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As the Kentucky Derby draws near, you may need to learn some common racing terms to understand the handicappers and benefit from what they're saying. Or, you may just want to look like you know what you’re talking about at the Derby party.
If there is a term you've heard that you don't know, feel free to leave a comment and check back later for the definition.

Allowance Race - a race with certain weight allowances based on age, sex, jockey, number of wins, etc. For example, a female competing against males may be allowed to race 5 pounds lighter than the males.

Blinkers - equipment worn around the horse’s eyes that limits the horse’s vision and prevents it from shying from other horses, keeps it running straight, or keeps it focused.

Broke his/her maiden - a horse that has won its first race.

Bullet Work - turning in the fastest time at the distance of all other horses working the same distance at the same track on the same day.

Career Maiden - a horse that has raced several times and not won. The horse is thought to have made a career out of being winless.

Claiming Race - a race in which any horse may be purchased (claimed) at a predetermined price.

Closer - a horse that stays toward the back of the pack and makes a late, charging run toward the end of the race.

Colt - an ungelded male horse four years old or younger.

Conditions of a Race - set restrictions for a race which limit it to certain horses, e.g., three-year-olds and up, fillies only, maidens, etc.

Conformation - the physical makeup of the horse.

Dappled - spots of different shades that can be seen on the coat of a horse, typically around the rump or on the back. A well-dappled horse is an indication of good health and prime condition.

Dead Heat - two or more horses finishing in an exact tie at the wire.

Filly - a female horse four years old or younger.

Front-runner - a horse who likes to run on the lead, in front of all others.

Furlong - 1/8 of a mile.

Gelding - a castrated male horse.

Graded vs. Ungraded Stakes - a stakes race is one that gets its name for the entry fee, or stake, the owner must pay to enter the horse. A graded stakes is judged, or graded, based on the quality of horses that previously ran in the race, so you can expect that the horses running in Grade 1 races are the very best.

Handicap Race - a race in which the track odds-maker determines a set amount of weight for each horse to carry. Typically, the horse determined to be the best of the group will carry the most weight. The reasoning for this is to give all horses an equal opportunity to win.

Hit the Board - finish first, second, or third.

Horse - an ungelded male horse five years old or older.

Length - the distance of a horse from nose to tail or approximately 8 feet.

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About Jessie Oswald

I'm a lifetime Louisville resident with a passion for horse racing. When I'm not working as an immigration paralegal or taking care of my family, I follow Thoroughbred racing and love to share the excitement and beauty of the sport with anyone willing to learn!

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