Horse Racing Lingo Every Smart Bettor Should Know

by | 14 May 2022

You know what they say: when in Rome, do as the Romans do. So when you’re in the betting pool with seasoned punters rushing to profit, you don’t wanna be the one scratching your head still wondering what an exacta is!

For beginners entering the world of horse racing betting, we’ll provide a comprehensive glossary of essential horse racing betting terms. 

From basic terms like “odds” to more practical lingo like “scratch,” this article will help newcomers navigate the language of the track and amp up their understanding of the betting process.


Odds represent the implied probability of a horse winning a race. They are displayed in various formats, including fractional (e.g., 3/1), decimal (e.g., 4.00), and moneyline (e.g., +300).

Betting odds reflect the bookmaker’s assessment of the probability of an event occurring. If an outcome is considered more likely, the odds will be lower, resulting in a smaller potential payout. Conversely, if an outcome is seen as less likely, the odds will be higher, offering a greater potential payout.

Mutuel Pool

A mutuel is the total amount of money wagered on a specific bet type or race. The pool is then divided among the winning bets after deducting track fees and taxes.

Alternatively, you might have also heard the term “parimutuel betting” in the same breath when talking about tote betting. Parimutuel betting is a betting system where all wagers are pooled together, and the odds are determined based on the total amount wagered on each horse.


Takeout is the percentage of the mutuel pool retained by the racetrack to cover operating expenses and taxes. It’s important to understand the takeout rate, as it affects the potential payouts for winning bets.

Related: Tote Betting: Weighing the Pros and Cons


The horse with the lowest paying odds, deemed most likely to win based on factors like recent performance, form, and competition.


A horse with higher paying odds, considered less likely to win but with the potential for more lucrative payouts if it does. Longshots are also called “underdogs”.

Straight Bet

Can’t get any more straightforward than a straight bet! In horse racing, straight bets are simply wagers that focus on the performance of one horse. There are three main types of straight bets in horse racing, namely:

  1. Win Bet
  2. Place Bet
  3. Show Bet

Alternatively, you might have also heard of an exotic bet. Exotic bets are those that involve predicting specific outcomes involving multiple horses in a single race, such as exactas, trifectas, and superfectas.

Related: Horse Racing 101: Exploring The Different Types Of Bets (Part 1)


Also called a “perfecta” in horse racing, an exacta is a bet where a bettor predicts the first two horses to finish a race in the exact order. In the case of a boxed exacta, a bettor would not need to bet on the exact order of finish for each horse.


A bet where a bettor predicts the first three horses to finish a race in the exact order. You can also box trifectas, where you don’t have to specify in which order your wagered horses place by the end of the race. 


A bet where a bettor predicts the first four horses to finish a race in the exact order. Boxed superfectas work in a similar way with boxed exactas and boxed trifectas, where you wager on all possible combinations rather than the exact order of finish for each horse.

Related: Horse Racing 101: How do Box Bets Work?

Post Position

The starting position assigned to each horse in a race, determined by a random drawing or a horse’s past performance, usually around 48 hours before the race proper.

Horses on the farthest left are in position one. The counting goes on until you reach the rightmost or outermost horse on the track. While it might seem nitpicky to consider a horse’s post position, this can actually affect a race’s outcome as well.

Depending on the kind of race track the race takes place on, being on the innermost or the outermost post position can either be an advantage or disadvantage, especially if the track has a lot of turns.


Post time is the scheduled start time of a horse race. Racing programs often list estimated post times both for the convenience of casual horse racing fans and the dedicated punters.

It’s crucial to be aware of post times to ensure you place your bets on time. At the track, you would usually hear an announcer alerting fans about an upcoming post time. This is to allow them enough time to head to the betting windows and place their wagers before the big game.


When a horse is withdrawn from a race before it starts, typically due to injury or other unforeseen circumstances. If you placed a bet on a scratched horse, you will usually receive a refund.

Related: How Scratches are Handled


No one likes feeling like a deer in the headlights, especially when you step into those horse racing betting pools. Before you head to the races, having a solid understanding of horse racing betting terminology is essential for making informed and confident bets. 

This glossary of key terms provides a foundation to navigate the diverse world of horse racing betting, helping you converse fluently within the horse racing community.

Once you get the hang of these terms, you won’t just be talking like a seasoned punter, but you’ll be walking out of betting windows a few hundred bucks richer and feeling like a winner. 

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