Racing For Beginners

Being a newcomer to racing myself I thought this would be great to put together mainly to teach me some new things and also to hopefully help some fellow newcomers out. From what i’ve learnt over the last couple of months there are too many terms in racing to attempt to cover but i’ll try and get the basics covered and anything I feel I struggled with when I first started watching the racing. Please feel free to leave a comment below with any other terms you don’t understand and also any general feedback on how you find the blog itself.

As I previously mentioned there are a lot of racing terms but i’ll try and cover the ones you hear on a day to day basis and before you know it people will be thinking you’ve been around the racecourse your whole life.

What's the going?

This one was the first term I saw and had no idea what it meant. To put it into basic terms the going is another way of saying “what is the ground like that the horses are racing on?” The more moisture in the ground, the softer or slower the going. The drier the ground, the firmer or faster the going becomes. This all affects the race and how fast it will be run.  In British racing the “going” can be described as either : Heavy, Soft, Good to Soft, Good, Good to Firm, Firm.

What is a racecard?

The racecard is a guide to all the information you need about the racecourse and races to be run that day. It includes the horses running in each race and their recent form so are an essential if you want to win a bet.

How are horses classified by sex and age

Filly - A young female horse upto the age of 4

Mare - A female horse aged 5 or over

Juvenile - Is a two-year-old horse. Every horse officially turns two on January 1st, at the start of the second full calendar year following its birth e.g. a horse born in 2014 will turn 2 on January 1, 2016.

Gelding - Is a male horse that has been castrated

Stallion - A male horse used for breeding (usually referred to as going to stud when a racehorse no longer runs and retires to become a stallion)

Colt - Is a young male horse

Foal - A horse of either sex less than one year of age

Yearling - A horse of either sex between the ages of one and two.

Types of races

Bumper - term used for a flat race for jump horses, giving them racing experience before going hurdling or chasing.

Handicap - A race where each horse is allocated a different weight to carry, the theory being all horses then run on a fair and equal basis

Hurdle race - A race where the horses jump over obstacles called hurdles, these are smaller than fences and are a minimum of three and a half feet high. There are a minimum of 8 fences in a hurdle race and they are run over a minimum distance of two miles, but they can be longer. These longer races are known as stayers’ hurdles.

Steeplechase - Also known as a chase, is a race where horses have to jump fences. Horses jump over a variety of obstacles that can include plain fences, water jumps or open ditches, the fences in chases are a minimum of 4½ feet high. Steeplechases are run over distances that range between 2 and 4½ miles.

Flat Races - These are races that do not include any obstacles and are run over a variety of distances from 5 Furlongs to over 2 miles. They are also run under conditions with eligibility based on the sex, age or ability of the horse.


The Classics are the 5 biggest races in British Flat racing. Only three year old colts and fillies can be entered for these races.

  • The Oaks is run on Epsom Downs over 1 1/2 miles and is restricted to fillies.

  • The Derby is also run at Epsom over 1 1/2 miles and is open to both sexes but is usually contested by colts.

  • The 1000 Guineas is run over 1 mile at Newmarket and is restricted to fillies.

  • The 2000 Guineas is run over 1 mile at Newmarket and is open to both sexes but is usually contested by colts.

  • The St Leger is run at Doncaster over 1 mile and 6 1/2 furlongs. It is open to both sexes.