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Glossary of Horse Racing Terms

Glossary of Horse Racing Terms

Many horse enthusiasts often are overwhelmed with the terms used in horse racing. Compiled below is a comprehensive list of commonly used horse racing terms. Search alphabetically for a specific term or browse the list for a general overview.

 

A

Across the Board

A bet on a horse to win, place and show.

Added Money

Money added to a race purse, usually in a stakes race, by a breeder's organization, racing association or other specific race-related organization.

Aged

A horse that is four years old or older (also called senior).

ALLOWANCE RACE

A race other than claiming for which the racing secretary drafts certain conditions to determine weights – for higher caliber horses.

ALSO-ELIGIBLE

A horse that is officially entered into a race, but not permitted to race unless the number of race participants is reduced by a horse or horses being scratched.

APPRENTICE

A jockey who receives a weight allowance until they have won a certain number of races. A 10-pound weight allowance is usually allowed until the apprentice jockey wins five races, after which many are allowed a 5-pound weight allowance for a period of one calendar year. Example: If a horse is required by the race conditions to carry 124 pounds, and the horse is to be ridden by a “10-pound” apprentice, the horse will be allowed to carry only 114 pounds.

AT THE POST

The start of a race.

B

BABY RACE

A race exclusively for two-year-olds.

BACKSTRETCH

The straightaway on the far side of the race track. Also refers to the stable area.

BAY

A brown horse with a black mane, tail, nose and lower legs, can range from light brown to dark brown.

BEARING IN (OR OUT)

Deviating from a straight course.

BLACK

A very dark brown horse. A true black horse has no brown hairs on its’ muzzle, tail or mane.

BLACKSMITH

A person who puts shoes on horses. Blacksmith is another word for farrier.

BLINKERS

A “mask” type headgear with lateral cups around the eyes to limit the horse’s peripheral vision. Helps focus the horse and avoid distraction. This equipment is also called “blinds”. Blinkers or Blinds must be declared as part of the horse’s equipment when it races.

BOXED IN

When a horse is racing along the rail or pylons and cannot improve its’ position in the race because of the presence of a horse in front, behind and beside it, also called “Locked in”.

BREAK

When a horse breaks from its’ gait in to a run or gallop, denoted on the program with an “X”. Also to train a young horse to accept saddle, bridle, harness, rider, driver etc.

BREEDER

Owner of the dam (mother horse) at the time foal is born.

BROODMARE

A female horse used for breeding.

BROWN

The colour of a horse that has a brown body and nose, the tail and mane are black.

BUCKSKIN

The colour of a horse that has a dark yellow or gold body and a black mane and tail.

C

CANADIAN PARI-MUTUEL AGENCY (CPMA)

A special operating agency with Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (Federal) that regulates and supervises pari-mutuel betting in Canada on horse races, thereby ensuring that pari-mutuel wagering is conducted in a way this is fair to the public.

CARD

A term for a program of racing. For example, ten races on the card means that ten races will be run for that specific race date.

CHESTNUT

The light reddish – brown colour of a horse. Mane and tail are usually the same colour as the body.

CLAIMING RACE

A race in which all horses entered are subject to being purchased for a specific price, prior to the race. All horses in the race are for sale.

CLASSIC

A race of traditional importance.

COLOURS

The colourful shirt and cap cover or helmet worn by a jockey, that signifies the owner or stable of the horse they are riding (see also “silks”). In Standardbred racing the colours represent the driver. Standardbred drivers register their colours and wear them every time they race.

COLT

An intact male horse under the age of a five (thoroughbred) or under four years of age (Standardbred and Quarter horses).

CONDITION RACE

A race with conditions that limits the class of a horse that can enter. Eligibility is based on sex, money earned or number of races won.

D

Dam

The mother of a horse.

Dead Heat

Two or more horses finish the race at the exact same time.

Derby

A stakes race for 3 year old colts.

Disqualification

Change of order of finish by officials for an infraction of the rules.

Distaff

A race exclusive to fillies and or mares.

Distanced

When a horse finishes a race more than 35 lengths behind the winner.

DQ

Disqualified.

Driver

The person holding a licence or permit to drive harness horses. There are different types of licences, which correspond to differing levels of experience.

E

Early and Late Closing Events

A race requiring a series of payments (made by the trainer or owner) starting closer to the race date. Early and late refers to the time period involved.

Eighth

A furlong; 220 yards, 1/8 of a mile.

Equine

Another word for horse.

Equipment

Harness, blinkers, whip etc., gear worn by a horse, jockey, driver or rider in a race.

F

Farrier

A person who puts shoes on a horse. Also called a blacksmith.

Fast Track

A track condition that is dry and even.

Field

All the horses in a specific race.

