Although the use of mobile phones has rendered Tic-Tac nigh on obsolete in the modern betting ring, it is, or was, a secret sign language used by floor men, and women, to relay information about price movements to bookmakers. Traditionally, Tic-Tacs could be employed privately by bookmakers or self-employed, subject to authorisation by the National Joint Pitch Council. In either case, they would wear white gloves to make their hand and arm movements more obvious and, typically, stand on a pile of wooden crates so that they could easily be seen across a crowded betting ring.
Of course, the purpose of Tic-Tacs is to provide a service to bookmakers, not the racing public, and one of the tricks of their trade is known as a ‘Twist Card’. Tic-Tac is complex, but not so complex that it cannot be learnt by racegoers, including professional punters, so to add to the level of subtefuge, the ‘Twist Card’ contains different racecard numbers to those on the standard, publicly-available racecard. Thus, while an informed member of the public may be able to determine that a horse is attracting betting support, he or she still does not know which horse it is, at least not until the price shortens on bookmakers’ boards.
In British Flat racing, the highest quality races are assigned Group One, Group Two or Group Three status by the European Pattern Committee. In British National Hunt racing, the grading system is similar, but races are assigned Grade One, Grade Two or Grade Three status by the Jump Pattern Committee, under the auspices of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).
Under both codes, ‘Listed’ status represents a step below Group Three, or Grade Three, status, in terms of quality and, therefore, a step above handicap races. Like Group or Graded races, Listed races are run off level weights, with penalties for horses that have won at a higher level and allowances for age and gender. Thus, while Listed races are not subject to any minimum requirement, in terms of official handicap rating, they are more highly regarded than handicaps, in which every horse, theoretically, has the same chance of winning. Indeed, Listed races are the lowest level at which horses can earn so-called ‘black type’ in sales catalogues.
Dozens of Listed races, under both codes, are run throughout the year in Britain. Examples include the Windsor Castle Stakes and Chesham Stakes, at Royal Ascot, the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown
and Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial at Musselburgh, to name but a few.
Not to be confused with a ‘Round Robin’ tournament, in which each participant plays every other participant, a ‘Round Robin’ bet is a multiple bet, which combines three selections in ten individual bets. Those individual bets are three doubles, one treble and three ‘single-stakes-about’ bets, each of which is actually a pair of bets. The doubles and treble are straightforward enough, but the single-stakes-about bets can be a source of confusion for anyone unfamiliar with ‘any-to-come’ or ‘if-cash’ betting.
For three selections, A, B and C, the ‘any-to-come’ elements of a Round Robin bet are 1-point win A, any-to-come 1-point win B, and vice versa, making two bets, and so on for selections A and C and B and C, making a total of six bets in all. In each pair of single-stakes-about bets, the stake on each selection depends on the success, or failure, of the other selection in the pair. If selection A wins, you effectively double your stake on selection B, while retaining the profit from your winning bet on selection A. If selection A loses, there is nothing to come and the first part of the two-part bet is a loser. Furthermore, even if selection B wins, you still effectively double your stake on selection A, so you lose your entire stake on that pair of bets.
In horse racing, a stop race flag is, as the name suggests, a flag waved by racecourse officials, such as the starter and advanced flag operator, or recall man, to bring a race to a halt. Once the stop race flag is deployed, jockeys must immediately stop riding – regardless and the race must be declared void.
In Britain, from January 4, 2021 onwards, the stop race flag has featured orange and yellow quarters, to increase its visibility compared with the previous all-yellow flag. Likewise, for clarity and the safety of all concerned, including jockeys, racecourse staff and spectators, the stop race procedure has also been revised.
Under the new rules, the waving of the stop race flag is still accompanied by the blowing of whistles, to provide an audible, as well as visible, signal to jockeys, but multiple flags must be deployed in one, or preferably more than one, location. The new stop race procedure received a timely examination when, on March 1, 2021, one of the runners in a maiden hurdle at Plumpton broke down in the back straight, leaving the rest of the field with nowhere to go to avoid the stricken horse on the second circuit.