What’s Winning a Horse Race?

Horse races draw crowds not only for their beauty and the elation that comes with the sight of winning, but also for the potential for big money. A single race can swell pari-mutuel payoffs into the thousands of dollars. And, for many of the horses, even a win in a minor race can be life-saving.

One of the great draws in the sport is that it’s so easy to root for a horse by name, as was the case with Seabiscuit, the beloved winner of the 1938 Triple Crown who won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. It’s not uncommon for bettors to cheer a horse just by its number, and there are plenty of touts who offer tips on the next big race.

CHART- A statistical picture of a race, showing past performances at different distances and with other information including jockeys, horses, track bias, trainers, owners, weight carried, pari-mutuel payoff prices, odds and more. Also includes time of the race and position at designated points of call (like the quarter pole).

DANCE- A fast workout, usually held a day or two before the race to sharpen a horse’s speed. Also called a drill or a galloping exercise.

DERBY- The race for three-year-olds, held the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. The Kentucky Derby is the most famous of America’s classic races.

DIVISION- A group of horse races with similar stipulations and purse amounts. CLASS- A group of horses based on previous performance, including a class level for the youngest horse in the race.

FALL- A fall from the back of a horse. It can be serious or not. Often the horse is unhurt, but his condition and ability to compete are in question. FOOT-BOARD- An instrument used to control a horse, with each foot being placed on its own board. FOOT-PINCH- A painful pressure point on a horse’s rear leg, caused by a nip or cut and often aggravated by tight quarters.

HORSE- A male or female horse up to the age of four years old.

JUDGES- The officials who determine the order in which horses reach the finish line.

LAUNCH- The starting gate at which a race begins. MARGIN- The distance a horse is ahead of another at a particular point in the race. PERFORMANCE- A horse’s record, including past races and a number of other factors like his speed, class, trainer and more.

POSITION- A horse’s position at the halfway mark of a race. PRINCIPLES- The rules of racing.

PRACTICALLY- The horse’s fitness to run the race and the conditions of the track.

POST-PARITY- The portion of pari-mutuel betting pools not paid out in a race. The remaining money is split between the track, jockeys, horses and breeders in varying proportions.

PUSHED BY THEIR OWNERS BEYOND THEIR CAPABILITY AND RESPONSIBILITIES- Horses pushed beyond their physical limits are more likely to have injuries, especially in the form of bleeding from the lungs known as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. The drug Lasix is widely used to decrease the likelihood of injury and enhance performance.