Filly

A female horse 4 years of age or younger (Thoroughbred) and 3 years or younger (Standardbred or Quarter horse).

First Over

The first horse to attempt to pass (on the outside) of the leading horse in a race (Standardbred).

Foal

A baby horse that nurses from its mother.

Free-legged

A Standardbred pacer who races without hopples (leg straps).

Furlong

1/8 of a mile, 880 yards, 660 feet.

G

Gait

The way a horse's legs move when it races – trot, gallop, pace, run etc.

Gate

The starting equipment that Thoroughbred and Quarter horses break out of at the beginning of a race. Standardbreds line up behind a gate attached to a vehicle (that is moving) to start a race.

Gelding

A male horse that has been neutered.

Good Track

A track that is not the very best condition but is better than slow or sloppy.

Graded Race

The most important races are assigned “grades” (I, II, or III) based on the quality of previous winners, the purse amount and the race’s influence on other races and championships.

Grey

A horse that’s colour is a mix of white and black hairs, the tail and mane can be light or dark.

Groom

A licensed person responsible for the daily care of a race horse.

H

Hand

A unit (4 inches) of measurement for a horse's height from withers to ground.

Handicapper

A person who attempts to determine the probable winner and finish order of horses in a race.

HANDICAPPING

The art and science of trying to determine the probable winner and finish order of horses in a race.

Harness

The equipment that is used to attach the sulky (race bike) to the Standardbred race horse and enables the driver to steer the horse.

Head

Referred to the distance between horses when the margin is the approximate length of a horse’s head.

Head of the Stretch

Beginning of the straight area of the track that leads to the finish.

Home Stretch

The straight area of track between the last turn and the finish line.

Hopples

The straps that connect the front legs to the back legs on a Standardbred race horse (Pacer). The straps assist and maintain the horse's pacing gait.

Horse

A male horse 4 years of age or older (Standardbred and Quarter horses) 5 years old and older (Thoroughbred).

I

Inquiry

The review of a race by racing officials – Stewards or Judges to check for any infraction of the rules of racing.

Invitational (Open Or Free For All)

Usually a weekly race for the top horses at a racetrack.

J

Jockey

The person who rides a horse in a Thoroughbred or Quarter Horse race.

Judge

A race official responsible for enforcing the rules of racing during a horse race.

L

Lasix

A diuretic medication that may be given to a race horse (by the track veterinarian) four hours prior to a race. Lasix helps control bleeding in the lungs due to extreme exertion.

Length

The measurement of distance between horses based on the average length of a horse from the nose to the start of its tail.

M

Maiden

A horse that has not won a race.

Maiden Race

A race for a group of horses that have not won a race.

Mare

A female horse 5 years old and older (Thoroughbred) or four years old and older (Standardbred and Quarter Horses) or a horse that has been bred.

O

Objection

An infraction made against a horse and or driver/jockey in a race. The claim is made by a race participant immediately after the completion of the race.

Off Track

A betting establishment that is away from the track that the horse races are taking place at. Also refers to a wet race surface.

Official

When the results of a race are confirmed by the Judges or Stewards. Also a person who has the authority to oversee/ execute the rules of racing during a race.

On The Board

Finishing among the first four.

ON THE NOSE

Betting a horse to win only.

Ontario Racing (OR)

Ontario Racing is responsible for directing breed improvement programs, setting an annual program of races and purses, attracting new horse owners, building a fan base and connecting the industry with government and the general public.

Ontario Racing Commission (ORC)

Established in 1950 and merged into the Alcohol and Gaming of Commission of Ontario in April, 2016, the ORC was a crown agency of the Ontario Government, responsible for regulating the horse racing industry in Ontario.

Ontario Sires Stakes

The Ontario Sires Stakes is a race series exclusively for 2 and 3 year old horses. To be eligible to race in the program, the horse must have been sired by a stallion registered and standing in Ontario and stakes payments made by the breeder and owner. The objective of the program is to improve the breed and provide incentives for breeders, owners and trainers to breed, buy and race in Ontario.

OUTRIDER

An official that is riding a horse and leads the race horses to the starting gate (Thoroughbred and Quarter Horses). The Outrider also assists with loose horses on the race track.

OVERNIGHT RACE

A race where horses must be entered to race prior to a specified time and date, as opposed to a stakes race where nominations close far in advance of the race.

OVERWEIGHT

Extra weight carried by a horse when the rider cannot make the required weight.

P

Pace

A Standardbred gait where the front and back legs on the same side of the horse move in unison. This movement is made possible by the use of hopples (leg straps). Also the speed of race set by the leaders in the early stages of a race.

PADDOCK

The area where the horses are prepared for racing.

