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Thoroughbred Terminology

WTBA staffer Sue van Dyke compiled the following to give industry members and others a better understanding of Thoroughbred terminology. Some of the terms are defined according to local standards They are divided into three categories: Breeding and Pedigree Terms; Racing Terms; and Conformation and Veterinary Terms. (Published originally in the Washington Thoroughbred, March and April, 1999.)

Thoroughbred: A Thoroughbred is a horse which satisfies the rules and requirements set forth and is registered in The American Stud Book or a foreign stud book recognized by The Jockey Club and the International Stud Book Committee. A breed of horses noted for their racing ability.

Purebred: Any animal descended from a line of ancestors of the same breed. Not necessarily registered.

Note: A Thoroughbred is a purebred but a purebred is not necessarily a Thoroughbred.

BREEDING and PEDIGREE TERMS

* or ( ): As an addition to a horse’s name indicates that that horse has been imported. Before the late 1970s an asterisk (*) before a horse’s name indicated that the horse was imported from a country outside of North America. A parenthesis with a country’s abbreviation; i.e., (Ire)=Ireland, (Fr)=France, (Chi)=Chile, (NZ)=New Zealand; after a horse’s name indicates what country the horse was foaled in and what stud book they are registered with. An=(equal sign) in front of a horse’s name means that the horse is foreign-bred but has not been imported.

AI: Artificial insemination. Breeding a mare and stallion by artificial means, without a natural breeding or “live cover.” The process of depositing semen into the reproductive tract of a broodmare in order to get a broodmare in foal (pregnant) without the physical mounting of a stallion. Not allowed by The Jockey Club except in conjunction with a live cover.

AEI (Average Earnings Index): Shows the earning power of a stallion’s progeny compared to the national average. The AEI relates the annual earnings of a sire’s progeny to the average earnings of all runners in the same years. 1.00 is considered the national average per given year.

Black-type: Bold face type on a horse’s catalog page is referred to as black-type and indicates a stakes winner (in caps) or stakes-placed runner (mixed case print).

“Blue Hen” Mare: A mare which is a prolific producer of quality offspring. In addition, her sons and/or daughters also have a significant impact on the breed; i.e., Grey Flight, *La Troienne.

Breeder (of Record): Owner of a mare, and hence the foal, at time of foaling, unless the dam was under a lease or foal-sharing agreement at the time of foaling.

By/Out of: A horse is “by” a stallion or “out of” a mare.

Chefs-de-Race: Stallions which have a major influence on the Thoroughbred breed. There are five aptitudinal groups – brilliant (B), intermediate (I), classic (C), stout (S) and professional (P) – to which stallions are named. The stallions, and hence their offspring, are given a numerical calculation. Stallions may be ranked in more than one group. Theory was first established by Dr. Franco Varola.

CompIndex (Comparable Index): Provides a reading on the quality of mares to which a sire was bred; whether the sire did better, worse or the same with those same mares. The Comparable Index is an AEI for the progeny of the same mares when bred to all other sires.

Dam: Female parent of a horse.

Damsire: The maternal grandfather or grandsire.

Dosage: A theory measuring a horse’s inherent distance capabilities using an index based on the stallions, chefs-de-race, in a horse’s pedigree.

Foal: A young, unweaned horse of either sex.

Full/Half Brothers or Sisters: Full brothers or sisters are out of the same dam and sire. Half-brothers or sisters have the same dam but a different sire. Brothers/Sisters in blood: By the same sire out of full sisters or by full brothers out of the same dam. Three-quarter Brothers/Sisters: Horses having the same dam whose sires are by the same sire but out of a different dam.

Get: Offspring or progeny of a stallion.

Inbreeding: Mating of closely related individuals or of individuals having similar gene type (genotype).

Inbreeding Quotient (Figures): Marks degree of inbreeding to a certain horse. For example, a 3 x 3 cross indicates that the horse in inbred twice in the third generation; 4 x 3 equals inbreeding in the fourth and third generations. Inbreeding quotients are read top to bottom starting with each generation. Some pedigrees indicate where the inbreeding comes from: 3S x 2D, third generation of sire’s pedigree and second generation of dam’s pedigree. The inbreeding quotient can mark a horse’s inbreeding to a certain mare or stallion. Some pedigrees list inbreeding in bold face type.

