THOROUGHBRED RACING 101
Greetings Race Fans,
Welcome to Thoroughbred Horse Racing 101
Maybe you are a casual fan of horse racing and get caught up in the buzz and pageantry of the historic Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown anticipation. The first Saturday in May is a chance to get reacquainted with horse racing, but it can be confusing if you don’t understand the terminology. Horse racing, like many sports, has its own language. Whether its how to place a bet or words on a race form, it can be a bit perplexing.
Purse, for example, is not an item from Coach or Louis Vuitton. It is the amount of money distributed to the highest finishers. Today most tracks typically award the top five finishers 60%, 20%, 11%, 6%, and 3%. Some will pay out the top six spots. Starting in 2005 the Kentucky Derby included the 5th place finisher in its purse distribution; from 1915-2004 only the first four finishers (and only the first three in most years prior to 1915) in the Derby received purse money.
Furlong is not the length of hair on a horse, it is a unit of distance equal to 1/8 of a mile. Eight furlongs equal one mile. The Kentucky Derby is 1 1/4 miles (10 furlongs), the Preakness is 1 3/16 miles (9 1/2 furlongs), and the Belmont, the longest of the Classics, is a grueling 1 1/2 miles (12 furlongs).
Below you’ll find a short glossary of terms that might be helpful:
- Across the board: A bet on one horse to win, place, and show.
- Allowance or Allowance Race: A non-claiming event in which the racing secretary conditions weight allowances based on previous purse earnings and/or types of victories.
- Apprentice Jockey: A student jockey that will receive a weight allowance of varying degrees depending on his or her experience. Also referred to as a Bug Boy.
- Blinkers: Eye equipment that limits a horse’s vision; generally used to help the horse concentrate on running and to reduce distraction.
- Break Maiden: When a horse or rider wins for the first time.
- Breeze: A term generally used to describe a workout in which a horse is easily running under a hold without encouragement from the rider.
- Broodmare: A female thoroughbred that is used for breeding.
- Claiming Race: A race where each horse in the field has a price and can be purchased by any person that makes a valid claim prior to the running of the race.
- Colt: A male horse.
- Conditions: The circumstances under which a race will be run, such as: surface, distance, purse, and eligibilities.
- Dam: The mother of a horse.
- Derby: A stakes race for three year old horses.
- Exacta: A bet in which the player attempts to pick the 1st and 2nd place horse on one ticket.
- Filly: A female horse
- Foal: A newborn horse.
- Furlong: One eighth of a mile.
- Gelding: A castrated male horse.
- Graded Race: A stakes race that is assigned a grade (I, II, or III) by the American Graded Stakes Committee based on the relative strength of the race as compared to all other races. This is the highest form of racing.
- Half-sister: A female horse out of the same dam as the other horse but with a different sire. Horses with the same sire but different dams are not considered half-sisters or brothers.
- Horse: Technically, a male horse five years old or greater is a “horse”. A male horse under five years of age is technically a “colt”.
- Maiden: A horse that has never won a race; or a race for horses that have never won a race.
- Mare: A female horse aged five or older.
- Middle distance: A race longer than seven furlongs but shorter than 1 1/8 miles.
- Miler: A horse that prefers to race at or near a mile in distance.
- Morning line odds: The odds set by the track prior to the opening of the pools.
- Oaks: A stakes race for three year old fillies.
- Odds: The chances of a horse to win a particular race based on the pari-mutuel wagering of the general public. The payouts for a $2 bet with corresponding odds are listed below:
|Odds||$2 Payout||Odds||$2 Payout||Odds||$2 Payout|
- Post: Starting gate.
- Route: Generally a race that is run around two turns.
- Scratch: To withdraw a horse from a race.
- Shadow roll: A roll of cloth placed across a horse’s nose in order to block its vision of the ground and prevent it from jumping shadows.
- Sire: The father of a horse.
- Spit the bit: When a tired horse stops running hard. Into the bit means when a horse is running hard.
- Sprint: A short race, seven furlongs or less.
- Stallion: An adult male horse that is used for breeding.
- Tag: Claiming price. A horse entered for a “tag” is entered in a claiming race.
- Trifecta: A wager in which the player selects the first three horses in a race in order.
- Trip: The course followed by a horse and rider during the running of a race and describes the “trouble” encountered. A horse that had a “good trip” did not encounter any unusual difficulty. A “bad trip” might involve racing wide, or being boxed in by other horses.
- Turf course: A grass covered course.