Horse races are some of the most popular spectator sports in the world. The Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes are all regarded as classics in the United States, while in Europe the 2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby, and St Leger are among the most prestigious events. Behind the romanticized facade of the sport, however, lies a reality of injuries, drug abuse, and gruesome breakdowns for horses that are forced to run at speeds that often cause hemorrhaging in their lungs.
In addition to a thoroughbred’s pedigree and age, a horse’s fitness level, racing history, and previous workouts are important factors in determining its chances of winning a race. A horse’s fitness is assessed by its trainer, who may use various methods to test a horse’s ability to race. These include walking the horse over a certain distance, putting it through a series of trots and canters, or running a horse in a straight line on a track to measure its speed.
WIN- A wager in which the bettor tries to predict the first three finishers in order. A WIN bet pays out at a higher percentage than a PLACE or SHOW bet, but lower than an EXACTA bet.
BACKSTRETCH- A section of the racetrack away from the turns. BRIDGE-JUMPER- A person who makes large show bets on short-priced favorites. BREEZE- Working a horse at a moderate speed; less effort than handily. BROKED SHIN- Inflammation of the front of a horse’s cannon bone, most commonly seen in young horses. BRIGHT- A light color, usually ranging from white to bay.
CLOSING PHASE- A stretch of the racetrack that requires the horses to run faster than earlier in the race. It is typically the longest phase of a race.
POLE- A mark at measured distances around the racetrack, most commonly the quarter pole (a quarter of a mile from the finish line). POSITIONS- The number of stalls in the starting gate from which a horse starts a race.
RACING FIELD- The list of horses entered in a race. A jockey’s stall is assigned according to the weight of the gelding or filly he or she is riding.
SCRATCH- To remove a horse from a race. SCHOOLED- A horse on the schooling list is required to work at the starting gate before being permitted to start in a race.
TRACK BIAS- A racing surface that favors one style of running over another. For example, a fast track will have a faster time at longer distances than a slow track.
TURN- A bend in the racetrack. FLAG- A man stationed a certain distance in front of the starting point of a race to signal the official timing for the race.
A stipulation in most pari-mutuel races that gives a weight advantage to apprentice riders (usually 10 pounds until the fifth winner, seven pounds until the 35th winner, and five pounds for one calendar year from the 35th).