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Horse Racing Terms

The Kentucky Derby is just a few days away, set for Saturday, September 5. One of the more prestigious sporting events in the country, the race will take place without fans in its 146th edition. Spectators around the world will be watching on their televisions and for the casual or first-time viewer, there may be many words or phrases that aren't commonly known. Below are a few of those terms you may hear during the broadcast.



 

BACKSIDE

The area away from the grandstand side of the track, usually where the stables are located. It often includes sleeping rooms, a kitchen and recreation areas for stable employees.

BIT

A bar that goes in the horse’s mouth that allows the jockey or rider to have control over the horse, usually made of stainless steel, rubber or aluminum.

COLORS

A Thoroughbred is one of these colors (it may also have white markings): bay (yellow-tan to a bright auburn, with black mane, tail and lower portion of the legs); black; chestnut (red-yellow to golden-yellow); dark bay or brown (brown with areas of tan to a dark brown, with black mane, tail and lower parts of the legs); gray (mix of black and white hairs); roan (mix of red and white or brown and white hairs; or white (all hairs are white, very rare, but not albino).

DEAD HEAT

The name for a tie in a horse race.

DERBY

A stakes race for three-year-old colts, fillies or geldings; the Kentucky Derby for example.

EXERCISE RIDER

The person who rides the horse during the morning workouts.

FARRIER

The person who puts horseshoes on the horse and trims the hooves.

FURLONG

An eighth of a mile on the racetrack.

GAIT

The four natural ways a horse moves: walk, trot, canter and gallop.

HAND

The unit of measure for the height of a horse; a hand is four inches.

HOT WALKER

Person who walks the horse until it is cooled off after its morning workout.

JOCKEY

The person who rides the horse during a race.

LEAD SHANK

A rope or strap attached to the halter or bridle by which a horse is led.

MORNING WORKOUTS

Training time for horses to practice being around and running on the race track, usually done early in the morning.

NOMINATION

A payment that is made to the racetrack by the owner of a horse to make a horse eligible to be entered in a stakes race; also called a “subscription”.

OAKS

A stakes race for three-year-old fillies; the Kentucky Oaks for example.

PADDOCK

Area of the racetrack where the horses are saddled before the race; where the jockey mounts the horse.

POST POSITION

The place in the starting gate from which a horse starts the race.

PURSE

The total money that can be won in a race.

SCHOOLING

Introducing young horses to the race track, starting gate and paddock area; teaching them how to behave there, normally done during the morning workouts.

SHADOW ROLL

A piece of equipment worn on the nose that prevents the horse from seeing shadows or anything else on the race surface that might distract it from racing.

SILKS

The jacket and cap worn by a jockey in a race, they indicate who owns the horse.

STAKES

A category of race where the purse is partially made up from nomination and entry fees paid by the owners of the starting horses; the highest level of race.

STEWARDS

The name for the judges at the racetrack, there are usually three.

STIRRUPS

Metal D-shaped rings that hang from the saddle, into which a jockey or rider places his or her feet.

STRIDE

The distance of ground covered by the horse during one complete cycle of steps.

TACK

The rider’s racing equipment. The tack room is where the equipment is kept.

THOROUGHBRED

A breed of horse created in England in the early to mid-1700s, the only one bred solely for speed.

TRAINER

The person who is responsible for preparing the horse to run the best that it can, he or she plans what the horse will do each day in the morning workouts.

TRIPLE CROWN

A series of three races for three year old colts and fillies: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes; run each year during May and June.



 

 

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