Racing: The A-Z Of Betting - Q is for . . .

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Quadruped: Latin word which is most efficiently translated as "betting medium", since almost any animal which has four feet and knows how to use them will be used for the purpose of gambling somewhere in the world. Horses and dogs are, of course, the media of choice in Britain, but Jeff Bernard was known to race cats in his front room during prolonged spells of bad weather, and the ancient sport of rat racing is still practised in certain university laboratories once the professors have gone home. Further afield, the principle that if it moves people will bet on it, holds firm. In some South American countries a popular pastime is to put a guinea pig into a sack, shake it vigorously, then tip it out into the middle of a circle of bolt-holes. Punters then speculate as to which of the holes the unfortunate creature will retire to in order to lose its lunch. This is cruel, admittedly, but a lot more exciting than 49s.

Quagmire: The standard state of the going in Ireland between late November and early March. Also known officially as "yielding to soft".

Qualifier: One of a series of races - almost invariably handicaps - which will culminate in a final at a major track. Horses cannot run in the final unless they have contested one of the qualifiers, but there is no requirement to win this earlier race, or indeed, even finish in the first 15. Since the final is always far more valuable than the qualifier, and a good run attracts the handicapper's attention, the whole structure of such a series is little short of an invitation to misbehave, and as a result, qualifying races are best treated with great caution.

Quantity and quality: Bookmakers prefer the former, and serious punters the latter, so no prizes for guessing which is on offer during an average afternoon in your local betting shop. It has been suggested - and only half in jest - that bookies deliberately overload punters with information and betting opportunities in order to short-circuit their brains and send them into a stupefied state of auto-bet. Certainly, there are plenty of sad cases in the average shop who seem to scribble out slips as if possessed, and anyone who wants to emerge with some cash intact (and without a galloping case of writer's cramp) should repeat the shrewdies' mantra - "they have to offer odds, I don't have to bet" - 20 times before entering.

Queen Mum: Probably the oldest Sporting Life reader in the country - though she may take a dim view of its imminent tabloidisation - and also, so rumour has it, an active and enthusiastic punter even as she approaches 100 not out. If so, her bets are presumably placed via a credit account, what with the Royals being famously reluctant to carry cash, not to mention the thought of how unfortunate it would be if the nation's favourite gran were trampled in the rush for the 2.19 at Romford while placing an intricate series of cross-doubles in the Pall Mall branch of William Hill. The rest of us, of course, can only imagine what it must be like to ring one's bookie in the happy knowledge that, if one forgets to send one's cheque to settle one's losses, one is unlikely to get a letter by return of post which hints that some hairy men are coming round to break one's legs.

Queen's Hotel: One of the finest establishments in Cheltenham, and a focal point for the Irish influx during Festival week, at which time the magnificent Georgian facade hides a multitude of sins which would turn St Patrick pale. Rumour has it that, a few years ago, one visitor grabbed a few hours' sleep on the Wednesday night, but this seems unlikely, given that the card schools and backgammon sessions do not really get serious until the wee small hours. J P McManus, who counts a mean game of backgammon among his talents, spends his Festivals elsewhere these days, but the Queen's is still the place to go on the night before the Gold Cup - unless, of course, you would rather not see the jockey booked for the horse you've already backed drinking himself unconscious just 12 hours before post time.