The Winner's Circle
Owning Thoroughbreds Is an Expensive Gamble Offering Great Rewards--and Costly Losses
From the Print Edition:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Summer 96
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Claiming: A race in which all the entrants can be claimed (or purchased) for a set price. The price ranges from $2,500 at a small track like Charles Town in West Virginia to $100,000 and higher at Santa Anita in California and Belmont Park.
Handicap: A race in which the racing secretary assigns weight to horses in order to match the entrants evenly. Most of the important stakes races in America for older horses are handicaps, such as the Metropolitan Handicap and Santa Anita Handicap.
Maiden: A race for horses that have yet to win a race. A horse "breaks its maiden" when it wins its first race.
Stakes: The most important races awarding the highest purses and the most prestige. They can be run under allowance, handicap or weight-for-age conditions. The most important stakes nationwide are designated Grade I, Grade II or Grade III, according to their prestige. The Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup races are Grade I, while the Daryl's Joy that Pride of Summer won is a Grade III. European stakes are classified along similar lines as Group 3, Group 2 or Group 1 races.
The money distributed to the owners of the top four or five finishers in a race. The winning owner typically receives 60 percent of the purse, and gives 10 percent of his share to the jockey and 10 percent to the trainer. In a race such as the $500,000 Woodward Stakes, the owner of the winning horse might receive $300,000 and give $30,000 to both the trainer and jockey. Purses at a top track such as Saratoga Race Course range from $21,000 for its lowest claiming race to $750,000 for its premier race, the Travers Stakes.
Racetrack refers to both the entire racing facility and to the main racing surface. The typical track at an American racetrack is a dirt oval measuring a mile to a mile and an eighth, which often surrounds a turf course that tends to be a furlong shorter than the main track. Dirt tracks have the advantage of being usable day after day and in most weather conditions. Turf courses have to be used more sparingly but may provide a better surface for horses to run on. Horses tend to run their best on one particular surface. John Henry, for example, excelled when he was switched from the dirt to the grass. Horse of the Year Cigar, though bred for the turf, became a champion when switched to the dirt.
The word "backstretch" has two meanings in racing as well and refers to the stable area and the straightaway of the racetrack oval farthest from the stands.
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