Always Learning

Happy New Year from the Daily Racing Blog.  We hope that you (like us) are aiming to make 2020 even better than last year, when it comes to the thoroughbreds.

Horse racing can be a confusing sport, regardless of how long you’ve been following the game.  So in our on-going effort to elucidate and educate, Here is a follow-up to our first edition of basic questions you may have been embarrassed to ask.

1. Is there just one race when you go to the track? 

Nope.  Unless remaining races are cancelled for something like severe weather or an equipment malfunction, there is always more than one race per day at North American tracks.  Eight to ten races daily is standard, though some tracks hold up to 11-13 races on days when they have major Stakes races and expect a large crowd.

2. How does weather affect the races?  

Thoroughbred races are run in all kinds of weather — hot, cold, rain, snow or sunshine. If the turf course is very wet, turf races will be moved to the main track (off turf) to protect both the horses and the course.  A muddy or wet main track can produce unusual results as some horses don’t like running in the mud and some horses love it.  Those horses are often called mudders.  If weather conditions are extreme, races will be postponed until the rain or snow lets up or cancelled altogether.

3. Who are the horses walking alongside the racehorses and what’s their purpose?

Those horses are called “pony horses” or “ponies” but they are in fact full-size horses, often of the Thoroughbred or Quarter-Horse breeds.  They pony, or accompany, racehorses during their pre-race warm-ups, hence their title.  The presence of these well-trained, calm horses helps keep racehorses relaxed before a race.

4. Where does a horse go after the race?

After a horse is unsaddled near the Winner’s circle (regardless of where they finished), the horse’s groom leads it back to the barn that the horse lives in, or to the van to head home.  Horses generally are walked for 30 minutes after a race or morning exercise to cool down.  The Winner and some other horses in the race take a detour to the test barn, where samples are taken for testing to make sure the race was fairly run and no rules were broken.

5. Where do the horses live?

Many horses live in a barn at the track at which they they race.  Tracks have a backside or barn area where there are several barns for racehorses to live in.  Some horses live at a farm or training center, and some live at other tracks in the area.

6. How do horses move from one track to another?

Horses are transported by horse van or trailer on the ground.  A horse van is a large truck, sometimes even a tractor-trailer, specially equipped to transport horses.  Horses are flown by chartered flight on planes that are, again, specially equipped to move horses.  In addition to individuals and farms, there are several companies whose sole business is to move horses by ground or air-  Air Horse One is a great example.

7. How are horses prepared for a race?

Just like humans, horses require time and training to reach their best physical condition. Most horses train every morning, at varying speeds and distances depending on the kind of race they’re pointing for and their fitness level.

8. What is a Maiden?

A Maiden is a horse that has never Won a race.  Most horses start out their careers against other Maidens, running in Maiden Special Weight races.  When a horse gets his/her first Win, it is often referred to as breaking his/her maiden.  Most horses take more than one start to earn their first Win.

9. What are fractions and splits?

Fractions refer to the fractional times of a race.  Fast fractions means the race is moving at a fast pace.  Fractions are usually in quarter-mile increments.  For example, fractional times for the 2014 Kentucky Derby were :23.04 for the first quarter-mile, :47.37 for the first half-mile, 1:11.80 for six furlongs (three-quarters of a mile) and 1:37.45 for the mile.

Splits are the number of seconds taken to travel a certain part of the total distance rather than the total time to that point, and they are used in workouts as well as races.  A furlong (eighth of a mile) time is usually between 10 and 13 seconds, while a quarter-mile time is usually between 21 and 27 seconds, depending on the race.  Splits for the 2014 Kentucky Derby were :24.33 for the second quarter, :24.43 for the third quarter, :25.65 for the fourth and :26.21 for the final quarter-mile.  Knowing fractional times and splits helps trainers, owners, or bettors to know how fast the horses were going during different parts of the race when comparing with other races or when watching live, as sometimes horses go slow in the beginning and fast at the end or vice versa.

