Thoroughbred racing has so many unique words that it could almost be considered its own language! In order to help explain many of the terms that you may here while watching the races, here is a helpful glossary of terms to broaden your understanding of the sport.
A B C D E F G H I J L M N O P Q R S T V W X Y
action: 1) A horse's manner of moving. 2) A term meaning wagering: The horse took a lot of action.
Money added to the purse of a race by the racing association or a breeding or other fund to the amount paid by owners in nomination, eligibility, entry and starting fees.
When a horse extends itself to the utmost.
A race for which the racing secretary drafts certain conditions to determine weights to be carried based on the horse's age, sex and/or past performance.
A horse officially entered for a race, but not permitted to start unless the field is reduced by scratches below a specified number.
Rider who has not ridden a certain number of winners within a specified period of time. Also known as a "bug," from the asterisk used to denote the weight allowance such riders receive.
Weight concession given to an apprentice rider of ten pounds until the fifth winner, seven pounds until the 35th winner, five pounds after the 35th winner. The apprentice is then allowed five pounds for one calendar year after the 40th winner beginning with the date of the 5th winner.
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Stable area, dormitories and a track kitchen, chapel and recreation area for stable employees. Also known as "backstretch," for its proximity to the stable area.
1) Straight portion of the far side of the racing surface between the turns. 2) See backside.
Leg wraps used for support or protection against injury during a race. bar shoe: A horseshoe closed at the back to help support the heel of the hoof. Often worn by horses with quarter cracks or bruised feet.
A horse color that varies from a yellow-tan to a bright auburn. The mane, tail and lower portion of the legs are always black, except where white markings are present.
A stainless steel, rubber or aluminum bar, attached to the bridle, which fits in the horse's mouth and is one of the means by which a jockey exerts guidance and control.
A horse color which is black, including the muzzle, flanks, mane, tail and legs unless white markings are present.
A horse that bleeds from the lungs when small capillaries that surround the lungs' air sacs (alveoli) rupture. The medical term is "exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage" (EIPH). The most common treatment is the use of the diuretic furosemide (Lasix).
A cup-shaped device to limit a horse's vision to prevent him from swerving from objects or other horses on either side of it.
A short, timed workout, usually a day or two before a race, designed to sharpen a horse's speed. Usually three-eighths or one-half of a mile in distance.
Sudden veering from a straight course, usually to the outside rail. bowed tendon: A type of tendinitis. The most common injury to the tendon is a strain or "bowed" tendon, so named because of the appearance of a bow shape due to swelling.
Horse or rider winning the first race of its career.
Working a horse at a moderate speed.
A piece of equipment, usually made of leather or nylon, which fits on a horse's head and is where other equipment, such as a bit and the reins, are attached.
A filly or mare that has been bred and is used to produce foals.
Inflammation of the covering of the bone of the front surface of the cannon bone, to which young horses are particularly susceptible. This is primarily a condition of the front legs.
An apprentice rider.
The best workout time for a particular distance on a given day at a track. From the printer's "bullet" that precedes the time of the workout in listings. Also known as a "black-letter" work in some parts of the country. bullring: A small racetrack, usually less than one mile.
Short for phenylbutazone, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication that is legal in most racing jurisdictions. Often known by the trade names Butazolidin and Butazone.
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A projection on the heels of a horseshoe, similar to a cleat, on the rear shoes of a horse to prevent slipping, especially on a wet track. Also known as a "sticker." Sometimes incorrectly spelled "caulk."
The third metacarpal (front leg) or metatarsal (rear leg), also referred to as the shin bone. The largest bone between the knee and ankle joints.
Wagering favorite in a race. Dates from the days when on-track bookmakers would write current odds on a chalkboard.
See Eclipse Award.
When a jockey slows a horse due to other horses impeding its progress.
A list of superior sires used in the Dosage formula. Pronounced "chef de RAH."
1) A horse color which may vary from a red-yellow to golden-yellow. The mane, tail and legs are usually variations of coat color, except where white markings are present. 2) Horny, irregular growths found on the inside of the legs. On the forelegs, they are just above the knees. On the hind legs, they are just below the hocks. No two horses have been found to have the same chestnuts and so they may be used for identification. Also called "night eyes."
