Racing: W is for . .

THE A-Z OF BETTING
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The Independent Online
Warning off: The ultimate sanction under the Law According to the Jockey Club, and effectively a variation on "we're not going to let you play our game any more, so yah boo to you with knobs on!" Bounders who break the 11th commandment and get caught can be warned off - ie. banned from every racecourse in the country - for anything from a year or so to the rest of their lives, though to incur this ultimate sanction, their crime would need to be heinous indeed (putting too much water in the Senior Steward's whisky, for example, or failing to stand to attention for the national anthem). The main problem with warning off, however, is that it is difficult to enforce, and it is not unknown for a supposedly disqualified person to be seen lurking in the background, grinning broadly, as a trophy is presented to a close relative at one of the smaller tracks. What utter cads some people can be.

Whip: Otherwise known as the stick or the persuader, although any persuasion involved will be of the less-than-gentle variety pioneered by the Krays. In recent years, the Jockey Club has all but eradicated the sort of outrageous abuse of the whip which was once common, particularly when the money was down on Irish raiders at the big National Hunt meetings. There was, for example, the jockey on Attitude Adjuster in a mid-Eighties Grand National who started thrashing his horse shortly before Becher's the first time around, and did not stop for the remainder of the race. Preventing abuse of horses, which is not only morally wrong but also dreadful PR, is a laudable aim. An unfortunate fact, though, is that many punters are in complete agreement - until their horse has half a length to make up in the final 200 yards, at which point the jockey could probably attach its tail to the National Grid and be given the benefit of the doubt. The dividing line between acceptable encouragement and misuse will always be fuzzy, but at present the Club deserves credit for treading a fair path through the minefield.

Welshing: A failure to pay a gambling debt. The origin of the term is unclear, but there is certainly no evidence that the reliability of either a punter of bookmaker depends on whether they originate on the western side of Offa's Dyke.

Weighed in: Announcement which confirms that all the riders in a race have returned to the weighing room and tipped the scales with pretty much the same burden as they did on the way out. This also marks the point at which the result is official for betting purposes, and no subsequent change, be it for a failed drug test or reversal on appeal of a stewards' enquiry, will make a slip for the runner-up any less worthless. It is also worth noting, of course, that all tickets should be retained until the weigh-in announcement, rather than flung floorwards the instant the winner passes the post. One familiar figure on northern tracks used to be known as the Aeroplane, thanks to his habit of hanging around the bars waiting for a late and unexpected enquiry to be announced, and then swooping on every discarded ticket in sight in the hope of finding a few for a promoted winner.

Weight-for-age: Scale devised more than a century ago by Admiral Rous, which takes account of the different stages of development of horses from different generations and thus allows them to compete on fair terms. In the first two weeks of July, for example, a three-year-old which takes on a four-year-old over a mile and a quarter will receive 13lb, while over five furlongs in October, a two-year-old will get 17lb from a three- year-old, while the same three-year-old, which by now will be close to full maturity, can expect to receive just a single pound from an older horse. None of this is to be confused with what happens when you try to get a drink at the average racecourse bar. That's wait for ages.

Women: Who make up almost 50 per cent of the crowd at major meetings, but are a rare sight inside most betting shops. This only goes to show, of course, that the average woman has far more taste than the average man, although to be fair, most sensible bookmakers are now doing all they can to make their shops more appealing to female customers. Since the most effective measure, though, would be to bar most of their existing clients, that status quo may prevail for a few years yet.

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