Owning Thoroughbreds Is an Expensive Gamble Offering Great Rewards--and Costly Losses
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Broodmare: A female horse that is being bred
Colt: A male horse up to the age of five
Dam: A horse's mother
Filly: A female horse up to the age of five
Foal: A horse of either sex in the first year of its life
Gelding: A castrated male horse
Horse: A male horse age five or older
Juvenile: A two-year-old horse
Maiden: A thoroughbred that has yet to win a race
Mare: A female horse age five or older (Note: Female thoroughbreds with decent breeding can have considerable residual value as broodmares.)
Names: Names of North American thoroughbreds are registered by the Jockey Club. Most horses sold in yearling sales are unnamed. Names can be no longer than 18 characters, including punctuation and spaces. A horse's name is often a clue to its breeding: for example, Seattle Slew sired Slew o' Gold, Slewpy and Tsunami Slew. Aerospace tycoon Allen Paulson names his horses after aviation checkpoints, which is how Horse of the Year Cigar was named. John Ed Anthony names his horses for Arkansas landmarks, such as Cox's Ridge, Prairie Bayou and Temperence Hill.
Sire: A horse's father
Stallion: A male horse being used for breeding (Note: Only colts and horses that have exceptional breeding or had exceptional racing careers will earn substantial money as stallions. Stud fees for quality stallions can range from $1,000 to $75,000 and higher. Stallions are bred to about 50 mares a year. Artificial insemination is not allowed in thoroughbred breeding. Geldings, having no breeding value, must earn their keep entirely on the racetrack.)
Weanling: A foal that has been separated from its dam (mother)
Yearling: A horse in the second calendar year of life, beginning Jan. 1 of the year following its birth
In North America, most races fall into the six-furlong (three-fourths of a mile) to a mile-and-an-eighth range, although the classic American races, such as the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, are longer. Racing on grass courses is increasingly popular, although the majority of U.S. races are run on dirt tracks.
Types of Races
Allowance: A race in which the weight each horse will carry is determined by a formula relating to the horse's age, sex and past performance. A horse would typically run in allowance races before going on to stakes races.
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.