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Day at the Races: A blagger's guide to horse racing lingo

Your guide to getting the most out of the Races.

ONE THING THAT gives away a fair-weather racing fan is their lack of lingo.

When you’re down for a weekend out, the last thing you want is regular race-goers giving you funny looks as you try to place your bets.

Forget giggling at the horses’ names, or gawking at the colours – in order to walk the walk, you need to talk the talk. But never fear, we’re here to help.

Here’s your cut-out-and-keep, go-to A-Z guide of racing speak you need to know…

Ante-post betting 

This phrase refers to backing a horse in a specific period before a race to get a better price. There is a risk, though – the horse might not run, in which case you lose your stake. Danger here.


A sure thing – something you can “take to the bank”. Of course, there are no certainties in racing, but a banker is as close as you’ll get. A Bismarck, on the other hand, is the opposite. It’s a favourite to lose, and a horse you’d be willing to lay or bet against.

horsewhis Keep practising the slang and this could be you


This is when a jockey eases a horse down for a short distance during a race to allow it to fill its lungs for one final effort.


The “going” refers to whether the ground is hard or soft. Different horses react to ground in different ways, so this can affect the betting. If you’re looking at a horse’s movement, a high-knee action indicates a liking for soft ground, while a horse with a lower, gliding action would generally prefer good or better. This preference is key when it comes to what horse to bet on. When the going gets tough…


The favourite in a race. And if they win, you’ll be jolly too, eh?

Killarney (18-7-12)11 Horse Racing Ireland Horse Racing Ireland


This means a horse that hasn’t won a race – yet.

Spread a plate

When a horse loses a shoe, it’s said to have spread a plate. Not good news.

Starting price

Also known as the “SP” if you’re looking to really go for broke with the lingo. The SP is an estimation of the odds available on a horse when the race begins.

Not sure you’re quite ready to fake it til you make it? Well, get to grips with some more of the racing chat here. You’ll be reaming off the pro talk in no time – say it after us: “an each-way accumulator on an all-weather.” See? You’re a natural.

Horse Racing Ireland Horse Racing Ireland

Killarney’s July Racing Festival boasts a mix of both national hunt and flat racing, so you’re covered no matter what lingo you learn. The Festival kicks off on Monday the 14th of July until Thursday the 17th. It’s got everything you need – a dedicated zone for kids at the Family Evening, the chance to win €15,000 at the Christy McSweeney Memorial Novice Steeplchase, and of course Killarney’s Ladies’ Day, one of the most prestigious on the Racing Calendar. It’s not one to miss…

Want to know more about the colours jockeys wear, how to name a racehorse, or why Ladies’ Day is such a huge deal? Day at the Races has got you covered>

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