Glossary of North American horse racing

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Glossary of North American horse racing:[1]

Additional glossaries at:


Advanced Deposit Wagering
Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) is a form of horse race gambling in which the bettor must fund his or her account before being allowed to place bets. ADW is often conducted online or by phone.[2]
Allowance race
A race for which the track operator's designated official (usually the Racing Secretary) establishes specific conditions that determine what weights are to be carried by any competing horse based on factors from the horse's previous performances including races won and/or earnings.[3] Entries are restricted to horses meeting certain earnings or other race criteria.[4]
Allowance optional claiming
See Optional claiming
A young jockey, sometimes called a "Bug," who is still in training. An apprentice is required to ride a certain number of winners in a specified period of time before completing his or her apprenticeship.[5]


Also sometimes called the backstretch (see "backstretch", below), an area with restricted access, usually behind the track, where the stables and residential living areas for staff are located.[6]
The straightway on the farther side of an elliptical or oval racecourse that is usually opposite the finish line.[7]
Black type
In a catalogue, Boldface type indicates a stakes winner if in all caps or stakes-placed runner if in upper and lower mixed case print.[8]
Blanket finish
A finish "so close that a blanket would cover all the contestants involved."[9]
Bloodstock agent
People who specialize in buying and selling horses on behalf of clients and offer advice on purchasing horses.[10]
Blue hen
A mare who produces many high quality offspring who also have a significant impact on the breed.[8]
Break or Broke
To leave the starting gate in the initial strides of a race.[11]
To win easily[12] or can refer to a light training workout over a short distance that is used to gauge a horse's racing potential and performance.[13]
Broke down
A horse that has a serious leg problem during a race where they are limping or cannot put a limb on the ground, resulting in either being removed from the track in a horse ambulance or, in the worst cases euthanized.[14]
Bullet or Bullet work
The best workout time for a particular distance on a given day at a track, indicated by a printer's "bullet" that precedes the time of the workout in listings. Called a "black-letter" work in some parts of the country.[3]


An extension to a straightaway on either the homestretch or the backstretch used for establishing a distance to eliminate the need to begin the race on a turn.[3]
Claiming race
Race in which any competing horse is subject to be purchased for a preset price. A claim is made before the race and can only be acted upon by a licensed owner or their agent.[3] The price is set by the conditions of the race. If the horse wins prize money during the race, the money goes to the previous owner.[15]
A horse that performs best during the latter part of the race, usually coming from behind against most of its race competitors.[3]
Conditions are "the eligibility requirements of a horse running in a race, such as age, sex, number of wins, and amount of money won."[16]
The owner and trainer of a horse. The term can also be extended to other members of a racing team or partnership.[3]


Dead heat
Term to denote a tie at the finish of the race between two or more horses.[3] A tie with three horses is very rare.[citation needed]
A stakes race for three-year-olds.[3] The name is often used for the most important race for three-year-olds in a state or region, for instance the Kentucky Derby, Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, Arkansas Derby.[citation needed]
Did Not Finish (DNF)
A horse that did not finish the race, for any of a number of reasons


Horses going past the eighth pole at Santa Anita Park
When a jockey deliberately slows down a horse during a race, often to prevent injury or harm to the horse.[17]
Eighth pole
A pole to signal that the finish line is one-eighth of a mile away.[17] Eighth poles are green and white striped[8]


Also called a Pacesetter,[18] a horse that has a preferred running style to run at or near the head of the field. Compare: stalker, closer.[3]
A distance equal to 220 yards (18 mile or 200 m)[19]
A race for two-year-old horses for which they have been entered while still a foal; the owners make payments over time to keep their horses eligible. Purses are usually large[3]


Graded stakes race
A classification system begun in 1973 to rank stakes races in North America, similar to the Group races of Europe. Classification noted with Roman numerals I, II, or III.


1. A race designed to create equality by the horses being assigned different, specific weights determined by the track handicapper based on an assessment of each entrant's potential.[20] 2. The process of selecting winners based on past performances.[3] 3. The amount of weight, sometimes called an impost, carried by the horse.
Working or racing with moderate effort, more than a breeze.[17]
Hand ride
When the jockey urges a horse just with his/her hands and does not use the whip.[17]
Head of the stretch, top of the stretch
The beginning of the homestretch.[3]
Hit the board
To finish in the top four placings, literally, to appear on the tote board.[21]
Homestretch or stretch
The final straight section of the track leading to the finish.[3]


In the money
1. For a horse to finish in the top three placings, where bettors win money. 2. Less often, for the horse to finish in the top four, where the horses win prize money.[21]


Two-year-old horses.[3]


Used to describe the distance between horses during a race and at the finish line. One length is approximately 8 feet or 2.4 m and represents the length of one horse.[22]


