A Beginner’s Guide to Horse Racing

horse race

Horse racing is a sport where riders compete to win a race. The game originated in ancient Greece where men hitched four-horse chariots to their horses and ran around a course, the modern version of a racetrack. The sport was soon adopted in nearby countries and spread to other parts of the world. The sport evolved into what it is today, with a range of rules and regulations, from the basics to complex procedures.

CHART- A statistical “picture” of a race, which shows a horse’s position and margin at designated points of call during the race. It also lists the race date, distance, field size, weight carried, owner, trainer and other important information.

CLOSER – A horse that is closer to the finish line than others. This can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on the track and surface conditions.

DERBY- A race for two-year-olds. Historically, these races were a testing ground for young horses’ ability to meet older and more experienced rivals. They were usually run as a dead-heat. As breeding fees, sale prices and the cost of racing have increased, many fewer races are held for horses beyond age three.

GROUP/GRADE- A race sanctioned to be of a higher standard than the ordinary race. The most important of these are Group 1 and Grade 1. They are typically held on the Flat or over jumps and can carry a substantial purse.

HORSE- A male or female horse of any age and breed. The most famous horses are those that have achieved the status of legend. They have been referred to as “a horse for the ages” because they have left an indelible mark on racing history. A horse of legendary stature is often described as “going away” in a race, meaning that it was winning so easily that it simply left the other runners behind. Man O War was a horse of this type, winning 20 of 21 starts in 1919 and 1920.

HOMESTRETCH- The final straight portion of a racetrack from the eighth pole to the finish line. The homestretch is notoriously difficult to judge and can be a tricky place for a horse to be ridden. A horse with good stamina can make up a lot of ground in this section of the race.

INNING- The point at which a horse is permitted to start its run. This is usually determined by a flag that is dropped by a person stationed at the exact starting point.

RACING HANDICAP- A system by which each horse is allocated an official rating after it has run several times. This system is designed to ensure that all horses are given a fair chance of winning the race.

RECOGNITION- A formal gesture to signal that the race has begun. Generally this is made by a race director or steward. In some instances a steward may be required to inspect the starting line to determine whether there is any interference. If an infraction is detected the race will be disqualified.

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