age: All Thoroughbreds in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate birthdays on January 1. In the Southern Hemisphere, the birthday is August 1.
agent: A person who transacts business for a stable owner or jockey, or is authorized to sell or buy horses for an owner or breeder.
allowance race: A race for which the racing secretary drafts certain conditions, to determine weights to be carried based on the horses; ages, genders and/or past performances.
apprentice: A rider who has not ridden a certain number of winners within a specified period of time. Also known as a bug, from the asterisk (*) next to the rider’s name in the program, used to denote the weight allowance such riders receive.
backstretch: Straight portion of the far side of the racing track between the turns
bay: The entire coat of the horse may vary from a yellow-tan to a bright auburn. The mane, tail and lower portion of the legs are always black, unless white markings are present.
Big Red: Refers to either of two famous chestnut-colored horses: Man o’ War or Secretariat.
blaze: A generic term describing a large, white vertical marking on a horse’s face. The Jockey Club doesn't use blaze, preferring more descriptive words such as snip; star and stripe.
blinkers: A cup-shaped device used to limit a horse’s vision, preventing her from swerving from objects or other horses on either side. Blinker cups come in a variety of sizes and shapes to allow as little or as much vision as the trainer feels is necessary.
break (a horse): 1) To train a young horse to wear a bridle and saddle, carry a rider and respond to a rider’s commands. Usually done when the horse is a yearling. 2) To leave from the starting gate.
breakdown: When a horse suffers a potentially career-ending injury, usually to the leg: “The horse suffered a breakdown” or “The horse broke down.”
break maiden: Horse or rider winning the first race of her/his career. Also known as earning a diploma.
Breeders’ Cup: Thoroughbred racing’s year-end championships. Known as Breeders’ Cup World Championships, it consists of 14 graded races conducted over two days, with purses and awards totaling more than $25 million.
breeze (breezing): Working a horse at a moderate speed, less effort than handily.
bridle: A piece of equipment, usually made of leather or nylon, which fits on a horse’s head, to which other equipment, such as a bit and the reins, are attached.
broodmare: A filly or mare who has been bred and is used to produce foals.
bullet (work): The best workout time for a particular distance on a given day at a track.
call: Running position of horses in a race at various points.
chestnut: A horse color which may vary from redhead-red, to red-yellow to golden-yellow. The mane, tail and legs are usually variations of coat color, with markings exceptions.
claiming race: A race in which each horse entered is eligible to be purchased at a set price. Claims must be made before the race and only by licensed owners or their agents who have a horse registered to race at that meeting or who have received a claim certificate from the stewards.
clerk of scales: An official whose chief duty is to weigh the riders before and after a race to ensure proper weight is/was carried.
colt : An ungelded male horse, 4-years-old or younger.
condition book(s): A series of booklets issued by a racing secretary that set forth conditions of races to be run at a particular racetrack.
conformation: The physical makeup of and bodily proportions (musculature, skeleton, etc.) of a horse, and how it comes together as a whole unit.
daily double: Type of wager calling for the selection of winners of two consecutive races, usually the first and second. See late double.
Daily Racing Form: A daily newspaper containing racing news, data of past performances and handicapping information.
dead heat: Two or more horses finishing a race in a tie.
disqualification: Change in order of finish by officials for an infraction of the rules.
distaff: A female horse. Distaff races are races for female horses.
Eclipse Awards: The U.S. Thoroughbred racing industry’s year-end awards, honoring the top horses in 11 separate categories. The awards’ namesake is Eclipse, the great 18th-century racehorse and sire who was undefeated in 18 career starts and sired the winners of more than 300 races.
entry fee: Money paid by an owner to enter a horse in a stakes race.
exacta (or perfecta): A wager that picks the first two finishers in a race in the exact order of finish.
exacta box: Wagering in which all-possible combinations using a given number of race horses is covered.
exotic (wager): Any wager other than win, place or show. For the mathematically inclined, the amount of combinations in any exotic wager can be figured by a formula in which “n” is the number of horses in your wager and “a” is the number of finishers in the wager (two in an exacta, three in a trifecta, etc.)
farrier: Horseshoer, blacksmith. Also called a plater.
fast (track): Footing that is dry, even and resilient.
filly: Female thoroughbred, 4-years-old or younger, who has not been bred. Female Thoroughbreds who have been bred are called mares, regardless of age.
firm (track): A condition of a turf course corresponding to fast on a dirt track. A firm, resilient surface.
foal (ed): Noun: A horse of either gender in her/his first year of life. Verb: To give birth. Also known as to drop.
fractional time: Intermediate times recorded in a race, as at the quarter, half, three-quarters, etc. The quarter time, for example, refers to the time after the first quarter-mile, not the first 25 percent of the race.
