A guide to horseracing and how to bet

How to bet

Will your visit to Doncaster Racecourse be your first ever experience of a day at the races? If so you will find our beginners' guide an invaluable companion.

If you are new to racing, or just new to Doncaster follow these easy steps below to make sure you know what's going on around the course.

1. The Weighing Room - 30 minutes before the race

Whilst you are looking at your race card, deciding who to bet on, the jockeys' will be 'weighing out'. Their total weight, including the saddle, must meet a set limit for a particular horse in a particular race. After the race, the jockeys' must also 'weigh in' to ensure that the weight remains the same. This is also the base for the stewards, who are the Jockey Club officials who work behind the scenes at every race meeting to ensure that every race is run according to the rules.

2. The Pre-parade Ring - 20 minutes before the race

As part of their pre-race preparation, the horses will be brought from the stables to the pre-parade ring and led around by their grooms. This is to help them stay warm and focused and gives racegoers a chance to see the horses before they are saddled and to assess their fitness attitude.

3. The Parade Ring - 15 minutes before the race

Also known as the Paddock, this is a must for all racegoers to see the horses close-up before the race and to hopefully pick the winner! Here you will also see all the 'connections' of each horse; the owners, trainers, stable staff etc

4. Place your bets - 10 minutes before the race

There are a variety of places to bet at the course, the tote windows run along the front of the main stand and also around the Clock Tower stand, whilst Ladbrokes are inside the main stand in both the County and Grandstand enclosures and the bookmakers in the betting ring in front of the main stand in the Grandstand Enclosure.

5. The Racecourse - during the race

The actual race can be viewed from different positions around the course although in order to be level with the winning post you will need to be in the County Enclosure. It is a good idea to watch from different points around the course to get varying perspectives of the race. Full details of each race can be found in a race card, which you can purchase when you enter the course for only £2.50.

6. The Parade Ring - after the race

After each race, the horses all come back into this area and are met by their grooms. They will be unsaddled so that the jockeys' can go and 'weigh in' and all the unplaced horses are taken back to the stables to be washed down. The first three placed horses are kept in the Parade Ring and circulated by the markers relevant to their position so that Press and Media can take photographs and conduct interviews with its 'connections'. When all the jockeys' have 'weighed in' you will hear a call of 'horses away' from the weighing room - this gives the all clear for the remaining horses to return to the stables. The Parade Ring is also where the winning owners and sometimes the trainer and jockey, will be presented with their trophy by the race sponsor.

Don’t be put off by the racing jargon, use our guide as a way to get around some terms you may hear around the course.

Card – Short for racecard. This is your race programme with the runners and riders.
Clerk of the Course – Has British Horseracing Authority accreditation and inspects and approves the track for racing.
Colours (Silks) – The colours worn by the jockey in a race.
Dead Heat – When two horses are given equal places in a race because the judge cannot decide which was in front.
Distance – When a racehorse wins by 30 lengths or more.
The Field – Number of runners in one particular race.
Finishing Straight – The last part of the course which runs in front of the grandstand and includes the finishing post.
Handicap – A race in which weights are to be carried by each horse according to recent or past racing performance.
Form – A record of a racehorse’s previous performance.
Furlong – An eighth of a mile, 220 yards or 201 metres.
Going – A term used to describe the condition of the ground, ranging from hard through to heavy. These include: Hard, Firm, Good to Firm, Good, Good to Soft, Soft, Heavy.
Listed Race – A high class competitive race.
Maiden – A race for horses that have not yet won a race.
Non-runner – When a horse is no longer running in the race.
Novice Races – Flat races for racehorses aged two or three that have not won more than two races.
Paddock / Parade Ring – The horses parade here before they are mounted to race. A good place to check out your fancy to see if it’s looking good for a win!
Photo Finish – When the judge requires a photograph to decide the winner.
Pull Up – When a jockey slows a horse that has no chance of winning the race due to either tiring or injury.
Selling Race (Seller) – It is a race in which the winner is auctioned off immediately afterwards to the highest bidder.
Sprint – Any race under a mile.
Stakes – Prize money offered in a race.
Starting Stalls – Used to make sure the horses in flat races all have a fair start. Positions are “drawn” before the race and can give an advantage depending on the racecourse and length of the race.
Stewards – Officials responsible for enforcing the British Horseracing Authority’s Orders & Rules of Racing.
Under Orders – When the racehorses are called into line before the start of a race. Once racehorses have come ‘under orders’ they are judged to have competed in the race and no bets will be refunded.
Weigh in/weigh out – Weighing of jockey before and after a race to ensure that the correct weight has been carried. At the end of the race when ‘weighed in’ has been announced this means the result is official and all bets can be paid out.
Winners Enclosure – Where the winning horse and placed horses will go after the race and the winning owners and trainers have their presentations.
Unplaced – A horse that finishes outside the main placings, which is generally the first three home, depending on the size of the field.
Walkover – ‘A one horse race’ the one contestant must turn up to the course and walk over the line to claim the prize money.
Weights – Fixed weights to be carried by horses in a race according to ability, age, distance, sex, and time of year. This weight includes the jockey and equipment, saddle and weight cloth.
Weight Cloth – Leather cloth with pockets that hold flat pieces of lead. They are removable and interchangeable. The weight cloth is carried under the jockey’s saddle and is to ensure that they ride at the correct weight in a race.