All of the inside scoop on Virginia's biggest day of Steeplechase racing -- the Virginia Gold Cup. Hey, 50,000 of your closest friends can't be wrong! Do you have your tickets yet?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Review our list of common terms and impress your friends on race day!

Age: All thoroughbreds count January 1 as their birth date. Horses never lie about their age.

Backstretch: The straightaway opposite the homestretch.  The homestretch is where the finish line is.
Bay horse (l), bay horse (c) and bay horse (r)
Bay: Horse color of brown body with black mane and tail.  This is the overwhelming majority of horses. This is also why you will hear this exchange on race day: A) Which horse? B) The brown one. C) They’re all brown!

Bear in or out: To deviate from a straight course – the horses.  Spectators weave (late in the day), horses bear in or bear out…or both.

Break: Start of a race.  What you get to go eat your lunch.

Boxed In: When a horse is trapped between two other horses. Like your car on the beltway during rush hour.

Chesnut: Horse color of deep red with similar mane and tail. Secretariat was a chestnut.  The best chestnut EVER!

Colors: The racing silks/shirts that jockeys wear.  Also known as “silks.”

Dam: The female parent of a horse.  What the jockey says if he/she falls off.  Add an “n” in the latter circumstance and any other expletives of choice.

Furlong: One-eighth of a mile or 220 yards. 

Hand: Four inches - the unit of measurement for a horse's height. Or that thing on the end of your arm holding your drink.

Length: Approximately eight feet. The unit of measure between horses.  For example, Saluter won the 2001 Gold Cup by 10 lengths. 

Maiden Race: A race for horses which have never won a race. It never involves a tower or a dragon.

Nose: Narrowest winning margin at the finish.  A horse comes into a bar, and the bartender says “Why the long face?”   Why, it’s the nose!

Outrider: Rider who accompanies the horses to the gate and catches loose horses. These guys are always cool and their horses are incredible. Be sure to check them out.

Overnight: A preliminary list of entries for a given day of racing.  Your preferred stay for the perfect Gold Cup date (men), or a post-Gold Cup stay that is most likely completely out of the question (women).

Paddock: Small area where the horses are saddled before a race.   

Post Time: The set time for a race to begin.  Like a European train, the Gold Cup runs on time.  Or the exact hour you read Washington’s most famous newspaper.

Scratch: A horse is withdrawn from a race.  There is a “scratch board” on the Steward’s Stand and the announcer will announce this info more than once prior to each race.

Sire: Male parent of a horse or future King William.  Either will do.

Stewards: Officials responsible for enforcing the rules of racing. At our house, we call them “the MAN.”
Anybody seen my socks?
Stretch: The straight portions of a race track. No, the turns aren’t called curves – that’s auto racing. In horse racing turns are turns.

Socks: White markings on a horse’s legs.  The thing no self-respecting Virginia gentleman wears after May 1st.

Tack: Racing equipment.  In most cases this consists of a bridle – that’s the thing on the horses head with a bit and reins for steering – and a saddle.  The saddle is held on by a girth (a belt per se that attaches to the sides of the saddle) and an “overgirth” (another belt that goes all the way around the horse and saddle).  Tack can also include a “martingale” and we are gonna let you figure that one out all by yourself!

Wire: The finish line of a race.  A television drama filmed in and around Baltimore.

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