front-runner: A horse whose running style is to attempt to get on or near the lead at the start of the race and to continue there as long as possible.
furlong: One-eighth of a mile, 220 yards, 660 feet.
gait: The characteristic footfall pattern of a horse in motion. Thoroughbreds have four natural
gaits: walk, trot, canter and gallop. Thoroughbreds compete at a gallop.
gate card: A card, issued by the starter, stating that a horse is properly schooled in starting gate procedures.
gelding: A male horse of any age who has been neutered by having both testicles removed (gelded).
graded race: Established in 1973 to classify select stakes races in North America, at the request of European racing authorities, who had established group races two years earlier. There are three grades—1 for the top, followed by 2 and 3, and referred to as the “the Grade-1 Belmont Stakes.” (Sometimes, Roman Numerals are used for the grades.)
gray: A horse color in which the majority of the coat is a mixture of black and white hairs. The mane, tail and legs may be either black or gray unless there are white markings.
half-brother, half-sister: Horses out of the same dam, but by different sires. Horses with the same sire and different dams are not considered half-siblings in Thoroughbred racing.
halter: Like a bridle, but lacking a bit. Used in handling horses around the stable, and when they are not being ridden.
handicap: 1) A race for which the track handicapper assigns the weights to be carried. 2) To make selections on the basis of past performances—to handicap.
handle: The amount of money wagered in the pari-mutuels on a race; a program; during a meeting or for a year.
heat: A race in which more than one running is required to decide the winner. (more common in harness racing)
heavy (track): Wettest possible condition of a turf course; not usually found in North America.
hoof: The foot of the horse. Consists of several parts that play an integral role in supporting the weight of the horse.
hot walker: Person who walks horses to cool them out after workout or races. A horse after a race or workout is called a hot. (“Joe’s at the barn, walking hots.”)
infield: Area encompassed by the inner rail of the racetrack.
inquiry: A review of a race to check into a possible infraction of the rules. Also, a sign flashed by officials on the tote board on such occasions. If lodged by a jockey, it is called an objection. in the money: A horse who finishes first, second or third finishes in the money—or won a piece of the purse money according to position.
(The) Jockey Club: An organization dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing. The Jockey Club serves as North America’s thoroughbred registry, responsible for the maintenance of The American Stud Book, a register of all Thoroughbreds foaled in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada; and of all Thoroughbreds imported into those countries from jurisdictions that have a registry recognized by The Jockey Club and the International Stud Book Committee.
jumper: A steeplechase or hurdle horse.
juvenile: Two-year-old horse of either gender.
lead: Lead weights carried in pockets on both sides of the saddle, used to make up the difference between the actual weight of the jockey and the weight the horse has been assigned to carry during the race.
Leaky Roof Circuit: A slang term for minor tracks.
leg up: 1) To help a jockey mount a horse. 2) A jockey having a mount.
morning line: Probable odds on each horse in a race, as determined by a mathematical formula used by the track handicapper, who tries to gauge both the ability of the horse and the likely final odds as determined by the bettors.
muddy (track): A condition of a racetrack which is wet, but has no standing water.
mudder: A horse who races well on muddy tracks.
mutuel field: See entry.
mutuel pool: Short for pari-mutuel pool. Sum of the wagers on a race or event, such as the win pool, daily double pool, exacta pool, etc.
National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA): A non-profit, membership organization created in 1997 to improve economic conditions and public interest in thoroughbred racing.
nose: The smallest advantage by which a horse can win. Called a short head in Britain.
Oaks: A stakes event for three-year-old fillies (females).
objection: A claim of foul lodged by rider, patrol judge or other official after the running of a race. If lodged by official, it is called an inquiry.
off-track betting: Wagering at legalized betting outlets, usually run by the tracks, management companies specializing in pari-mutuel wagering.
on the board: Finishing in one of the first three positions.
out of the money: A horse who finishes worse than third.
overnight: A sheet published by the racing secretary’s office listing the entries for an upcoming racing card.
pacesetter: The horse who is running in front or in the lead.
Paddock: The area where horses are saddled, mounted by their jockeys and paraded before heading to the track.
pari-mutuel(s): A form of wagering originated in 1865 by Frenchman Pierre Oller, in which all money bet is divided up among those who have winning tickets, after taxes, takeout and other deductions are made. Oller called his system parier mutuel meaning “mutual stake” or “betting among ourselves.” As this wagering method was adopted in England, it became known as Paris mutuels, and soon after, pari-mutuels.
parlay: A multi-race bet in which all winnings are subsequently wagered on each succeeding race.
past performances: A horse’s racing record, earnings, bloodlines and other data, presented in composite form.
pedigree: a horse’s heritage or bloodlines. A horse with a “pedigree” is considered a “purebred” meaning he/she is not of mixed heritage. The purest and oldest breed of domestic horse is the Arabian—and all other breeds (including Thoroughbreds) can trace their lines back to the Arabian Horse.
photo finish: A result so close it is necessary to use the finish-line camera to determine the order of finish.
