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What is 'Jolly'?

Jolly is a colloquial term used by horse racing enthusiasts to talk about the horse that is favourite to win a particular race. This word will often be heard at racetracks or in betting shops.

'Jolly' Explained

While the term jolly could theoretically be used to talk about a favourite in any sport, it is mostly associated with the sport of horse racing. Simply put, if a horse's odds are shorter than the rest of the horses in the field, then that horse is the favourite, or the jolly.The favourite in a race is determined based on several factors. First and foremost, the horse could be in very good form, and so in this case it might be seen as most likely to win the race. It could also be that the conditions of the racecourse favour the horse, e.g. lots of rain has fallen the night before the race and the jolly prefers soft ground to hard ground. Weight also plays a part in whether a horse is the jolly. Many horses do well in previous races but are not given too much extra weight by the handicappers.Overall, in a horse race the jolly is always examined carefully. Bookies will examine the odds of the jolly in order to balance the books properly, while punters will also watch the odds of the jolly to see if it is a solid favourite (i.e. it is still being backed close to the start of the race), or if the jolly is 'drifting' (i.e. as the start of the race approaches, people are starting to bet on other horses they prefer instead).The term jolly is not as common as it once was, but can still be heard from time to time. It will either be shouted by the punters, e.g. "20 pounds on the jolly", or by the bookies, e.g. "2/1 the jolly".