Horse Racing – What Are the Different Types of Horse Races?

Horse racing is a dangerous sport for both horses and humans. Too many stresses are placed on these young equines’ developing bones and ligaments, and injuries rarely have a chance to heal. Drug misuse, once a minor element of the sport, is spiraling out of control.

These are just a few of the reasons why true horse people welcome oversight of the game.

Lose Action

When a horse loses ground at some point in the race. This is most often seen in the stretch run and can be determined by reviewing the head on shot of video tape replay.

This indicates that the horse lost ground due to whipping or a strong hand ride. It can also be a result of fatigue or illness. This can be a major handicapping factor.

Lose Ground

Having a horse lose ground means it has been displaced in its running position by another horse. Often this is a result of a slow pace that does not tire out the horses near the front of the race.

A fast pace can help horses starting from the back of the pack. These horses are usually considered “in-the-money” bets if they finish in the top three or four.

Gain Ground

When a horse closes ground steadily through the stretch run, finishing closer to the leaders than he was when entering the final furlong. Also used to describe a horse that moves into contention but lacks the closing kick needed to win the race.

Generally interchangeable with FOUND BEST STRIDE LATE. Also see FINISHED WELL.

Well Placed

Horses race at different levels of competition, or classes. A change in class can affect how well a horse races.

Win, place and show bets are the most traditional bet types in horse racing. They are the most simple to understand and offer the best payouts. Learn more about these bet types in our guide here.

No Threat or No Factor

Horse racing is a dangerous sport for horses and jockeys (also called riders). Injuries are common, and many horses are raced before they’re fully mature. This puts them at risk of developmental disorders and cracking of their leg bones.

This term describes a horse who moves to contention during the early stages of a race but is not in front at the next point of call. Serious handicappers use this insight to help them evaluate the performance of a horse.


Used when a horse races close up and tires significantly during the course of the race. It is a less severe description than BORE OUT or BOLTED.

Term usually used at the start when a horse becomes sandwiched between rivals and loses valuable position. Also used in the stretch run when a horse moves outside to gain contention. This is generally a gradual movement.


Horses must travel the course, leap over any hurdles (if present) and cross the finish line before any other horses and riders. Winners receive prize money.

Before a race horses are checked to ensure that their microchips and passports match up. They are then ‘washed out’ and given time to calm down. They are also walked and ‘hand ridden’ urging them on.


When a horse races on the lead without being pressured by rivals and is allowed to settle into stride. This is a good trip for a late running horse.

This term is sometimes used at the start for a horse that breaks poorly due to being bumped, steadied or unprepared for the start. It is also often used in the stretch run for a horse that looks as though it will take some time to gain the leaders.

Broke Sharply

Horse racing has been around for centuries. It is an equestrian sport that has evolved from chariot races and bareback riding contests.

The majority of energy that a racehorse uses comes from aerobic metabolism. A well-documented effect of winning and losing on male horses is a change in hormone levels. This is not a coincidence.

Broken in the Air

A horse that shows speed and races well in contention during the middle stages of a race, but lacks a sufficient response to move within challenging range. The horse may tire or may simply be overmatched on this day.

Learn more about the dark side of racing, including abusive training practices, drug use and transport to slaughter. Support PETA and help end animal cruelty in the racing industry.