Extension of backstretch or homestretch to permit a straight running start in a race as opposed to starting on or near a turn.
Claim or claiming:
Process by which a licensed person may purchase a horse entered in a designated race for a predetermined price. When a horse has been claimed, its new owner assumes title after the starting gate opens although the former owner is entitled to all purse money earned in that 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.
1) A race of traditional importance. 2) Used to describe a distance, i.e., a race at the American classic distance, which is 1 1/4 miles. The European classic distance is 1 1/2 miles.
When a horse lifts its front legs abnormally high as it gallops, causing it to run inefficiently.
Generally, the turn on a racing oval that is closest to the clubhouse facility; usually the first turn after the finish line.
An ungelded (entire) male horse four-years-old or younger.
A series of booklets issued by a racing secretary, which set forth conditions of races to be run at a particular racetrack.
The requirements of a particular race. This may include age, sex, money or races won, weight carried and the distance of the race.
A fracture in the lower knobby end (condyle) of the lower (distal) end of a long bone such as the cannon bone or humerus (upper front limb).
Two or more horses running as an entry in a single betting unit.
A dry and loose racing surface that breaks away under a horse's hooves.
Top portion of a racetrack.
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Daily Racing Form (DRF):
Daily Racing Form, "America's Turf Authority Since 1894," was born in Chicago on Nov. 17, 1894 when it first appeared as a four-page broadsheet. Over the last 113 years, DRF has been the country's only daily national newspaper dedicated to the coverage of a single major sport. DRF is the most complex newspaper in North America, publishing up to 2,000 unique pages of statistical and editorial copy every day, in as many as 25 daily editions, 364 days a year (with the exception of Christmas Day).
dam: The female parent of a foal.
dam's sire (broodmare sire):
The sire of a broodmare. Used in reference to the maternal grandsire of a foal.
dark bay or brown:
A horse color that ranges from brown with areas of tan on the shoulders, head and flanks, to a dark brown, with tan areas seen only on the flanks and/or muzzle. The mane, tail and lower portions of the legs are always black unless white markings are present.
In the United States, a horse withdrawn from a stakes race in advance of scratch time. In Europe, a horse confirmed to start a race.
Rubber traffic cones (or a wooden barrier) placed at certain distances out from the inner rail, when the track is wet, muddy, soft, yielding or heavy, to prevent horses during the workout period from churning the footing along the rail.
dorsal displacement of the soft palate:
A condition in which the soft palate, located on the floor of the airway near the larynx, moves up into the airway. A minor displacement causes a gurgling sound during exercise while in more serious cases the palate can block the airway. This is sometimes known as "choking down."
Although there are actually many "Dosage theories," the one most commonly thought of as Dosage is the one as interpreted by Dr. Steven Roman. A variation of Dr. Franco Varola's work on pedigree analysis, the system identifies patterns of ability in horses based on a list of prepotent sires, each of whom is a chef-de-race. The Dosage system puts these sires into one of five categories: brilliant, intermediate, classic, solid and professional, which quantify speed and stamina. Sires can be listed in up to two chef-de-race categories. Each generation of sires is worth 16 points, divided up by the amount of sires, i.e., the immediate sire is worth 16 points while the four sires four generations back are worth four points apiece.
Dosage index (DI):
A mathematical reduction of the Dosage profile to a number reflecting a horse's potential for speed or stamina. The higher the number, the more likely the horse is suited to be a sprinter. The average Dosage index of all horses is about 4.0.
A horse that is all out to win and under strong urging from its jockey.
Extremely late in breaking from the gate.
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Thoroughbred racing's year-end awards, honoring the top horses and humans in several categories. The Eclipse Awards are presented by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers Association. Any Eclipse Award-winner is referred to as a champion. entrapped epiglottis: A condition in which the thin membrane lying below the epiglottis moves up and covers the epiglottis. The abnormality may obstruct breathing. Usually treated by surgery to cut the membrane if it impairs respiratory function.
Two or more horses with common ownership (or in some cases trained by the same trainer) that are paired as a single betting unit in one race and/or are placed together by the racing secretary as part of a mutuel field. Rules on entries vary from state to state. Also known as a "coupled entry."