Maiden race
Specific race for runners that have never won a race, usually by age, but not always.[17]
Morning line
The approximate odds before wagering begins and exact odds are established.[17]


New shooter
A horse which skipped the Kentucky Derby to run in the Preakness Stakes[23] or Belmont Stakes.[24]
Nom de course
A name, usually a pseudonym, used by a racehorse owner under which their horse is registered to compete.[17]
The shortest margin of victory in a race.[17]


Stakes race for three-year-old fillies.[3]
Optional claiming
A race where a horse can either meet the conditions of the race or be entered for a claiming price.[25]


The speed of a race. To run a horse "off the pace" means that the horse will not be in the lead for the early part of the race but will advance to the front shortly before the finish of the race.[26]
See Frontrunner. Compare: closer, stalker
Saddling and parading area where horses can be seen prior to the race.[3] See also paddock for agricultural uses.
Photo finish
A race result so close that the judges cannot decide the order of finish until they consult photographs taken of the race finish.[8]
Markers placed at specific distances around the track marking the distance from the finish line, named after the distance remaining, not the distance run, i.e. the quarter pole, eighth pole, sixteenth pole each measure the distance left in the race.[17] One-sixteenth poles are black and white striped. Eighth poles are green and white. Quarter poles are red and white.[8]
1. The starting point of a race 2. Post position (see below) 3. (verb) To reference or record a win.[3]
Post parade
When the horses in a race travel from the paddock to the starting gate (“post”), past the grandstands.[8]
Post position
The number of the individual stalls in the starting gate where horses will begin a race.[17] The first stall (#1 or inside position) is next to the rail at most racetracks with higher numbers on the outside of the track. Post position can be a hindrance or tactical advantage for horses depending on their racing style.[27]
Pull up
To pull back on the reins to slowly stop a horse. Jockeys will typically ease a horse to a stop after passing the finish line or if there is a problem with the horse, such as injury, that necessitates a withdrawal from a race.[28]


Quarter pole
A pole to signal that the finish line is one-quarter of a mile away.[17] Quarter poles are red and white striped.[8]


Generic left-handed racetrack diagram: A = finish line, B = grandstand, C/black = chute, Yellow = homestretch, Red = first turn, Blue = backstretch, Green = 2nd/last turn, gray inside line = rail and the white center is the infield. Black dots note standard locations of the poles that measure distance to the finish.
Female horse (mare) who has competed in sanctioned Thoroughbred races.[17]
Racetrack or Racecourse
A flat surface made of dirt, grass (turf) or synthetic material, usually arranged in an oval, where races are conducted. Races can either be run in a counterclockwise (left-handed) or clockwise (right-handed) direction around the track. Left-handed, dirt tracks are the predominant form in the United States mostly due to tradition.[29] Tracks typically consist of two turns, a backstretch, a straight (or homestretch) arranged around a central infield and various surrounding structures such as the finish line and stands for spectators.[29]
Inside fence on a racetrack.[17]
A horse that is fractious and hard for the jockey to handle.[30]
Rank outsider
A horse that is not expected to win a race.[31]
A deliberate action by the jockey to keep a horse "off the pace".[26]
Ridden out
When a horse works out or wins under a vigorous hand ride but is not whipped.[17]


To remove a horse from a race before it is run.[3]
Sealed track
Packing down a track surface when it rains so that the water drains off the surface.[32]
The silk or nylon jacket and cap worn by a jockey to indicate the owner of the horse.[3] Each owner's unique colors are registered with the national and/or regional racing authority.[citation needed] The first use of registered colors occurred in 1762 at Newmarket Racecourse in England.[citation needed]
Stakes race
A race where a fee must be paid to enter, which may include nominating, maintaining eligibility, entering and starting. The track usually adds more money to make up the total purse.[3]see also Graded stakes race
A horse whose running style is to stay just behind the leaders. Compare: Closer, pacesetter.[18]
Steward or track steward
One or more racetrack officials responsible for enforcement of racing regulations.[3]
see homestretch, above.[3]


Top of the stretch
See Head of the Stretch
Track record/Course record
The fastest time on a specific racetrack it has taken any Thoroughbred to complete a set race distance on a specific surface. The term "track" is used with dirt or artificial surfaces, and "course" is used with grass surfaces.[citation needed]


The races on the same day that precede a major or important race.[33]


Race with only one horse going to the post.[3] As a result, the sole starter needs only to gallop the distance of the race to be the official winner, but covering the distance is required by racing rules.[17]
Weight for Age
Race with a fixed amount of weight carried by horses based on their age, sex or other parameters such as time of year or distance of race.[17]
Winner's circle
The area next to a racetrack, usually enclosed, where the winning horse and jockey are brought for photographs and awards.[34]
Wire to wire
When a horse leads the race from start to finish.[35]


  1. Hollywood Park - Beginners Corner glossary
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External links