Horse Race Glossary

horse race

A horse race is a competition between horses in which the first one to cross a finish line wins. Some people find the sport to be inhumane, but others think that it is a wonderful way to see beautiful animals compete and achieve. The sport of horse racing is one of the most ancient, dating back to ancient Greece and Rome. It is also known as the “Sport of Kings” and has played a role in many myths and legends, including the contest between Odin’s steeds Hrungnir and Hreiarr in Norse mythology.

Behind the romanticized facade of horse races lies a world of injuries, drug abuse, and slaughter. Horses used for racing are forced to sprint—often while being whipped—at speeds so high that they suffer from numerous injuries and, in some cases, bleed from their lungs (a condition called exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage). Many of these horses die from the exorbitant physical stress of racing and training. The deaths of Eight Belles and Medina Spirit, two champion Thoroughbreds who collapsed in the Kentucky Derby a few years ago, were particularly painful for fans and prompted a reassessment of the integrity and ethics of the sport.

The following glossary contains the most common terms related to horse races and betting. It is by no means exhaustive, but should provide a solid basis for those new to the sport.

clocker: A person who times and/or rates workouts. dirt track: A racing surface made of a combination of clay, loam and sand.

filly: Female horse that is allowed to carry three to five pounds less than a male when competing against males of the same age and class in a particular race. famous races that are open to fillies include the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Caulfield Cup in Australia, the Sydney Cup and Melbourne Cup in Australia, the Gran Premio Internacional Carlos Pellegrini in Argentina, and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in England.

jockey: The person who rides a horse during a race. Jockeys can ride a horse either bareback or with a saddle. A jockey who rides a horse in a hand ride, meaning the horse is not being whipped, is often described as having a ‘floating seat.

scratch: A horse that is removed from a race prior to the start of the event. The trainer may scratch a horse due to adverse track conditions or for health reasons.

screw fixation: A surgical procedure in which steel-alloy screws are inserted into a fractured bone to hold it together.

stretch runner: A horse that runs its fastest near the finish of a race.

sex allowance: Female horses (fillies and mares) are permitted to carry a certain amount of weight when competing against males of the same age in a given race. This is to help offset the difference in size between these two species.

track: The oval-shaped path on which horses run a race. The term is typically applied to an outdoor, dirt or turf racing surface, but can also be used in reference to a virtual track.