A partnership between The Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Racing Associations to establish and maintain an industry-owned, central database of racing records. Equibase past-performance information is used in track programs across North America.
A wager in which the first two finishers in a race must be selected in exact order. Called an "extractor" in Canada and formerly called a "perfecta" at some American racetracks.
exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage:
Experimental Free Handicap:
A year-end projection of the best North American two-year-olds of the season, put together by a panel under the auspices of The Jockey Club, that is based on performances in unrestricted races. Two lists are drawn up, one for males and one for females.
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Footing that is dry, even and resilient.
Joint located between the cannon bone and the long pastern bone, also referred to as the "ankle."
field horse (or mutuel field):
Two or more starters running as a single betting unit (entry), when there are more starters in a race than positions on the totalizator board.
Female horse four-years-old or younger.
A condition of a turf course corresponding to fast on a dirt track. A firm, resilient surface.
A very tired horse that slows considerably.
Fontana safety rail:
An aluminum rail, in use since 1981, designed to help reduce injuries to horse and rider. It has more of an offset (slant) to provide greater clearance between the rail and the vertical posts as well as a protective cover to keep horse and rider from striking the posts.
The Darley Arabian, Byerly Turk and Godolphin Barb. Every Thoroughbred must be able to trace its parentage to one of the three founding sires.
The V-shaped, pliable support structure on the bottom of the foot.
One-eighth of a mile, 220 yards, 660 feet.
A medication used in the treatment of bleeders, commonly known under the trade name Lasix, which acts as a diuretic, reducing pressure on the capillaries.
A race for two-year-olds in which the owners make a continuous series of payments over a period of time to keep their horses eligible. Purses for these races vary but can be considerable.
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A male horse of any age that has been neutered by having both testicles removed ("gelded").
An elastic and leather band, sometimes covered with sheepskin, that passes under a horse's belly and is connected to both sides of the saddle.
A dirt track that is almost fast or a turf course slightly softer than firm.
grab a quarter:
Injury to the back of the hoof or foot caused by a horse stepping on itself (usually affects the front foot). Being stepped on from behind in the same manner, usually affects the back foot. A common, usually minor injury.
Established in 1973 to classify select stakes races in North America, at the request of European racing authorities, who had set up group races two years earlier. Capitalized when used in race title (the Grade I Belmont Stakes). See group race.
A horse color where 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 white markings are present. Starting with foals of 1993, the color classifications gray and roan were combined as "roan or gray." See roan.
Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation:
A charitable organization, established in 1989, which combined the Grayson Foundation (established 1940) and The Jockey Club Research Foundation (established 1982). The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation is devoted to equine medical research.
Established in 1971 by racing organizations in Britain, France, Germany and Italy to classify select stakes races outside North America. Collectively called "pattern races." Equivalent to North American graded races. Capitalized when used in race title (the Group 1 Epsom Derby). See graded race. 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.
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Like a bridle, but lacking a bit. Used in handling horses around the stable and when they are not being ridden.
Four inches. A horse's height is measured in hands and inches from the top of the shoulder (withers) to the ground, e.g., 15.2 hands is 15 hands, 2 inches. Thoroughbreds typically range from 15 to 17 hands.
1) Race for which the track handicapper assigns the weights to be carried. 2) To make selections on the basis of past performances.
1) Working in the morning with maximum effort. 2) A comparatively easy winning effort in a race.
Amount of money wagered in the parimutuels on a race, a program, during a meeting or for a year.
Wettest possible condition of a turf course; not usually found in North America.
A large joint just above the shin bone in the rear legs. Corresponds to the level of the knee of the front leg.
When reference is made to sex, a "horse" is an ungelded male five-years-old or older.
Person who walks horses to cool them out after workout or races. in the money: A horse that finishes first, second or third.
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Area encompassed by the inner rail of the turf course.
Reviewing the 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 objections.
The Jockey Club:
An organization dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing. Incorporated Feb. 10, 1894 in New York City, 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.
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An inflammation of the sensitive laminae of the foot, which usually manifests itself in the front feet, develops rapidly, and can be life-threatening. In mild cases, a horse can resume a certain amount of athletic activity. Also known as "founder."
