Types of Horse Races

  • Allowance – A non-claiming race with special entry conditions. The eligibility and the weight a horse carries is based on the amount of money or number of races the horse has won. 
  • Claiming – A race in which the horses are for sale at a predetermined price. Horses are claimed prior to the running of the race, but the new owner does not assume control of the horse until after the race has been run.
  • Derby – A stakes for three-year old horses.
  • Distaff – A race for female horses.
  • Handicap – A race, usually a stakes race, where horses are assigned weights to be carried based on the conditions of the race.
  • Maiden – A race for horses that have never won a race (if a horse is disqualified after winning, the horse is still a maiden).  This race may have conditions added to it such as a claiming price, weight allowances or restrictions such as all same sex, age category.
  • Oaks – A stakes race for three-year old fillies.
  • Sprint – A race at a distance less than one mile.
  • Stakes – A high-level race contested by horses of high quality.  Owners often pay fees to nominate, enter and/or run their horses.  Often tracks or sponsors provide additional money to the purse.  Nominations are usually taken weeks in advance of the race, with entries closing at least 72 hours before running the race. 

Starter Allowance

An allowance race for horses that have raced in a claiming race sometime in their racing careers.

Weight for Age

A race where horses carry set weights based upon age, and the older horses carry more weight.

Miscellaneous Horse Racing Terms

  • Apprentice Jockey – A jockey who has ridden for less than a year and who receives weight allowances.
  • Backside – the stabling area.
  • Bleeder – a horse that bleeds during heat exertion, usually from ruptured blood vessels of the nose.
  • Blinkers – Hood worn by a horse to help maintain focus straight ahead.
  • Bug – A weight allowance given to an apprentice rider.
  • Call to Post – The bugle call used to signal the horses onto the racetrack.
  • Chart – the report of a race giving positions of all horses at various places during the race.  Also includes info such as odds, handle, time and comments on the race.
  • Checked – The act of a horse being pulled up briefly by its jockey to avoid trouble.
  • Closer – A horse that does its best running in the later stage of a race.
  • Clubhouse turn – the turn to the right of the grandstand where the clubhouse is normally situated.
  • Conditions – the rules for a race as written by the racing secretary under which a trainer enters horse in a race.  This includes terms of eligibility for entry, purse size, distance, weight condition, etc. 
  • Condition Book – a booklet issued periodically be the Racing Secretary describing conditions of the future races so that trainers and owners can plan which races to ender their horses.
  • Coupled – when two or more horses are entered in a race by one owner, they may be coupled together as one betting entry.  A bet on one horse of an entry is a bet on the other(s) as well.
  • Dark Day – a day is which no racing is scheduled during a race meet.  Tracks may have one or several dark days each week.
  • Dead Heat – The act of two horses having a tie. Dead heats can occur for any placing in a race.
  • Field – The horses in a race.
  • Fraction – The split time and distance of a race. Fractions are normally clocked in ¼ mile intervals.
  • Furlong – 220 yards, or 1/8 of a mile.
  • Hand – Four inches. A horse’s height is measured in hands and inches from the top of the shoulder to the ground.
  • Handle – Total money wagered and can apply to a race, day or season totals.
  • Hit the Board – Those horses who’s numbers on the tote board as first, second, third and fourth.
  • Inquiry – Stewards’ post-race investigation of possible infractions.  The race is not declared official until the stewards have studied the film made of the race and questioned the jockeys involved.  If suspicions are confirmed, violators are disqualified and a new order of finish is posted.
  • Lasix – The brand name of the drug Furosemide, which is used to prevent pulmonary bleeding.
  • Length – A measurement approximating the length of a horse from nose to tail, about 8 feet, used to denote distance between horses in a race.
  • Morning Line – A prediction of the odds for each horse set by the track handicapper prior to the opening of wagering.
  • Outrider – employed by the track to prevent horses from acting up, running away or getting out of control before, during and after a race.
  • Pacesetter – The horse that is running in front during a race.
  • Paddock – The structure or area where horses are saddled and kept prior to entering the track.
  • Pari-mutuel – A system of wagering where all of the money is pooled and then returned to the bettors after a deduction (takeout).
  • Post Position – The position in the starting gate where a horse begins the race.
  • Purse – Money paid to the top finishers in a race.
  • Scratch – The removal of a horse from a race at any point prior to the start.
  • Silks – The jacket and cap worn by the jockey.  Also called ‘colors’.
  • Simulcast – A simultaneous live television transmission of a race to other tracks, off-track betting offices, or other betting outlets.
  • Stewards – The officials responsible for overseeing the racing at a track, ensuring fairness, enforcing the rules of racing, and dispensing punishment for rules infractions.
  • Valet – An assistant who helps keep a jockeys wardrobe (silks) and equipment in order.
  • Weight – The impost that a horse is required to carry in a race. The assigned weight includes the jockey, equipment and supplemental weighting as required.
  • Winners Circle – An enclosure near the track where the winning horse and jockey go to have their picture taken with the horse’s owner and trainer.
  • Wire – The finish line.
  • Workout – An exercise run, usually conducted in the morning.

Track Conditions

  • Fast – A dirt track that is dry, even, resilient and fast.
  • Wet Fast – A track with a firm base, but a wet surface, due to recent rain.
  • Good – A track condition between fast and slow. There is generally a significant amount of water in a good track.
  • Muddy – A racetrack that is wet to the base, but does not have standing water.
  • Off Track – Any track that is not fast.
  • Sloppy – A track that is wet on the surface, with standing water, but that has a firm base.
  • Slow – A slow track is wet on both the surface and base.

Horse Classifications

  • Broodmare – Female horses used for breeding.
  • Broodmare Sire – A sire whose female offspring became producers of racehorses.
  • Colt – A non-gelded male horse less than five years of age.
  • Dam – The mother of a horse.
  • Filly – A female horse less than five years of age.
  • Foal – A baby horse. A horse is a foal from the time it is born until January 1 of the next calendar year.
  • Gelding – A castrated male horse.
  • Horse – A non-gelded male horse five years of age or older.
  • Juvenile – a two-year old horse.
  • Maiden – A horse that is yet to win a race.
  • Mare – A female horse five years of age or older.
  • Sire – The father of a horse.
  • Stallion – Any non-gelded male horse.
  • Stud – A male horse used for breeding.
  • Yearling – A one-year old horse.
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