Pick 3 (P3): Type of wagering calling for the selection of winners of three consecutive races.
Pick 4 (P4): Type of wagering calling for the selection of winners of four consecutive races.
place: Betting a horse to finish first or second.
post: 1) Noun—The starting point for a race. 2) Abbreviation for the phrase, post position as in “He drew post four.” 3) Verb—to record a win as in “He’s posted 10 wins in 14 starts.”
purse: The total monetary amount distributed after a race to the owners of the entrants who have finished in the (usually) top four or five positions. Some racing jurisdictions may pay purse money through other places.
quinella: Wager in which the first two finishers must be picked in either order. See exacta box.
rabbit: A speed horse expected to set a fast pace to help the chances of her/his stablemate.
racing secretary: Official who drafts conditions of races and assigns weights for handicap events.
rail: The barrier on either side of the racing strip. During a race, the rail to which is referred is only that which is closest to the #1 position in the gate. Also known as the fence.
saddle: A thoroughbred racing saddle is the lightest saddle used, weighing less than two pounds.
saddle cloth: A cotton cloth which goes under the saddle to absorb sweat.
schooling: Process of familiarizing a horse with the starting gate and teaching her/him racing practices. A horse may also be schooled in the paddock. In steeplechasing, schooling refers particularly to teaching a horse to jump.
scratch: To be taken out of a race before it starts. Trainers usually scratch horses due to adverse track conditions or a horse's adverse health. A veterinarian can scratch a horse at any time.
show: Betting a horse to finish in first, second or third place.
silks: Jacket and cap worn by riders to designate the owner of a horse. They are stored in the Silks Room.
simulcast: A simultaneous live television transmission of a race to other tracks, off-track betting offices or other outlets for the purpose of wagering.
sire: Noun: The male parent. Verb: To beget foals.
sloppy (track): A racing strip that is saturated with water; with standing water visible.
slow (track): A racing strip that is wet on both the surface and base.
Stakes race: A race for which the owner usually must pay a fee to run a horse. The fees can be for nominating, maintaining eligibility, entering and starting, to which the track adds more money to make up the total purse. Some stakes races are by invitation and require no payment or fee.
stakes horse: A horse whose level of competition includes mostly stakes races.
starting gate: The mechanized metal gates from which the horses start the race. This is considered one of the great safety innovations in racing history.
stewards: Officials of the race meeting responsible for enforcing the rules of racing.
stirrups: Metal “D-shaped” rings into which a jockey places her/his feet. They can be raised or lowered depending on the jockey's preference. Also known as irons.
superfecta: Betting that picks the first four finishers in a race in the exact order of finish.
tack: Noun: A rider’s racing equipment. Also applied to stable gear. Verb: A jockey, including her/his equipment. (“She tacks 112 pounds.”)
tattoo: A permanent, indelible mark on the inside of the upper lip used to identify the horse.
Thoroughbred: A Thoroughbred is a horse whose parentage must trace back to any of the three founding sires, the Darley Arabian, the Byerly Turk and Godolphin Arabian on both the dam and sire sides. Thoroughbreds also must satisfy the rules and requirements of The Jockey Club and are registered in The American Stud Book or in a foreign stud book recognized by The Jockey Club and the International Stud Book Committee. Any other horse, no matter what its parentage, is not considered a Thoroughbred for racing and/or breeding purposes.
top of the stretch: The final turn before the horses head on the final straightaway toward the finish.
track condition: Condition of the racetrack surface. See fast; good; muddy; sloppy; frozen; hard; firm; soft; yielding; heavy.
trifecta: Wagering the first three finishers in exact order.
trifecta box: A trifecta wager in which all-possible combinations using a given number of race horses are bet upon. The total number of combinations can be calculated according to the formula (x3)-(3x2)+(2x), where x equals the amount of race horses in the box. The sum of the formula is then multiplied by the amount wagered on each combination.
valet: A person employed by a racing association to clean and care for a jockey’s tack and other riding equipment.
Veterinarian or V.M.D. for Veterinary Medical Doctor: This person serves as professional adviser and consultant to the State Racing Commission on veterinary matters including all regulatory aspects of the application and practice of veterinary medicine at the track.
win: Betting a horse to finish in first place.
Winner’s Circle: the circular area or enclosure at a racetrack where the winning horse and jockey are brought to receive their awards and have photographs taken.
yearling: A horse in her/his second calendar year of life, beginning January 1 of the year following its birth. This applies to the Northern Hemisphere; the date is August 1 in the Southern Hemisphere.
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