A measurement approximating the length of a horse, used to denote distance between horses in a race.
A stakes race just below a group race or graded race in quality. maiden: 1) A horse or rider that has not won a race. 2) A female that has never been bred.
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Female horse five-years-old or older.
Broadly, from one mile to 1 1/8 miles.
A mutuel pool caused when a horse is so heavily played that, after deductions of state tax and commission, there is not enough money left to pay the legally prescribed minimum on each winning bet. The betting site where the wager was placed is responsible for making up the difference.
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.
A condition of a racetrack which is wet but has no standing water.
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name (of a Thoroughbred):
Names of North American Thoroughbreds are registered by The Jockey Club. They can be no longer than 18 characters, including punctuation and spaces. The words "the," "and," "by," "for," "in" and "a" are almost always lower case unless they are the first word in the name. Examples: "Love You by Heart," "Go for Wand."
National Thoroughbred Racing (NTRA):
A broad-based coalition of Thoroughbred industry interests, including racetracks, owners, breeders off-track betting organizations, trainers, jockeys, sales companies and others. Established in April, 1988 as a central league office for Thoroughbred racing, the mission of NTRA is to increase awareness and popularity of the sport and improve the economic conditions in the Thoroughbred industry.
New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA):
A not-for-profit racing association, established in 1955, which operates the three largest racetracks in New York-Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course. It is not-for-profit corporation, governed by a Board of Trustees, whose members, by law, receive no compensation or dividends. The NYRA conducts more graded stakes than any racing association in the world.
nose band: A leather strap that goes over the bridge of a horse's nose to help secure the bridle. A "figure eight" nose band goes over the bridge of the nose and under the rings of the bit to help keep the horse's mouth closed. This keeps the tongue from sliding up over the bit and is used on horses that do not like having a tongue tie used.
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A stakes event for three-year-old fillies such as the Coaching Club American Oaks.
Claim of foul lodged by a rider, patrol judge or other official after the running of a race. If lodged by an official, it is called an inquiry.
Odds of less than even money.
Wagering at legalized betting outlets usually run by the tracks, management companies specializing in parimutuel wagering or, in New York State, by independent corporations chartered by the state. Wagers at OTB sites are usually commingled with on-track betting pools.
A horse going off at higher odds than it appears to warrant based on its past performances.
A race in which entries close a specific number of hours before running (such as 48 hours), as opposed to a stakes race, for which nominations close weeks and sometimes months in advance.
A horse carrying more weight than the conditions of the race require, usually because the jockey exceeds the stated limit.
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Area where horses are saddled and paraded before being taken onto the track.
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 mutuals," and soon after "parimutuels."
A horse's racing record, earnings, bloodlines and other data, presented in composite form.
Official(s) who observe the progress of a race from various vantage points around the track.
phenylbutazolidan or phenylbutazone:
A result so close that it is necessary to use the finish-line camera to determine the order of finish.
A type of multi-race wager in which the winners of three designated races must be selected.
Small numbered ball used in a blind draw to decide post positions.
A person who buys a racehorse with the specific intention of re-selling it at a profit.
Second position at finish.
Markers at measured distances around the track designating the distance from the finish. The quarter pole, for instance, is a quarter of a mile from the finish, not from the start.
The top of the horse's head, between the ears.
Horses going from paddock to starting gate past the stands.
Position of stall in starting gate from which a horse starts.
Designated time for a race to start.
When a horse suddenly stops moving by digging its front feet into the ground.
The total monetary amount distributed after a race to the owners of the entrants who have finished in the top five positions.
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A crack between the toe and heel.
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A horse with one or both undescended testes.
A horse that finishes a race under mild urging, not as severe as driving.
A horse color where the majority of the coat of the horse is a mixture of red and white hairs or brown and white hairs. The mane, tail and legs may be black, chestnut or roan unless white markings are present. Starting with foals of 1993, the color classifications gray and roan were combined as "roan or gray." See gray.
Broadly, a race distance of longer than 1 1/4 miles.
Abrasions of the heel.
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A Thoroughbred racing saddle is the lightest saddle used, weighing less than two pounds.
scale of weights:
Fixed weights to be carried by horses according to their age, sex, race distance and time of year.