Line Breeding: More remote than inbreeding, usually involving horses beyond the fourth generation. The difference in the two being “degree, not principle,” according to noted bloodstock expert Leon Rasmussen. Another definition is “a conservation program of inbreeding designed to concentrate the blood of a certain ancestor . . .”

Live Foal: A foal that stands and nurses.

Nicks: Affinities of certain bloodlines to work best when mated to other specific bloodlines. Nicks were first noted at stud farms where daughters of one stallion standing there were successfully bred to another of the farm’s stallions. Prominent nicks include *Princequillo x *Nasrullah; Northern Dancer x Buckpasser; *Bull Lea x *Blenheim II. There are also “negative” nicks as noted by Buckpasser x Bold Ruler.

Outcross: A horse whose pedigree has no duplicated names or “hidden relatives” (such as three-quarter siblings) within, usually, the first four generations. Some pedigree experts extend this to the sixth generation.

Progesterone: A major female sexual hormone. Progesterone is important in maintaining a pregnancy, particularly in the early stages. Progesterone injections have been used with success in mares which have a history of early pregnancy loss.

Producer/Produce: A mare becomes a producer after one of her offspring wins a race at a recognized racetrack. Offspring or progeny of a mare.

Reines-de-Course (Queens of the Turf): Mares and families of mares which have consistently influenced the breed for better and which, when inbred to, can strengthen a pedigree. They are not like chefs-de-race as they have no numerical calculations. First established by Ellen Parker in 1985, there are over 200 mares currently listed, but the series is ongoing.

Sex-balancing: When inbreeding is effected by using both male and female relatives of the same line. The idea is to receive both the x and y chromosomes from the mating via a male and a female.

Sire: Male parent of a horse. A horse becomes a sire after one of his offspring wins a race at a recognized racetrack.

SSI (Standard Starts Index): Compares racing ability of members of each crop, separated by sex (due to the lifetime earnings expectancy for males versus females). 1.00 equals the average per start for members of that crop.

Stud: A male horse kept for breeding. Also an establishment or farm where animals are kept for breeding.

Stud Book: A registry maintained to keep track of horses registered within a breed.

Tailine: Tailines can be listed as male tailine or female tailine. These refer to the tracing of a pedigree in a direct line. For example: Son of Briartic is male tailine to chef-de-race Nearco, as he is sired by Briartic, a son of Nearctic, which is a son of Nearco. La Saboteur’s female tailine traces directly s to Bourtai, as his dam Exclusive Fir is out of Blue Medley whose dam is Poetic License, a daughter of the reine-de-course Bourtai.

Washington-bred: A foal born (dropped) in the state of Washington.

RACING TERMS

Added-money: Money added by the racing association to the amount paid by owners in nomination, eligibility and entry fees.

Allowance Race: Event somewhere in-between claiming and stakes (handicap) races for which a racing secretary drafts certain conditions.

Also Eligible: Horses officially entered in a race, but not permitted to start due to a full field of runners. The horse may “scratch” into the race if an eligible horse is withdrawn.

Also Rans: Horses which finish out of the money.

Apprentice Allowance: Weight concession allowed to an apprentice rider, usually five pounds.

Backside: The stable area.

Backstretch: Straightaway part of the track on the far side between turns.

Bearing In (or Out) Deviating from a straight course. May be due to punishment, infirmity, weariness or the inability of the rider to control the horse.

Bit: Metal bar in horse’s mouth by which he is guided and controlled. There are many variations.

Black-type Races/Stakes Races: Stakes (the generic term) races are judged according to two standards. The standard that Keeneland and major stakes companies in Florida and California use are the ones established by SITA (Society of International Thoroughbred Auctioneers) which basically currently grants black-type to any named race that has a 72 hour pre-race closing and an added-money value of $25,000 or more purse distributed on the day of the race or a guaranteed purse of $35,000. Smaller regional markets use stakes guidelines, or any named race which closes 72 hours prior to the running of the race which the owners put in a certain fee for each runner in the race with no minimum purse. Purse structure is directly related to handle and hence population of area.

