A DAY AT THE RACES
For shear entertainment, there's not much that can beat a day (or night) at the races. Whether you're viewing the races over dinner and drinks at a table in the Club House Restaurant, or takin' it all in from the grandstand with a group of rowdy friends, you can bet that a good time will be had by all. And lets face it, betting is an intrical part of the festivities. Unfortunately, a lot of people are intimidated by the betting process and are too embarrassed to ask what all the terms mean so they can get the most out of their racetrack experience. Obviously, we're not suggesting that this article will prepare you to go head-to-head with the likes of Nathan Detroit or Nicely Nicely. We're talking the basics here. Hopefully, we can give you a few pointers that'll not only make you feel right at home in the homestretch, but increase your odds of walking away a winner. But, win or loose, we hope the information you'll take away from this article will help you understand what's going on around you at the track and so, you'll enjoy the experience that much more.
Like anything else you attempt in business or for pleasure, the going's a lot easier if you know some of the terms used in your new endeavor. So, the first thing we'll do is give you a glossary of some of the terms you should be familiar with.
When found next to a jockey's name or the weight the horse is to carry (in the racing form or program) means the jockey is an apprentice rider. These apprentice riders are called "bug boys" because of the asterisk next to their name.
This is the straightaway on the far side of the track.
Blinkers The eye cups on the blinkers block the horse's side and rear vision.
The favorite or most heavily bet on horse in a race. The term "Chalk" comes from the days when bookies chalked the odds on slateboards.
An extension of the homestretch or backstretch straightaways used when the distance of the race would otherwise cause the race to be started on a turn.
This is the turn to the right of the grandstand. The Club House is usually to the right of the grandstand and hence the name.
The silk (or nylon) cap and jacket worn by a jockey. Each distinctive pattern is registered by the horses owner with The Jockey Club and the state racing authority. This is a tradition that dates back to England in 1762.
A male Thoroughbred under the age of five. Once past the age of five, he becomes a horse.
The mother of a Thoroughbred.
In the case where the photo-finish camera shows two horses exactly tied at the finish line, the race is declared a dead heat or a tie.
The pole that sits one eighth of a mile from the finish line.
Entry (also called "Coupled")
If two or more horses in the same race are owned by the same stable or trained by the same trainer, they are called an "entry" and "coupled" as one betting unit. This being the case, a bet on one is a bet on both or all.
This is a blacksmith who specializes in shoeing horses.
The turn off the backstretch.
Hold on to your hat, this could get tricky. In racing, field has two meanings. (1) The entire group of starters is called the field. (2) However, a "field horse" is any one of a group of horses designated by the track handicapper when there are more starters in a race than there are betting units provided by the pari-mutual equipment. The group, more correctly called a "pari-mutual field", races as a single betting unit. A good example is the 1951 Kentucky Derby. There were only 12 betting units but there were 20 horses in the race. Seven horses started as individual bets, four stables had each entered two horses in the race making four "coupled entries" and the track handicapper grouped the remaining five horses as a "field". If any one of the five horses in the field won the race, as Count Turf did that year, and you held a ticket for the "field", you had a winning ticket.
A female Thoroughbred under the age of five. Once past the age of five, she becomes a Mare.
One eighth of a mile. It comes from the term a "furrow long" which referred to the length of a plowed field.
The unit of measure when determining a horses height. A hand equals four inches. A horses height is measured by placing one hand above the other from the ground to the horses withers, or where the height at which the saddle sits.
Again, there are two meanings. (1) A person who makes selections in a race based on in-depth study of the past races of the horses in a given race. (2) The person at the track that assigns the weights horses will carry in a handicap race.
This refers to the total amount of money wagered on a race, a day, a meeting or a season.
The straightaway leading to the finish line.
The area between the inner track rails, inside the track.
When the track stewards check the videotape of a race for possible infractions, this is called an inquiry.
A two year old horse.
This is a horse that has never won a race.
This is the area where the horses are saddled just prior to the race and the best and last place to view the horses before placing a bet.
The starting point of a race.
This is the position of a horse in the starting gate going from the inner rail outward. Post Positions are determined by a drawing after close of entries the day prior to the race.
This the time the horses have to be at the start, ready to go.
An established breed that is very fast at short distances.
On a one-mile racetrack, the quarter pole is located at the turn leading into the stretch, a quarter mile from the finish line.
When you "scratch" a horse, it means he has been withdrawn from a race.
The colors (jacket and cap) wore by a jockey.
The father of a Thoroughbred.
A 3-year old horse is called a sophomore.
A stallion used for breeding.
Fast: This is the best condition for a track, dry and even.
Sloppy: After a heavy rain (or it might be raining during the race) puddles may form on the track but the base is still firm and the times remain fast.
Muddy: The track is soft and wet.
Heavy: The track is drying after a rain and it's in between muddy and good.
Slow: Still wet but drying nicely, it's between heavy and good.
Good: Drying well but still wet.
Off: If the track is in any other condition than "fast", it's said to be "off".
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