A Glossary of Horse Racing Terms
Horse racing is a sport that involves riding a horse over a set course, jumping any required hurdles or fences and arriving over the finish line first. Throughout the centuries, it has evolved from a primitive contest of speed and stamina to a huge public entertainment business, but its essential features remain unchanged. It is widely accepted that modern racehorses originated in England in the 18th century with Derby, Oaks and St Leger races still being popular today with horse race wagering now a major part of the industry.
The earliest recorded accounts of horse racing appear in the ancient Olympic Games, in 700 to 40 B.C. During this time, competitors competed in chariot and bareback races using four-hitched chariots and two or three horses. The earliest horse races were match races between two or more horses, with the owner providing the purse and accepting bets. Owners who withdrew forfeited a portion, later all of the purse and eventually bets were made to “play or pay.” Match race agreements were recorded by disinterested third parties who became known as keepers of the match book.
There are many different types of races, with distances ranging from six to miles. Flat race distances are typically seen as tests of stamina, while jumps races are viewed as a test of speed and agility. The most prestigious flat races include the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Melbourne Cup and Dubai World Cup.
A horse’s innate ability to run at the right pace and the way in which it carries itself on the track are also important factors in its success. It is a sport that requires the skills of both rider and horse to perform to their potential and this is why so many people love to watch and wager on it.
When wagering on horse races, there are many terms used that can be confusing for newcomers to the sport. The following glossary of horse racing terms can help to make sense of the various jargon:
Across the board: A bet on one horse to win, place and show. Allowance Race: A race where the racing secretary conditions weight allowances based on previous purse earnings and/or types of victories. Apprentice Jockey: A student jockey who will receive a weight allowance to offset the additional amount of pressure on his or her shoulders when competing.
The optimum pace for a horse to race at is usually the fastest it can go without becoming overextended and risking injury. However, there are many factors that contribute to a horse’s pacing, including fitness, the surface and track conditions, the current weather and whether it is a fresh or tired horse.
A jockey’s skill and judgment in coaxing the best performance out of a horse is essential to a winning race. This is especially true in a race where there is an enormous amount of money on the line. It is for this reason that many of the most successful riders are professional jockeys and not amateurs.