Racing: The A-Z of betting - U is for . . .

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The Independent Online
Union Jack: A bet which is filled in on one of those brightly coloured, pre-printed slips which are dotted around a betting shop like jars of sweets in a candy shop. And the similarity does not end there, since Union Jacks, Round Robins, Lucky 15s, Goliaths and the rest will eat away at your punting money just as surely as sherbet dip will rot your teeth. Of all such bets, though, the Union Jack is probably the most brazen. Nine selections are entered in three rows of three, and settled as eight trebles - the horizontal rows, the vertical columns, and the two diagonals. As a result, it is possible to have as many as five winners among your nine choices and still not receive a crooked farthing in return, which must be the closest thing to legalised mugging that the gambling laws allow.

Unseated rider: Polite way of saying that the jockey fell off your horse for little or no apparent reason, and a particularly irritating way to see your cash disappear. Even the best jockeys occasionally make the basic mistake of forgetting to hang on, but steering clear of novice chases and learner riders usually pares down these mishaps to an acceptable minimum.

Under Starter's Orders: The moment at which the race is deemed to have started, and in Flat races at least, a bet is a runner even if the animal you placed it on is not. Rules over the sticks are a little different these days, and the starter can declare a horse a non-runner if it refuses to set off with the rest. In practice, however, it is still not unknown for the field for a jumps race to come under orders when half of them are still circling 30 yards from the start, and at least two have planted their hooves so firmly that it is clear nothing short of an electric cattle prod will persuade them to race. The tapes go up, all but a couple lose 20 lengths, the favourite is still facing the wrong way when the rest of the field comes round for the second time, irate punters burn down the grandstand, and the starter retires for a cuppa, happy in the knowledge of a job well done.

Unexposed: This can describe any horse with less than half a dozen races to its name, but applies especially to one whose trainer has carefully hidden its true ability from the prying eyes of those whom it need not concern (the owner, for example). At the appointed time, probably in a nursery handicap after three "quiet" runs, the beast in question will be backed off the boards and trot up in a hack canter. Unless, of course, the restraining tactics in earlier races and/or its naturally lazy disposition have taught it the valuable lesson that it will still get fed even if its finishes second, in which case any sensible horse will very soon turn out to be . . .

Ungenuine: Which is really just an unpleasant way of describing a racehorse with a dose of the smarts. By nature, the thoroughbred is a flight animal, and also one with a deep-seated herding instinct, both of which are traits to cherish if you are trying to survive on a predator-infested steppe somewhere in Asia Minor. In the horse's natural environment, a desire to stride clear of the pack could be positively suicidal, but on the racetrack, quite the opposite is the case. The obvious problem here, of course, is that no one has yet found a way to inform the horses that no, we don't want you to stick together, we want you to try and win. Statistics show that only 20 per cent of horses ever win any sort of race at all, which probably means that the remaining 80 per cent trotting along behind are shaking their heads in astonishment and saying: Look at that showoff. He must be bonkers.

Unlucky: It had never won beyond a mile, on ground any easier than good to firm, on an undulating track, going left handed or with anyone but Frankie in the saddle. You backed it over 12 furlongs at Epsom the day after a cloudburst, with a 7lb claimer up. Was there any problem with your logic? Of course not. It was just unlucky.

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