Blanket Finish: Horses finishing so closely in a race that they could be covered by a “blanket.”

Bleeder: Horse that bleeds after or during a workout or race due to a ruptured blood vessel. See "Lasix" under Conformation and Veterinary Terms.

Blinkers: Device used to limit a horse’s field of vision and to prevent him from swerving from objects, other horses, etc., on either side of him.

Blow Out: Exercising a horse for a short distance at a moderate pace. Used to get the horse “fine tuned” for a race.

Bolt: When a horse suddenly veers from a straight course.

Bug: Apprentice weight allowance. An apprentice rider.

Bullring: Racetracks with a circumference of six furlongs or less.

Call, The: When the track announcer reports the running position of the horses in the race at various points.

Claimer or Plater: Horse which runs for a price tag in a claiming race.

Claiming Race: A race for which all horses are entered for a certain price (tag) and may be claimed for that price. The graduated prices usually indicate different levels of ability. When a horse is purchased out of one of these races he has been claimed or “haltered.”

Classics: In the US, for colts – Kentucky Derby-G1, Preakness S.-G1, Belmont S.-G1; for fillies – C.C.A. Oaks-G1. The classic distance in the US is one and one-quarter miles (the length of the Derby). In England, for colts – 2,000 Guineas-G1, Epsom Derby-G1, St. Leger S.-G1; for fillies – 1,000 Guineas-G1, Epsom Oaks-G1. The classic distance in England is one and one-half miles (the length of their Derby).

Colors: Colors (hues) of the Thoroughbred as recognized by The Jockey Club currently are: bay, dark bay or brown, chestnut, gray or roan, black (very rare), white (even rarer). Can also refer to an owner’s racing silks.

Colt: An entire male equine, under five years of age, unless gelded. At five years of age entire males are recognized as horses.

Cooling Out: Restoring a horse, usually by walking, to normal after he becomes overheated in a workout or race.

Coupled: Two or more horses running as a single entry and betting unit due to either the same ownership or trainer. Coupling rules vary from state to state.

Course/Course Record: A course indicates the racing surface is grass (turf) and a course record equates to a time record set while horses are running over a turf course.

Cuppy Track: When the racing surface breaks under a horse’s hooves.

Dead-heat: Two or more contestants arriving simultaneously at the finish line. There may be a dead heat for any placement.

Derby: Pronounced “darby” in England. A stakes for three-year-olds only. The word derby is derived from the name of the 12th Earl of Derby, 1780, who initiated the Derby (English/Epsom) at Epsom Downs in England.

Distaffer: Female racehorse.

Dogs: Low wooden portable rails placed, during workouts, at a certain distance out from the rail to prevent horses, when the track is muddy or heavy, from churning up the footing along the rail. Term is also applied mediocre horses.

Driving: Horse that makes a move under strong urging of his rider.

Even Money: Betting odds on an entry of one-to-one, in which case the profit equals the investment, for a successful wager.

Farrier: Horseshoer or blacksmith.

Fast Track: Track footing at its best; dry and even.

Favorite: Most heavily “played” (money bet) horse in a field of runners. The horse with the lowest odds.

Field (Mutuel): One or more starters running as a single betting interest. Usually horses calculated to have a small chance to win are grouped in a “field.”

Filly: A female horse, under five years of age. At five they are then called mares.

Frontside: The front or grandstand area of the racetrack.

Furlong (Eighth): One-eighth of a mile, 660 feet (220 yards) or 201.17 meters.

Futurity: A stakes for two-year-olds only. Originally runners had to be first nominated in utero to be eligible.

Gelding: Castrated male horse. A castrated female horse has been spayed.

