Cheltenham betting glossary Part 4

Cheltenham Glossary J – O


The slang term used to describe the race favourite. The phrase derives from a 19th century expression “the jolly old favourite”. As ‘Jolly’ simply refers to the current betting favourite and is slang it is very different to the phrase ‘favourite’ as that refers to the horse which is/was the official SP betting favourite and is recognised on betting slips.



This can have two meanings


firstly a ‘judge’ can indicate a good form student or judge of form. But there are also official ‘judges’ at race meetings and their job is to make decisions on photo finishes. They also ensure that all horses are correctly placed  in order at the finish of a race and also give a reason for horses that do not finish (such as fell, brought down or pulled-up).



Lengths are the measurement unit between horses in a race. In British horse racing the distances between horses are calculated by converting the time between them into lengths by a scale of lengths-per-second. In a flat turf race run on good going, a value of six lengths-per-second is used. In National Hunt racing such as the Cheltenham Festival (and on heavy going, where horses are assumed to be running slower) a length is timed at four lengths-per-second. 



A Maiden horse is one which has yet to win a race at the discipline which it is competing. They are eligible for ‘maiden races’ which will only be open to ‘non winners’.  A horse which has won on the flat is still given ‘maiden’ status in National Hunt races until it wins over hurdles or fences.



Slang and only used in betting terms, the phrase refers to 500 or more commonly £500. It is not confirmed but some believe the phrase originates from British soldiers returning from India, where the 500 rupee note had a picture of a monkey on it.



This is the phrase used to identify a tipster’s best bet of the day; the selection he believes will win above all others. It is primarily associated with horse racing, although it can cover any sports betting event. The word ‘nap’ originates from the French card game Napoleon.


National Hunt

National Hunt racing in the UK is more commonly known as ‘jumps racing’ and it is divided into two major distinct types: hurdles and steeplechases. There are also ‘bumpers’ which are for jumps horses but feature no hurdles. It is a very different disciple to flat racing – which simply goes by the title ‘flat racing’.



More gambling odds slang with this phrase being used to signify the odds of 7/1. Pronounces Nevis, the word actually spells 7 backwards and therein lay its origins.



As in everyday life a novice is a beginner. But in National Hunt horse racing a ‘novice’ is a horse which has not won in a particular type of race prior to the start of the current season. A novice hurdler has not won a hurdle race before the start of the current season, while a novice chaser has not won a steeplechase before the start of the current season. They will be eligible for novices races until they win a race of that category.



Not as common as it once was, namely because more stewards enquiries are called than in previous decades, an ‘objection’ can be lodged by a jockey who believes he has been subject of wrongdoing during a race by another jockey.  His/her complaint will then be looked at by the stewards who have the power to change a result if they believe rules have been broken.


Off The Pace

A horse which comes from ‘off the pace’ will not have raced prominently or contested the lead. His running style or jockey’s instructions will be to race mid-pack or to the rear of the field and to come with a late challenge – hopefully passing the horses which have set the early pace.


Open Ditch

An open ditch is a plain fence with a ditch on the take-off side, therefore forcing the horse to make a longer jump than at a plain fence. There are at least six fences to each mile of a steeplechase and one of which must be an open ditch. In Ireland these obstacles are called ‘regulation’ fences.


Over The Top

A term used in several forms of sport and not just horse racing, the phrase refers to a horse which has (or is believed to be) showing lesser form than before because it has reached its peak and is now showing lesser performance levels and is probably in need of a break.



Every race which features odds has a mathematical percentage based on the prices of the runners. The closer this figure is to 100% means the better it is for punters. But it is never less than 100% as bookmakers could find themselves in a no-win situation. As it is always greater than 100% it is therefore called the ‘over-round’.