What You Need to Know About Horse Racing

Horse racing is one of the oldest sports on earth and has evolved from a primitive contest of speed and stamina into a major entertainment business with immense prize money. But the basic concept hasn’t changed much over the centuries, and it still centers on a human guiding a horse through a course of turns, over jumps (if present) and across a finish line. The horse that crosses the line first is declared the winner.

Today, however, the sport struggles to find a new identity and audience, in the face of declining betting revenue. At the same time, it is dealing with an industry-wide problem involving the treatment of racehorses.

The deaths of Eight Belles and Medina Spirit sparked a reckoning about the morality and integrity of the sport. But in reality, the problems with equine welfare are deeper than anyone imagined. In fact, they’re baked into the very fabric of the horse-racing business model and the way that people run their operations.

There are a number of different types of people in the horse-racing business, all with very different perspectives and priorities. At one end of the spectrum are those who consciously, and sometimes illegally, drug and mistreat their horses. At the other end are the dupes who labor under the fantasy that horse racing is broadly fair and honest, despite the fact that they’re often ripped off by crooks. And then there are those in the middle – honorable souls who know that the industry is more crooked than it should be but don’t do all that they can to change it.

COLOR CARD: The jacket and cap worn by riders to designate the owner of a horse, or at some smaller tracks, post positions (yellow for one, blue for two, etc.). A jockey that rides a horse hand-rided (meaning he is not using the whip) is said to be riding in silks.

CONSOLATION PAYOUT: A payout, usually much smaller than the full winning amount in a Pick Six or other multiple-race wager, given to players that do not have a winning ticket but did hit some of the races.

DIFFERENTIAL: The margin by which a horse wins or loses a race, typically expressed in terms of lengths traveled and/or time on the track. Also known as a speed figure or Beyer.

REGULATION: The rules governing the running of a race, including the minimum distance required to be run and the weights that must be carried by each horse.

SPRINT RACE: A race shorter than a mile, usually with only one turn.

DEEP SPRINT: A race where the field contains a large percentage of horses who have not won a stakes race in their career.

SPIRAL FRACTURE: Fracture that spirals around the bone.

POST-TRANSFER: The process of sending a horse from one racetrack to another, either to participate in a larger race or for breeding purposes.

POST-PURSE: The total amount of money to be distributed among the winners of a race, less the cost of nominating and maintaining eligibility, entering and starting fees, and other expenses.