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.
Two small bones (medial and lateral sesamoids) located above and at the back of the fetlock joint. Four common fractures of the sesamoids are apical (along the top of the bone), abaxial (the side of the sesamoid away from the ankle joint), mid-body (sesamoid broken in half) and basilar (through the bottom) fractures.
A (usually sheepskin) roll that is secured over the bridge of a horse's nose to keep it from seeing shadows on the track and shying away from or jumping them.
Stable area. A row of barns.
Third position at the finish.
Jacket and cap worn by riders to designate owner of the horse.
A simultaneous live television transmission of a race to other tracks, off-track betting offices or other outlets for the purpose of wagering.
1) The male parent. 2) To beget foals.
A racing strip that is saturated with water; with standing water visible.
A racing strip that is wet on both the surface and base.
Condition of a turf course with a large amount of moisture. Horses sink very deeply into it.
Three-year-old horses. Called sophomores because age three is the second year of racing eligibility.
spit the bit:
A term referring to a tired horse that begins to run less aggressively, backing off on the "pull" a rider normally feels on the reins from an eager horse. Also used as a generic term for an exhausted horse.
1) Either of the two small bones that lie along the sides of the cannon bone. 2) The condition where calcification occurs on the splint bone causing a bump. This can result from response to a fracture or other irritation to the splint bone.
Short race, less than one mile.
A race for which the owner usually must pay a fee to run a horse. The fees, to which the track adds more money to make up the total purse, can be for nominating, maintaining eligibility, entering and starting. Stakes races by invitation require no fees.
A horse being taken in hand by its rider, usually because of being in close quarters.
Officials of the race meeting responsible for enforcing the rules of racing.
Metal "D"-shaped rings into which a jockey places his/her feet. They can be raised or lowered depending on the jockey's preference. Also known as "irons."
Bend of track into the final straightaway.
Registry and genealogical record of Thoroughbreds, maintained by the Jockey Club of the country in question. Use lower case when describing a generic stud book, all words, including "The," are capitalized when describing The American Stud Book.
The bettor is required to select the first four finishers in exact order.
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A horse pulled up sharply by its rider because of being in close quarters.
A permanent, indelible mark on the inside of the upper lip used to identify the horse.
A Thoroughbred is a horse whose parentage traces back to any of the three "founding sires": the Darley Arabian, Byerly Turk and Godolphin Barb, and who has satisfied the rules and requirements of The Jockey Club and is registered in The American Stud Book or in a foreign stud book recognized by The Jockey Club and the International Stud Book Committee.
tongue tie (or strap):
Strip of cloth-type material used to stabilize a horse's tongue to prevent the horse from "choking down" in a race or workout or to keep the tongue from sliding up over the bit, rendering the horse uncontrollable.
The (usually) electronic totalizator display in the infield which reflects up-to-the-minute odds. It may also show the amounts wagered in each mutuel pool as well as information such as jockey and equipment changes, etc. track bias: A racing surface that favors a particular running style or position, e.g., front-runners or horses running on the inside.
The bettor is required to select the first three finishers in exact order.
Used generically to denote a series of three important races, but is always capitalized when referring to historical races for three-year-olds. In the United States, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. In England, the 2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby and St. Leger Stakes. In Canada, the Queen's Plate, Prince of Wales Stakes and Breeders' Stakes.
Rear shoe that is turned down 1/4-inch to one inch at the ends to provide better traction on an off-track. Illegal in many jurisdictions.
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A person employed to clean and care for a jockey's tack and other riding equipment.
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A race in which only one horse competes.
A horse that becomes so nervous that it sweats profusely. Also known as "washy" or "lathered (up)."
A foal that is less than one-year-old that has been separated (weaned) from its dam.
An allowance condition in which each entrant is assigned a weight according to its age. Females usually receive a sex allowance as well. (Compare with a handicap race.)
A horse color, extremely rare, in which all the hairs are white. The horse's eyes are brown, not pink, as would be the case for an albino.
Area above the shoulder, where the neck meets the back.
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A horse in its second calendar year of life, beginning Jan. 1 of the year following its birth.
Condition of a turf course with a great deal of moisture. Horses sink into it noticeably.
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