An Alphabet Of Horse Racing Terms – D

An Alphabet Of Horse Racing Terms – D


This occurs when, even with the aid of the photo finish, a judge is unable to declare an outright winner of a race. Before the advent of the photo finish there was frequent uproar when the judge declared a dead heat, when it seemed plain to everyone else that there had been a definite winner.

In many cases, the angle of the actual finishing line is very difficult to assess correctly on some racecourses and the uproar was not justified, although in other instances it was.

Owners, trainers, to say nothing of an army of outraged punters would have been correct in their assessment that they have been robbed by the judge’s eyesight, or lack of it, because in a dead heat the owners of horse’s concerned share the prize money and bets on the winners are settled to a reduced state.

The first dead heat decided by a photo finish occurred at Doncaster in October, 1947 the horses being Phantom Bridge and Resistance. Sprint handicaps tend to result in more dead seats than other events when several horses may be within inches of winning, in what is sometimes called a blanket finish.


1.The distance is a point 240yds from the winning post. There is no mark on the racecourse to indicate it, but it is frequently referred to in form summaries and the formbook e.g. lead at the distance soon went clear. However, courses are marked out along the strait with prominent signs indicating how many furlongs from the winning post. The distance is thus 20yds before the one furlong marker is reached.

2.Horses are sometimes judged (rarely on the flat, but quite often at jumps meetings to have won by a distance. This, technically, is also 240yds but usually means that the winner and runner up are separated by such a margin that the judge cannot make an accurate estimation by eye.

3.The distance of a race. No race on the flat can be less than five furlongs. There is no limit on how long a flat race can be but in practice there and not many races beyond two miles. The longest race in the calendar is the Queen Alexander stakes at Royal Ascot over 2 ¾ miles. In National Hunt racing, no chase or hurdle can be less than two miles. The longest jumping race is the Grand National: about four miles 856yds.

4.Winning distance. The shortest winning distance is a short head (not much more than a cigarette paper judged on a photo finish film) then a head, then a neck, then half a length, and so on.


Hurdles singly used to mark direction in national hunt racing, usually when part of the course is waterlogged or when unusable for some of the reason, when that part of the course will be said to be “dolled off”.


The draw for which position a horse shall occupy in the stalls at the start of a Flat race is made on the day before the race at the overnight declarations office, and is drawn by lot. There is no draw for places in National Hunt racing.

Number one in the draw occupies the extreme left hand position, the number being indicated over the front of the stall, the horse drawn two goes into stall number two, and so on. On certain courses a low number in the draw, or high number, over certain distances and depending on the going, may give advantage in running, so it is important to study what effect the draw may have, especially with big fields, and how horses are drawn.

The draw is published in the newspapers and appears both on the racecard and numbers board but it took a long hard campaign to secure this advantage to those off the course wanting a bet, as well as to trainers and jockeys wishing to plan in advance how their horse should be run.

The overnight draw gives time for reconsideration and the benefits in ordinary day to day flat racing is striking as far as of course punters are concerned in particular.


A horse whose price lengthens appreciably, or drifts in the betting before a race, say from 3/1 out to 8/1. It means that the bookmakers expected it to be backed, possibly by stable connections, but there is little money for it, and so, prudently quoting a shortish price when the market opens, the price is gradually lengthened.

Not, usually, a hopeful sign for the punter, although it sometimes happens that a horse from a stable which does not bet in big amounts is put in at a short price when the market opens, drifts, and wins.

The opposite to a drifter is a springer, a horse whose prices tumbles dramatically, say from a 7/1 or 811 or even longer, perhaps to be returned six to four favourite.

This is a hopeful, if not infallible, sign for the punter able to watch price movements, if not on the course, on television or in the betting shop. Springers to watch for particularly are those in two year old races, especially when they concern previously unraced two year olds. Springers to treat with caution however, occur with poor and/or small fields and a consequently weak betting market where quite small amounts of money on a horse can cause dramatic fluctuations in prices.

Also, even in a reasonably strong betting market, the fact that a horse’s price tumbles does not automatically mean that it will win; but, at least it’s usually means that it is fancied by those who know most about its chances, and the money is down.

The modern buzzword for a particular kind of springer, specifically one backed down from generous early morning prices is a “steamer”.


A horse that does not immediately get away when the stalls open, is said to have “dwelt at the start”. It also happens in National Hunt racing where there are no starting stalls, but the longer the race the less important this becomes in its effects on the outcome of the race, or the horses performance in its.