PHOTO FINISH

When horses cross the finish line very closely and race officials need to review a photo taken by a finish line camera to determine the winner of the race and order of finish.

PLACE

A horse that comes in second at the finish of a race.

POST PARADE

When the horses that are about to start in a race come on to the race track from the paddock area. They walk in front of the stands in single file.

POST TIME

The starting time of a race

PURSE

The total amount of money that can be won in a race by the participants.

PYLON

A horizontal marker located on the inside perimeter of a Standardbred race course.

Q

QUALIFIER

A race in which a horse must establish its ability to participate in an official race. Qualifiers are not wagering races.

QUARTER HORSE RACING

A type of horse racing/ breed of a horse that excels at sprinting short distances (e.g. a 1/4 mile). A quarter horse is a specific breed of horse within the horse species.

R

RACE

A contest of speed among registered Thoroughbred, Standardbred or Quarter Horse horses in accordance to the rules of racing.

RACE SECRETARY

The race official who designs races by drafting specific conditions for each race.

RACE UNDER SADDLE (RUS)

Is a hybrid of harness racing (primarily Standardbred trotters). The rider is positioned on the back of the horse throughout the race – similar to a jockey on a Thoroughbred horse. This form of harness racing does not have a sulky behind the horse. Race under saddle is also known as “Trot Monte”.

RAIL

Barrier installed around the entire inside and outside perimeter of the race course.

RIDGLING

A male horse that has only one descended testicle.

ROAN

Is a horse coat colour characterized by an even mixture of coloured and white hairs. The head, lower legs, mane and tail is are usually solid colours.

S

SADDLE CLOTH

Fabric under and below the saddle that displays the horse's wagering number.

SCRATCH

The removal of a horse from a race prior to the start of the race.

SHOW

Third position at the finish.

SILKS

The colourful cap and jackets a jockey wears during the race.

SIRE

The father of a horse.

SIRES STAKES

Stake races designed to encourage and promote the breeding and racing of race horses. Eligibility to compete in Sires Stakes events depends on the rules of the jurisdiction.

SLOPPY

Track surface condition – wet on top and firm bottom.

STAKES RACES

A race where owners make several payments (nominating, eligibility, entering and starting) in advance, to keep a horse eligible to compete in a special race event. The funds are generally added to the amount put up by the track to make up the total purse.

STALLION (STUD)

An intact male horse used for breeding.

Standardbred Horse Racing

A type of horse racing/ breed of a horse that pulls a race bike (or “sulky”) behind them. The driver sits on the bike. The race distance is usually one mile. A Standardbred horse is a specific breed of horse within the horse species.

Starting Gate

Race track equipment that is partitioned for each horse in the race (Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses). The horses are confined in the individual stall area until the starter releases the doors facing the race course and the horses leave and the race begins. A vehicle with a large gate attached on the back is a starting gate for Standardbred horses. The vehicle is in motion when the horses line up behind the gate. The vehicle moves away from the horses and the gates on the vehicle close after the race has started.

Stewards

Thoroughbred officials responsible for enforcing the rules of racing.

Stretch

The last straight area of a race course before the finish line.

Stud

A male horse that has not been neutered.

Sulky

Another word for race bike. The sulky is attached to the harness and carries the driver during the race (Standardbred).

Suspend (Suspension)

A race participant’s punishment for breaking the rules of racing.

T

Tack

All the equipment used for training and racing a horse.

Take (Takeout)

The commission deducted from the betting pool.

Thoroughbred Horse Racing

A type of horse racing/ breed of a horse that races variable distances on grass (turf) and dirt tracks with a jockey on their back. A thoroughbred horse is a specific breed of horse within the horse species.

TOTE BOARD

The electronic sign on the infield that displays odds, betting pools, and racing information.

Track Record

The fastest time for specific classes of races and distances at a racetrack.

Triple Crown

In Canada, a series of Thoroughbred (horses foaled in Canada) races consisting of the Queen’s Plate, Prince of Wales Stakes and the Breeders’ Stakes. In the United States, Thoroughbred (horses foaled in the United States) race series that include the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont.

Trot

A Standardbred gait where the diagonally opposite front and back legs move in unison.

TROT MONTE

Also known as Race Under Saddle – is a hybrid of harness and thoroughbred racing that has gained popularity in Europe.

TURF COURSE

A Thoroughbred race course that has a grass track.

W

WAGER/ WAGERING

A sum of money that is bet on a sporting event. Wagering is the act of betting. 

WARMING UP

The exercising of a horse on the race track prior to the race.

WEANLING

A foal that is less than a year old and has been separated from its mother.

Y

YEARLING

A young horse that’s age is between its first new year (January 1st) after birth and 2nd new year.