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Horse Racing Terminology Part 3: Wagering Terms and Track Conditions

With so many horse racing festivals coming up, I decided this would be a great time to do some articles on horse racing.  If you are new to horse racing betting, learning horse racing terminology is a must.  In Horse Racing Terminology Part 1, I introduced you to more than a dozen different types of horse races.  In Horse Racing Terminology Part 2, I introduced you to different classifications of thoroughbreds.  Now let’s talk about wagering terms you will hear bandied about while you are betting on the races.  We’ll also talk about different track conditions to familiarise yourself with.


  • Straight wagers.  These are simple win, place, and show bets.  Contrast these with exotic wagers.
  • Exotic wagers.  These are more complex types of bets, and account for anything that is not a standard win, place, or show wager. 
  • Key horse.  When you are placing an exotic bet, this is the primary horse that you have selected to win, place, or show.  If you hear someone else talking about their “key horse,” this is what they are referring to.
  • Pool.  This is all the money which has been wagered on a certain type of bet.
  • Profitable payoffs.  These are the payoffs for exotic wagers from all possible winning combinations, based on the active betting pools.  Note that payoffs are not fixed; they change in accordance to the betting pools.
  • Wheel.  This is a type of exotic bet where you choose a single horse to win or place, and then a combination of horses to finish in the subsequent places. 
  • Will pays.  These are the actual payoffs of exotic wagers which will be displayed before the final race. 


Track conditions are something else you should learn about before you bet on the races:

  • Fast.  We’ve all heard of the “fast track.”  This refers in horse racing to a track which is dry and even.  It is firm and makes it easy for the horses to run fast.
  • Wet fast.  This is a fast track which has recently been rained on, and which now has a wet surface over a firm base.
  • Good.  Any track condition between fast and slow.  Generally this type of track is quite wet.
  • Muddy.  This is a track which is wet (the surface and the base) but has no standing water.
  • Off track.  This is any type of track not classified as fast.
  • Sloppy.  This is a track with a firm base and some standing water on the surface.
  • Slow.  This type of track is wet through and through.


Being familiar with these betting terms as well as these race track conditions will make it easier for you to place a smart bet on the race day.  Over time you will develop an understanding of how different track conditions can impact the performance of the horses.  In our next installment (Part 4), I will teach you an assortment of diverse horse racing terms.


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