Horse racing is a sport that involves horses being ridden by jockeys in an attempt to win the race. People often put money on the outcome of the races.​

horse racing idioms and expressions

Many idioms originated from horse racing and here is a list of them with examples. Scroll down to see picture examples.

  • back the wrong horse
    meaning – make the wrong decision/support the losing side
    example – I lost £2000 this morning on the stock market. I backed the wrong horse.
  • close call
    meaning – a narrow escape from danger/disaster
    example – It was a close call, but we got to the gate a minute before it closed.
  • come from behind
    meaning – win/succeed after being in a losing position
    example – The youngster is coming from behind. Can he take the champion’s crown?
  • dark horse
    meaning – an unknown competitor or a person who keeps their talents secret
    example – The dark horse, Duke Runalot beat the favourites to win the race.
  • down to the wire
    meaning – until the last possible moment
    example – The election will go down to the wire. I couldn’t say either way.
  • flog a dead horse
    meaning – continue to focus on something that isn’t going to be a success
    example – Stop flogging a dead horse. Ciara doesn’t want to be with you, stop pestering her.
  • give someone a run for their money
    meaning – almost as good as the opposition
    example – My 3-year-old twins are giving me a run for my money.
  • go the distance
    meaning – persist until the end without quitting
    example – He’s a great tennis player. I think he’ll go the distance.
  • hands down
    meaning – very easily
    example – We won hands down, the other team were rubbish.
  • head start
    meaning – start earlier than the others or have an advantage
    example – I’ve got a head start over the other competitors as I’ve worked for the company before.
  • hold your horses
    meaning – wait and be patient before doing something
    example – Hold your horses. I need to read the contract in detail before I sign anything.
  • homestretch
    meaning – the final stage of a long activity
    example – After tomorrow’s exam, we’re in the homestretch.
  • jockey for position
    meaning – try to get into a better position against your competitors
    example – All candidates are jockeying for position. They’re trying to get the most media coverage.
  • neck and neck
    meaning – equal
    example – The voting is neck and neck, anyone could take the crown.
  • photo finish
    meaning – a competition that is very close towards the end
    example – We need to wait for the footage to be viewed, it was a photo finish.
  • play the field
    meaning – have multiple partners
    example – He’s not marriage material. He likes to play the field.
  • riding high
    meaning – successful/popular/confident
    example – Katy Perry is still riding high in the charts.
  • safe bet
    meaning – certain to happen/win/succeed, confidence can be placed in the outcome
    example – Getting an engineering degree is a safe bet, it’s a good profession.
  • sport of kings
    meaning – horse racing
    example – We’re going to the races to watch the sport of kings.
  • take the reins
    meaning – take control/manage something
    example – I took the reins at the meeting and bagged a new contract. My boss will be pleased.
  • too close to call
    meaning – you can’t predict the outcome, it will be by a small margin
    example – The election is too close to call, either of the 3 could win.
  • two-horse race
    meaning – a competition where there are only two teams/candidates with a chance of winning
    example – The election is turning into a two-horse race.
  • win by a nose
    meaning – win by a very narrow margin
    example – I demand a recount, he won by a nose, it’s not fair.

horse racing idioms and expressions with pictures

horse racing idioms and quotes
horse racing quote - back the wrong horse
horse racing expressions - close call
horse racing expressions - come from behind
horse racing quote - dark horse
horse racing sayings - down to the wire
horse racing sayings - flog a dead horse
horse racing sayings - give someone a run for their money
horse racing sayings - go the distance
horse racing quote - hands down
horse racing sayings - head start
horse racing phrases - hold your horses
horse racing quote - homestretch
horse racing phrases - jockey for position
horse racing phrases - neck and neck
horse racing quote - photo finish
horse racing phrases - play the field
horse racing phrases - riding high
horse racing idiom - safe bet
horse racing idiom - sport of kings
horse racing idiom - take the reins
horse racing idiom - too close to call
horse racing idiom - two-horse race
horse racing idiom - take the reins

You can download a table of horse racing idioms and expressions below.

If you’ve enjoyed this page, don’t forget to check out some more sports idioms by clicking on the links below.