North American horse racing terminology
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North American Thoroughbred horse racing terminology:
Additional glossaries at:
- Allowance race
- A race for which the track operator's designated official (usually the Racing Secretary) establishes specific conditions that decides what weights are to be carried by any competing horse based on factors from the horse's previous performances including races won and/or earnings. Entries are restricted to horses meeting certain earnings or other race criteria.
- A young jockey, sometimes called a "Bug," who is still in training. An apprentice is required to ride a certain number of winners in a specified period of time before completing his or her apprenticeship.
- The straightway on the farther side of an elliptical or oval racecourse that is usually opposite the finish line.
- Black type
- In a catalogue, Boldface type indicates a stakes winner if in all caps or stakes-placed runner if in upper and lower mixed case print.
- Blanket finish
- A finish "so close that a blanket would cover all the contestants involved."
- Bloodstock agent
- People who specialize in buying and selling horses on behalf of clients and offer advice on purchasing horses.
- Blue hen
- A mare who produces many high quality offspring who also have a significant impact on the breed.
- Break or Broke
- To leave the starting gate in the initial strides of a race.
- To win easily or can refer to a light training workout over a short distance that is used to gauge a horse's racing potential and performance.
- Broke down
- A horse that has a serious leg problem during a race where they are limping or cannot put a limb on the ground, resulting in either being removed from the track in a horse ambulance or, in the worst cases euthanized.
- Bullet or Bullet work
- The best workout time for a particular distance on a given day at a track, indicated by a printer's "bullet" that precedes the time of the workout in listings. Called a "black-letter" work in some parts of the country.
- Claiming race
- Race in which any competing horse is subject to be purchased for a preset price. A claim is made before the race and can only be acted upon by a licensed owner or their agent. The price is set by the conditions of the race. If the horse wins prize money during the race, the money goes to the previous owner.
- An extension to a straightaway on either the homestretch or the backstretch used for establishing a distance to eliminate the need to begin the race on a turn.
- A horse that performs best during the latter part of the race, usually coming from behind against most of its race competitors.
- The owner and trainer of a horse. The term can also be extended to other members of a racing team or partnership.
- Dead heat
- Term to denote a tie at the finish of the race between two or more horses. A tie with three horses is very rare.
- A stakes race for three-year-olds. The name is often used for the most important race for three-year-olds in a state or region, for instance the Kentucky Derby, Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, Arkansas Derby.
- Eighth pole
- A pole to signal that the finish line is one-eighth of a mile away. Eighth poles are green and white striped
- A horse that has a preferred running style to run at or near the head of the field.
- A race for two-year-old horses for which they have been entered while still a foal; the owners make payments over time to keep their horses eligible. Purses are usually large
- Graded stakes race
- A classification system begun in 1973 to rank stakes races in North America, similar to the Group races of Europe. Classification noted with Roman numerals I, II, or III.
- 1. A race designed to create equality through a system in which the horses are assigned a specific weight that the track handicapper determines is fair based on an assessment of each entrant's potential. 2. The process of selecting winners based on past performances. 3. The amount of weight, sometimes called an impost, carried by the horse
- Head of the stretch
- The beginning of the homestretch.
- Hit the board
- To finish in the top four placings, literally, to appear on the tote board.
- Homestretch or stretch
- The final straight section of the track leading to the finish.
- In the money
- 1. For a horse to finish in the top three placings, where bettors win money. 2. Less often, for the horse to finish in the top four, where the horses win prize money. 
- Two-year-old horses.
- Used to describe the distance between horses during a race and at the finish line. One length is approximately 9 feet or 2.7 m and represents the length of one horse.
- Maiden race
- Specific race for runners that have never won a race, usually by age, but not always.
- Morning line
- The approximate odds before wagering begins and exact odds are established.
- Nom de course
- A name, usually a pseudonym, used by a racehorse owner under which their horse is registered to compete.
- The shortest margin of victory in a race.
- Stakes race for three-year-old fillies.
- The speed of a race. To run a horse "off the pace" means that the horse will not be in the lead for the early part of the race but will advance to the front shortly before the finish of the race.
- Saddling and parading area where horses can be seen prior to the race. See also paddock for agricultural uses.
- Photo finish
- A race result so close that the judges cannot decide the order of finish until they consult photographs taken of the race finish.
- Markers placed at specific distances around the track marking the distance from the finish line, named after the distance remaining, not the distance run, i.e. the quarter pole, eighth pole, sixteenth pole each measure the distance left in the race. One-sixteenth poles are black and white striped. Eighth poles are green and white. Quarter poles are red and white.
- 1. The starting point of a race 2. Post position (see below) 3. (verb) To reference or record a win.
- Post parade
- When the horses in a race travel from the paddock to the starting gate (“post”), past the grandstands.
- Post position
- The number of the individual stalls in the starting gate where horses will begin a race. The first stall (#1 or inside position) is next to the rail at most racetracks with higher numbers on the outside of the track. Post position can be a hindrance or tactical advantage for horses depending on their racing style.
- Pull up
- To pull back on the reins to slowly stop a horse. Jockeys will typically ease a horse to a stop after passing the finish line or if there is a problem with the horse, such as injury, that necessitates a withdraw from a race.
- Quarter pole
- A pole to signal that the finish line is one-quarter of a mile away. Quarter poles are red and white striped.
- Racetrack or Racecourse
- A flat surface made of dirt, grass (turf) or synthetic material, usually arranged in an oval, where races are conducted. Races can either be run in a counterclockwise (left-handed) or clockwise (right-handed) direction around the track. Left-handed, dirt tracks are the predominant form in the United States mostly due to tradition. Tracks typically consist of two turns, a backstretch, a straight (or homestretch) arranged around a central infield and various surrounding structures such as the finish line and stands for spectators.
- Inside fence on a racetrack.
- A horse that is fractious and hard for the jockey to handle.
- Rank outsider
- A horse that is not expected to win a race.
- The silk or nylon jacket and cap worn by a jockey to indicate the owner of the horse. Each owner's unique colors are registered with the national and/or regional racing authority. The first use of registered colors occurred in 1762 at Newmarket Racecourse in England.
- Stakes race
- A race where a fee must be paid to enter, which may include nominating, maintaining eligibility, entering and starting. The track usually adds more money to make up the total purse.see also Graded stakes race
- Steward or track stweard
- One or more racetrack officials responsible for enforcement of racing regulations.
- see homestretch, above.
- Track record/Course record
- The fastest time on a specific racetrack it has taken any Thoroughbred to complete a set race distance on a specific surface. The term track is used if the surface is made of dirt and course is used when it is covered in grass.
- The races preceding a major or important race.
- Race with only one horse going to the post. As a result, the sole starter needs only to gallop the distance of the race to be the official winner and collect the allotted purse or a prescribed portion of it depending on the race regulations in effect. A walkover is a very rare occurrence.
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