk) suffix may also be used to denote horses imported from England or Ireland to Australia or New Zealand.
Impost: The weight a horse is allocated or carries.
In the red: The price of a horse when it is odds on. The Bookmakers’ boards display ‘odds on’ in red to distinguish from odds against.
Inquiry Inquiry into the running of the race. Can result in demotion of one or more horses in the finish order.
Place bet A place bet will win if the selected horse finishes in the first three in fields of eight or more horses. If there are only six or seven runners the horse must finish first or second to place.
Plonk: A sizeable amount wagered on a horse. Not quite a plunge but a "decent plonk" nevertheless.
Plunge: In the bookmakers' ring, a massive and sudden support for a horse.
Prior convictions: A horse which has failed to perform to expectations on previous occasions.
Protest: When a jockey, owner, trainer or steward alleges interference by one party against another during a race that may have affected the outcome of a race. If a protest is upheld by stewards, the runner that caused the interference is placed directly after the horse interfered with. If a protest is dismissed, the original result of the race stands.
Pulled its head off: Said of a horse that would not settle, or over-raced.
Sprout wings: To accelerate surprisingly in the straight to defeat a leader who looked certain to win.
Stake: The sums of money deposited or guaranteed by the parties to a bet.
Stakes races: Group one, group two, group three or listed races.
Stayer: A horse that specialises in longer distance races.
Stewards: Officials who run the race meeting and are responsible for enforcing the Australian [and Local] Rules of racing.
Stick: Jockey’s whip.
Sticks: Hurdles or fences in jumping races.
Stipes: Another term for the Stewards. (Or Stipendiary Stewards)
Stirrups: Metal "D" shaped rings into which a jockey places his/her feet. Also known as "irons".
Stone motherless: Expression used to indicate that a horse is running a clear last in a race, or is tailed off at the finish.
Stonebonker: A good thing in a race. A horse considered to be over the line.
Straight out: Betting to win only
Strapper: The person who attends to, grooms, and usually leads the horse around the mounting yard.
Superfecta: An exotic type of bet which requires a punter to select the first six horses to cross the finish line in the exact order. Only previously offered in New South Wales; now replaced by the First Four. (Compare with the usual U.S. definition, which is similar to the Australian/New Zealand First Four.)
Swimmer: Horse which performs very well on rain effected tracks.
Swooper: A horse which charges home at the end of a race.
TAB: Totalisator Agency Board. The original State government body appointed to regulate off-course betting. Many of the State TABs have been privatised in recent years.
Tabcorp is Australia’s largest gambling and entertainment group. It was established in 1994 following the privatization of the Victorian TAB.
Take the knock: Fail to honour betting debts. The punter concerned generally goes missing.
Taken to the cleaners: An expression used by both bookmakers and punters when they have suffered a huge loss.
Taking a set: When a bookmaker increases the odds of a favoured horse, which in their opinion can't win the race, in order to receive more bets.
Three-quarter-brother (or sister): A term used for horses out of the same dam, but are by a sires that are half-brothers or who are by the same sire.
Tomato Sauce Odds: Refers to an odds-on favourite in betting parlance. The phrase derives from the days of fractional odds when bookmakers used a red background on their boards to denote horses running ‘odds on’. These days the phrase is used in general (and somewhat colloquial) horse racing vernacular, for example: “Those who took the tomato sauce odds were never in danger as she led throughout to defeat Splash Of Paint and Amber Cash in 23.38”.
Ton: A term used for one hundred dollars.
Tongue tie: A strap or piece of stocking used to tie down a horse's tongue to prevent it getting over the bit, which affects a horse's breathing and the jockey’s control of the horse.
Toppy: The top weight or horse carrying the No. 1 saddlecloth.
Totalisator: An alternative form of betting to bookmakers or a betting exchange. All bets are placed into a pool, and dividends are paid by dividing the final pool by the amount invested on the winner, less a fixed percentage.
Town: To race in ‘town’ means to race on metropolitan tracks in a capital city, as distinct from all other tracks which are collectively called ‘The Bush’.
Track condition: Used to describe the racing surface (Fast: Very firm surface, Good: Firm surface, Dead: Track with give in the ground, Slow: Rain affected, Heavy: Very rain affected). Now replaced in some states by a 1-to-10 rating system.
Coloured winkers, of the style used in Thoroughbred racing.
Via the cape: The horse ran wide on the home turn and covered too much ground. The expression is probably an analogy of the ocean voyage from the UK to Australia via the Cape of Good Hope compared to the more direct route via the Suez Canal.
Visor blinkers: Blinkers that have a peep hole cut in them and are used to limit a horse's vision during a race and improve concentration.
Warned off: A person warned-off a racecourse is not permitted to enter a racecourse or associate with licensed persons.
Weigh out: Before each race, a jockey, and his equipment are weighed to ensure that the horse carries its allotted weight.
Weight for Age: Better class of race in which the weight a horse carries is allocated on a set scale according to its age and sex. The Cox Plate, which is regarded as Australia’s best race, is a weight-for-age event held by the Moonee Valley Racing Club in October each year.
Weight-for-age handicap: The system used to determine weights for the Melbourne Cup in which the weight of the jockey and riding gear is adjusted with ballast to a nominated figure. Older horses are given more weight than younger ones, and weightings are further adjusted according to the horse's previous results.
Welsher: Person who refuses to honour a bet.
Welter: A handicap race with a higher minimum weight.
Whip: A race whip (or crop) made to Australian specifications, is about 22-24 inches long, and a jockey uses it to control and encourage a horse to increase its speed.
Winkers: A sheepskin device which attaches to the cheek straps of the bridle to help the horse focus its vision to the front. Winkers allow more side vision than a blinker.
Wouldn't back it with bad money: An indication that a punter has no confidence in a horses chances such that even if he had counterfeit money he would not back it.
Write your own ticket: An expression indicating that a horse is at very long odds, with very little chance of winning.