Glossary of Racing Terms

Allowance race: A race featuring conditions for participation such as amount of money won or number of races won in a certain time period.

Apprentice: A rider who has not won five races is entitled to a 10-pound “allowance,” which is to say his mount may carry 10 pounds less than the competition, and a seven-pound allowance until he has ridden an additional 30 winners; if he has ridden 35 winners prior to the end of one year from the date of riding his fifth winner, he shall have an allowance of five pounds until the end of that year. Also called a “bug” rider because an asterisk is often used in the program to denote apprenticeship.

Bay: The light brownish color of some horses’ coats.

Black: The color of some horses.

Blinkers: A hood with plastic cups surrounding the eye holes that restrict visibility, helping the horse to focus on what lies ahead by eliminating distractions from the sides.

Bobbled: Horses can lose their action if they take a misstep while racing.

Breeder: Owner of a pregnant mare at the time she delivers the foal (baby horse of either sex).

Breeders’ Cup: Racing’s international championship day, with 14 races offering prize money totaling $25.5 million. The BC?is annually held in late October or early November, changing venues from one year to the next, and attracts the world’s best horses in training.

Broodmare: A female horse out to pasture for breeding purposes; a broodmare sire is the sire, or father, of such a female.

Brown: A dark brown color of some horses’ coats.

Checked: Horses on occasion could be pulled up briefly if the horse in front of them slows down dramatically and there is nowhere for them to go.

Chestnut: Horse with a reddish-colored coat.

Chute: The extensions that break off from a typically oval racetrack that allow for races to be conducted at distances which, if begun on the oval, would begin on the turn and would thereby disadvantage horses who started on the outside.

Circuit: A geographical grouping of tracks whose race meetings are coordinated to run in succession.

Claiming Races: Races in which all horses entered are for sale. A “claimer” is a horse who runs in these races.

Clockers: People who time, or clock, morning workouts; the time is taken in hundredths or in fifths of a second.

Colt: A male less than 5 years old who is capable of future service at stud.

Condition Book: A track-published pamphlet that contains rules and regulations of racing, and information on purses, weight assignments and terms of eligibility for every race at the meeting. They are free of charge and available at the racing office.

Dam: The mother of a horse.

Derby: A race usually of considerable value for 3-year-old horses.

Dogs: Orange traffic cones that are used during workout hours to protect the inside part of a racetrack or turf course.

Filly: A female 4 years old or less.

Furlong: One-eighth of a mile, 660 feet or 220 yards.

Gelding: A horse whose testicles were removed often because of poor temperament and/or a growth disorder.

Graded Stakes: A committee of racing authorities from across the nation who rank stakes in order of importance, according to a grading system based on the historic, overall quality of the horses that have competed in them. There are Grade 1, 2 and 3 races, with the lower the number the more prestigious the race.

Gray: A horse with white hairs in his coat.

Groom: The horse’s caregiver, the person who “grooms” the horse, cleans its stall and often spends the most time with it.

Hand: A term used to measure the height of a horse, each hand being four inches.

Handicap: A race in which, based on past performance, the racing secretary assigns individual weights to horses in the hopes of creating an evenly matched race; good horses carry more weight; handicapping is the process by which that determination is made.

Handicapper: A person, either a professional or amateur, who attempts to predict the outcome of a race.

Handle: The total amount of money wagered on a race, at a racetrack or at a simulcast center, or both.

Horse: A horse is a horse of course, but, on the racetrack, a “horse” is a male 5 years old and older.

Jockey Club: Long-standing organization that approves thoroughbred names and keeps the registry known as the American Stud Book.

Lead pony: The horse who escorts thoroughbreds once they enter the racetrack.

Length: The average body length of a running horse, usually about 10 feet, used to measure the margin of victory or defeat.

Longshots: The horses given the least chance to win a race; payoffs can be huge if they win.

Maiden Special Weight: Races in which none of the participants have won a race; the participants are known as “maidens.”

Inquiry: The investigation of a race by the stewards, based on their own observances or the objection of a jockey or, on rare occasion, the trainer.

Mare: A female 5 years old or older.

Objection: Usually registered by a jockey and or stewards, but occasionally by a trainer, this act touches off a stewards’ investigation into the running of a race.

Odds-on: If a horse is so heavily favored that the payoff is less than equal to the amount wagered, the horse is said to be odds-on or an odds-on favorite.

Outrider: The mounted person in charge of leading a field of horses to the track and through the post parade; he or she may also be called upon to catch loose horses.

Overnight Race: A race in which entries are drawn 48 hours in advance. The phrasing goes back to the day when race entries were drawn the day before.

Paddock: The area where horses are saddled before a race.

Pools: The total amount of money bet on each brand of wager, such as win pools, place pools, etc.

Posts: The stalls in the starting gate from which a horse begins a race.

Post parade: The formal presentation of the field of horses before each race; after leaving the walking ring they are paraded before the grandstand and clubhouse, typically about 10 minutes before each race.

Post time: The time when a race is scheduled to start.

Purse: The money value of a race.

Restricted races: Races limited to only particular horses, for instance, those bred in a particular state.

Roan: See Gray/Roan

Saddlecloth: The piece of cloth placed under the saddle that bears the program number of a horse competing in a race.

Shedrow: The pathway inside a barn.

Silks: The colorful shirts, which represent a horse's owner(s), that jockeys wear during a race; also known as “colors.”

Sire: The father of a horse.

Stable: An owner's racing enterprise.

Stakes: A race for top-quality horses. The race may specify the sex and age of its participants and further differentiated by a grading system whereupon Grade 1 stakes are of the top level, followed by Grade 2 and Grade 3 stakes, then by ungraded stakes races.

Stall: The horse’s home while he is stabled at the racetrack.

Stallion: A male horse who is in service at a breeding farm.