Graded/Group Races: The cream of the races run. Graded stakes in the US (established in 1973) are classified and reviewed each year by the North American graded stakes committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA). Graded races must be non-restricted, with an added or guaranteed money of $50,000 or more, have been run at least twice before under similar conditions and on the same surface. Group stakes (inaugurated in 1971) apply to stakes races outside of North America. Group and graded races are ranked on a pyramid scale with grade or group one (G1) races (classics and the top races) at the top (fewer races) followed by important races being ranked grade/group two (G2) and other important, but less so than grade two, races being grade/group three (G3).

Groom/Guinea: Person who cares for (i.e., feeds, grooms, baths, cleans up after) the horse.

Guinea Stand: Stand on the backside of the track where grooms watch the races from. Also used by owners and trainers to watch their horses during morning workouts.

Handicap: A race, often an overnight or stakes race, in which the chances of winning are equalized by the track handicapper assigning weights – heaviest weights are given to the horses with the best race records; lightest weights to the weakest race records. It is done to even the field for betting purposes but is controversial among horsemen.

Handicapping: Study of all factors in the past performances to try to determine the relative qualities of the horses in a particular race. These factors include distance, weight, track conditions, riders, past performance line, breeding, idiosyncrasies of the horse, etc.

Handily: A horse which is working or racing with moderate effort, not under the whip, is said to be working handily.

Handle (Mutuel): Amount of money bet on a race, the daily race card (all of the races) or during a race meeting, season or year.

Hand Ride: The jockey urging a horse to win with his/her hands rather than with the whip.

Hard Boot: Slang for a Kentucky horseman.

Homestretch: The front straightaway on the track, from the last turn to the finish line.

In Hand: When a horse in running under moderate control at less than best pace. With speed in reserve at the call of the rider.

Inquiry: When the official posting of a race is delayed due to an inquiry into the running of the race (inquiry sign). The inquiry can originate from the stewards or by an objection lodged by the jockey or trainer of a horse in the race. Until the inquiry is resolved by the stewards, the result of the race is not official and no bets can be cashed. The order of finish may stay the same or may be revised to penalize a finisher that interfered with another horse during the running of the race.

In-the-money: A horse which finishes first, second or third in a race.

Lead Pony: The horse and rider that accompanies a starter from the paddock to post (starting gate). Lead ponies are used to help quiet the runners. In Europe lead ponies are rarely used.

Maiden: A horse that has not won a race at a recognized racetrack. Also can refer to a filly or mare which has not been bred.

Margins: A length is the distance from a horse’s nose to tail, about eight feet, which equates to a margin of distance separating the horses in a race; i.e., half-length, length. A head equals one-eighth length; neck is one-quarter length; two heads equal a neck or one-quarter length; two necks equal a half-length; two noses equal a head.

Meter: 39.37 inches. A 1,600 meter race is about 30 feet short of a mile (eight furlongs).

Minus Pool: Mutuel betting situation that occasionally develops when so much money is bet on one horse that the balance of the pool (amount bet) is insufficient to pay off at five to 10 cents on the dollar, as required by state law or commission rules. The track must then make up the deficit.

Morning Line (Odds): Approximate odds quoted at the track in the morning after scratches and track conditions are known.

Nom de Course: Alternate name, usually a stable or farm moniker, by which a horse’s owner or racing partnership is called.

Oaks: A stakes for three-year-old fillies. The original (Epsom) Oaks was named after the 12th Earl of Derby’s home, “The Oaks.”

Odds-on: When the money bet on a horse is less than even money it is the odds-on favorite.

Off Side: The right side of the horse. The near side is the left side, from which a horse is normally mounted.

Off Track: Track that is not rated “fast.”

On the Muscle: Horse which feels good and is ready to run.

Overweight: Surplus weight carried by a horse when his rider cannot make the required poundage.

Paddock: Structure or area where horses are saddled for the race and kept before post time.

Pari-mutuels: Form of betting originating in France. After the wagers are placed, the racetrack “holds” the money in betting pools, less commission, and returns it to the bettors which have successfully wagered on horses which win, place or show. Returns are based on the amount of money bet on the successful horses. The replacement of bookies, although bookies are still used in England.

Photo Finish: Results of a race so close that the placing judges cannot decide the order of finish with the naked eye and must consult photographs of the race finish.

Place: Finish second in a race.

