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The meaning and origin of the expression: Back the field

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Back the field

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Meaning

Place a bet on all the horses in a race, except one.

Origin

This is the designation given to the betting against a particular horse (or small group of horses). If a punter believes a horse is sure to lose he can back all the others - 'the field'. This was referred to in the 1878 Chambers's Encyclopedia:

"There are men ... ready to lay against any horse and 'back' the 'field'."