Glossary of Australian racing terms

By Captain Thomsen on 28 Feb 2019

The influx of foreign horses into the Melbourne Cup has seen a proportional rise in interest in the race from the UK and further afield. This has led to something of clash of racing cultures, with Australians and UK based punters using virtually different languages to describe the events and conditions around the average horse race. If this sounds like you, and you're trying to decode the jargon that Australian punters and race commentators use to discuss the Melbourne Cup and other major Australian races, this glossary of Australian racing terms is for you. Click on the letters below to jump to the relevant section of the glossary.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | W


Acceptor: a horse confirmed to run in a race by its trainer or owner

Aged: a horse aged 7 or older, i.e. your average national hunt horse

Approximates: the prices displayed at a tote (TAB in Australia) ahead of a race


Backed in: a horse whose odds have shortened, or a steamer in the UK. A horse who is substantially backed in is Backed off the map

Barrier: the starting stall in a race

Best bet: a horse backed by an industry expert, known as a nap in the UK

Black typed: used to describe horses that have won or placed in a stakes race (these are usually bolded in thoroughbred sales catalogues) Bolter: a long odds entry


Checked: an incident where a horse is blocked in a race

Colours: the racing jacket and cap worn by jockets to indicate the owner


Daylight: a horse finishing second by a large margin

Dead cert: a horse virtually certain to win a race

Derby: a stakes race for 3-year-olds

Drift in: a horse moving in from the straight path to a rail during a race


Educated money: an amount invested on a horse by a stable or person with insider knowledge


First up: the first run of a horse after a spell

Flying handicap: a sprint race of under 1200 m


Get up: to win a race

Good alley: a barrier draw which favours a particular horse

Good oil: positive feedback on a horse's chances in a race

Got at: a horse being put in a position where it can't win a race

Grow another leg: a horse that shows it can handle heavier or wet tracks well


Hairy goat: an under-performing racehorse

Hang: to stay clear of the straight course during a race

Hoop: a jockey

Hot Pot: race favourite


Import: horse imported to Australia

Impost: the weight carried by a horse

In the red: an odds on horse

Irons: stirrups


Jumped out of the ground: a horse that comes from behind to win a race


Late mail: final insights into a race by tipsters

Lad down misere: a certainty to win a race

Let down: a final push on a horse by a jockey at the end of a race

Lug: a horse running a poor race but staying in contention


Maiden: a horse without a win in a race

Mail: tips by respected tipsters

Mentor: a horse trainer

Mudlark: a horse that performs well on wet tracks


Nags: slang term for horse races

Near side: the left side of a horse

Nose: shortest winning margin in Australian racing


Off side: the right side of a horse

On the bit: an eager horse

Ordinary cattle: a low class field in a race


Persuader: jockey's whip

Pigskin: a jockey's saddle

Pilot the field: to lead a race

Positilion: a jockey

Preliminary: a horse's walk or trot to the starting stalls

Pulling: over-racing


Quality handicap: races with a minimum weight of 53kg and a maximum weight of 61kg, meeting a minimum prize money requirement


Racing plate: aluminium horseshoe

Relegated: a horse that is pushed down the finishing order in a race after a steward's enquiry

Ridden upside down: a horse raced outside it's usual race strategy


Salute the judge: to win a horse race

Scraping paint: running a race close to the rail

Shillelagh: jockey's whip

Short half-head: second shortest winning margin, after a nose

Spell: the resting period between preparations

Spring Grand Slam: describes the three key Spring races, the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup

Sprout wings: to catch the leader in the final furlongs to win a race

Stakes race: Group and Listed races

Sticks: used to refer to jumps races

Stone motherless: a horse lagging behind the field in last place

Swooper: a horse that finishes races strongly


TAB: state betting pool

Toppy: the horse carrying top weight

Town: a race run on a track in a metropolitan area

Triple Crown: refers to the Randwick Guineas, Rosehill Guineas and AJC Australian Derby

Trots: harness racing


Under double wraps: a horse that wins a race easily without having to use all its speed or power


Weigh out: the weigh in for the jockey and his equipment

Weight for age: handicap race where weight is allocated according to age and sex

Welter: a handicap with a high minimum weight

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The 5 Greatest Melbourne Cup Moments