Poles: Markers at measured distances around a track. One-sixteenth poles are black and white striped. Eighth poles are green and white. Quarter poles are red and white.

Post Parade: Horses going from the paddock to the starting gate (“post”), past the grandstands.

Post Position: A horse’s position in the starting gate, from which the horse breaks. Positions are numbered from the inside rail outward.

Post Time: Designated time for a race to start.

Purse: Money or prize which a horse competes for. The higher the finish position, the more money is earned, usually.

Racing Secretary: The track official which drafts the conditions of races and types and distances of races run during a race meeting.

Restricted Races: Races restricted to certain runners (not open) as defined by conditions of the race (i.e., state-bred, non-winners of $_____, sired by). Age and sex are not considered restrictions.

Ridgeling or “Rig” (Monorchid or Cryptorchid): Failure of one or both testicles to descend to the scrotum after birth. The testes may be retained within the abdominal cavity or within the inguinal canal.

Router: Horses which do best over a “route” of ground. Definition of a router can be dependent on where the horse races. For example, in Washington, a router would probably be considered a runner which does well at distances of eight or more furlongs. In New York, 10 furlongs would probably apply, whereas in Europe, a race beyond 12 furlongs would be considered a route.

Saddle Cloth: Cloth under the saddle denoting the post position number of the horse wearing it.

School: To accustom a horse to the starting gate, paddock and general race conditions.

Scratch: To withdraw a horse from a race. After the “scratch deadline” a horse can only be withdrawn by permission of the stewards.

Show: Finish third in a race.

Sit Chilly: A rider which stays still or does not use his whip while waiting to make his move in the homestretch is said to “sit chilly.”

Sprint/Sprinter: A race distance of less than a mile and a horse which performs best at those distances.

Stakes: A race which has entries close 72 hours before the running of the race and in which the owners of the entries put up money to run in the race. Winning or placing in stakes qualifies a horse for “black-type” on a catalog page.

Stakes-placed: A runner which finishes second or third in a stakes race.

Stallion/Stud: A male horse kept for breeding. In the west sometimes referred to as a stud. A stud is also an establishment or farm where animals are kept for breeding.

Starter’s List: Horses which have need of further schooling, or reschooling, before they can safely be started in a race.

Steward: Person in the employ of the state’s racing commission which officiates at a race meeting.

Stickers: Calks on horseshoes which gives the runners better ability to handle or grip in mud or on a soft track.

Tattoo Number: All racehorses must be tattooed on their upper lip for identification purposes before being allowed to start in a race. An employee of the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau (TRPB) checks the horse against the markings written on The Jockey Club registration certificate to confirm the horse’s identification. The horse is then tattooed if they “match” their papers. If not, the papers are stamped and returned to the trainer or owner for correction. The first symbol of the tattoo (a letter) corresponds with the horse’s year of birth, which is also the first two numbers of their registration (see chart). The numbers following the letter are the final digits of the horse’s registration number.

Codes for Tattoo Numbers of Thoroughbred Race Horses
Year   Letter
1945   A
1946   B
1947   C
1948   D
1949   E
1950   F
1951   G
1952   H
1953   I
1954   J
1955   K
1956   L
1957   M
1958   N
1959   O
1960   P
1961   Q
1962   R
1963   S
1964   T
1965   U
1966   V
1967   W
1968   X
1969   Y
1970   Z
Year   Letter
1971   A
1972   B
1973   C
1974   D
1975   E
1976   F
1977   G
1978   H
1979   I
1980   J
1981   K
1982   L
1983   M
1984   N
1985   O
1986   P
1987   Q
1988   R
1989   S
1990   T
1991   U
1992   V
1993   W
1994   X
1995   Y
1996   Z
Year   Letter
1997   A
1998   B
1999   C
2000   D
2001   E
2002   F
2003   G
2004   H
2005   I
2006   J
2007   K
2008   L
2009   M
2010   N
2011   O
2012   P
2013   Q
2014   R
2015   S
2016   T
2017   U
2018   V
2019   W
2020   X
2021   Y
2022   Z

Track/Course Conditions: Condition of the surface of the racetrack. A racetrack’s (dirt) surface is rated as one of the following: fast, wet fast, good, sloppy, slow, muddy or heavy. A turf course’s (grass) condition is rated as one of the following: hard, firm, good, yielding or soft.