10. How can a big favorite lose badly?

Horses aren’t machines.  Sometimes they just run a bad race.  Maybe they don’t like the track, woke up on the wrong side of the stall, or just had a bad day.  Plus, favorites are determined by the betting public, so it’s possible the public picked the wrong horse to bet on, which is where we find…Value !

11. Who is in charge of the starting gate?

Each track has a starter and a team of assistant starters that is in charge of safely loading a field of horses into a gate.  Once all the horses are in and ready, the starter, who usually watches from just inside the inner rail near the gate, presses a button that opens the gate.

12. Does it cost money to enter a horse in a race?

Sometimes.  Most Claiming, Maiden and Allowance races are free to enter but Stakes races usually have a nomination, entry and/or starting fee depending on the track and race.  This is to help offset the cost of the larger purse that the horses are competing for. For example, the Sunshine Millions Sprint is a $100,000 stakes at Gulfstream Park.  It costs an owner $1,000 to enter and another $500 to start.  The Breeders’ Cup races, which carry purses of $1 million to $5 million, require a horse to be nominated for a fee (at least $400), plus require a pre-entry fee and an entry fee, both equal to one percent of the purse.  So entering a horse in the $5-million Breeders’ Cup Classic will cost you at least $100,400 depending on whether the horse was nominated as a foal or just months before the race.

13. How much money does a horse owner make when his or her horse wins?

Since the owner paid for the horse and pays all the bills, including training costs, jockey fees, feed and veterinary care, the owner gets the purse money when a horse Wins.  At most tracks that amount is 60 percent of the purse.  From that purse the owner pays the trainer and jockey a percent, usually 10 percent each.  So if a race has a purse of $50,000, the winning owner will actually pocket $24,000 after giving the trainer and jockey each $3,000.

14. Who comes up with the all the crazy names these racehorses have? Why are some of them so unique?

A horse’s owner gets to name the horse, and some owners like to be more unique than others!  Sometimes a name is some combination of the horse’s parents’ names while other times it is totally random, as long as it follows the naming rules and is approved by The Jockey Club, and the North American Thoroughbred Registry.  For example, a name can’t be more than 18 letters long and the name can’t be the same as any famous Thoroughbred.  Horses can be named any time from when they are a baby to when they are about to make their first start.  Oftentimes, a horse is bought or sold, so the current owner is not necessarily the one that named the horse.

15. Who sets the odds for horses in a race?

No one sets the odds.  Odds are determined by the amount of money that is bet on each horse.  The more money bet on a horse, the lower its odds.  Morning-line odds, published in the program, are set by a track’s odds-maker, who handicaps the races and makes an educated guess at the odds each horse will go off at.  However, these odds have little bearing on the actual odds and are usually not completely accurate.

16. How do I know how much money I’m going to make if I bet on a horse and the horse wins?

That depends on the horse’s final odds.  Odds of a horse to Win can be found on the infield tote board, on video monitors, or on a track’s mobile app, depending on what track you’re betting on.  Odds change right up to Post Time as money continues to be wagered.  To calculate an approximate payout on a $2 Win wager, double the odds and add your original $2 wager.  So a horse that’s listed at 4-1 on the toteboard will pay out approximately $10 on a $2 Win wager if the odds don’t change before the race.

17. Does racing have a Hall of Fame like other sports? What about MVP and other awards?

Racing does have a Hall of Fame (along with a museum), located in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. near Saratoga Race Course.  There is a new class inducted annually, including a combination of horses, trainers, jockeys and historical figures.  As far as awards go, horse racing has yearly awards that are voted on by members of the media called the Eclipse Awards.  There are awards for 12 different equine categories, including male and female 2-year-old, 3-year-old, older, turf horse and sprinter, and steeplechase horse. The award that’s closest to MVP is Horse of the Year, given to the best horse regardless of division.  There are also five human awards, for outstanding jockey, apprentice jockey, owner, breeder and trainer.  The Eclipse Awards ceremony is held each January.

The Daily Racing Blog wishes all its readers a Happy and Prosperous New Year !

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