Track/Track Record: Track is a generic term for a racetrack. Setting a track record equates with a time record set while horses are running over a dirt surface.

Under Wraps: Horse under stout restraint in a race or workout.

Valet: The person who attends the riders and keeps their wardrobe and equipment in order.

Washington-bred: A foal born (dropped) in the state of Washington.

Weight for Age: Fixed scale of weights to be carried by horses according to age, sex, distance and time of year.

Work: Exercise a horse. Also the time recorded of a horse’s gallop over a certain distance during morning workouts.

CONFORMATION and VETERINARY TERMS

Bowed Tendons: Torn tendon fibers which cause enlarged tendons behind the cannon bones, often brought about by severe strain.

Bucked Shins: A temporary racing unsoundness characterized by a very painful inflammation of the peristeum (bone covering) along the greater part of the front surface of the cannon bone, caused by constant pressure from concussion during fast works or races.

Bute (Phenylbutazone): A nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drug with pain relief and fever reducing properties.

Calf Knees: A conformation fault in which the affected horse’s legs bend back at the knees, standing with knees too far back.

Cast: Refers to a horse which has fallen or lain down close to a wall or fence so that it cannot get up without assistance.

Coggins Test: A test for diagnosing equine infectious anemia developed by Dr. Leroy Coggins of Cornell University. Many sales companies, tracks and states require negative coggins tests for shipping into their areas or premises.

Cow Hocked: Standing with the joints of the hocks bent inward, with toes pointing outward.

Cowlick: The center of a hair whorl. They are permanent and cannot be brushed away or clipped out. Cowlicks commonly occur on the head, crest of neck, throat latch and front of neck. They occasionally appear on other parts of the body.

Cribber (Wind Sucker): Considered a vice or bad habit. A horse that bites or sets its teeth against some object, such as a manger or fence, while sucking air into their lungs.

Laminitis (Founder): An inflammation of the laminae (flat tissue in the sole of the foot) under the horny wall of the hoof. All feet may be affected, but the front feet are most susceptible. Two forms are observed: acute and chronic. Acute is manifested by extreme pain, a bounding digital pulse and warm feet. Chronic is manifested by intermittent or persistent lameness and a diverging ring around the hoof wall. The sole of the foot will be dropped due to the rotation of the third phalanx.

Lasix: A brand name for Furosemide. A potent diuretic. The most effective permitted drug for treating lung bleeding in racehorses.

Parrot Mouth: An extreme overbite.

Quarter Crack (Sand Crack): A vertical split in the horny wall of the inside of the hoof (in the region of the quarter), which extends from the coronet or hoof head downward.

Sickle Hock: Deviation in the angle of the hock, giving the impression of a sickle when viewed from the side. The cannon slopes forward due to excessive angulation of the hock.

Splints: Abnormal bony growths found on the cannon bone, usually on the inside surface, but occasionally on the outside. Most common on the front legs.

Stifle: The counterpart of the knee joint in humans. Junction of the horse’s tibia and patella in the hind leg.

Tying Up (Monday Morning Sickness, Azoturia or Recurrent Exertional Rhabdomyolsis-RER): Sudden massive muscle cramps, usually in the hindquarters. Can be mild or very serious, even fatal. Recently concluded to be an inherited trait.

Resources: Equine Genetics and Selection Procedures; Equine Medicine and Surgery; Equine Drugs and Vaccines, by Eleanor M. Kellon, VMD; Breeding Terms Explained, by Leon Rasmussen as published in The Daily Racing Form; The American Stud Book, The Jockey Club, The Jockey Club’s A Guide to Thoroughbred Identification and Registration; Horses and Horsemanship, by Dr. M.E. Ensminger; Pedlines, a monthly publication by Ron and Ellen Parker; How to Buy a Racehorse, published by the WTBA; Backside, by Marge Hazelton.

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