Horse racing is truly the “sport of kings.”
Yet nearly anybody who’s ever ridden a horse has challenged their partner: “Bet my horse can outrun yours.”
And the race is on across the pasture or down the arena rail. There’s always a winner, with bragging rights accompanying, forever never ceasing, and another in second place today.
Certainly, bigtime horse racing is often limited to not necessarily kings and queens, but more affluent.
Still, there’s always an underdog with a dream that does come true. Little funds buy inexpensive horse and wins a bigtime race immediately enhancing fortune changing lives forever.
However, nobody can argue horse racing is a major business generating revenue approaching record levels of all sports.
Getting into racing generally requires major investment, but backyard trainers still have their place generating good lifetime family livelihood.
Interesting to all some facts about the world of horse racing given by an official at the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) in Amarillo, Texas.
“The fastest horse in the world is the American Quarter Horse,” stated Janet VanBebber, AQHA chief racing officer.
“Even then some Thoroughbred horse owners hate to admit it,” VanBebber added smiling.
“That sometimes goes as far as to the point of denying such,” VanBebber continued.
“Yet the Quarter Horse is a specialized sprinter with a quick turn of foot,” she said. “Racing at speeds up to 55 miles per hour, Quarter Horses can cover a quarter-mile in less than 21 seconds. That’s starting from a flat-footed standstill.”
In Quarter Horse racing, the clock begins as soon as the starter pushes the button and the gates open, VanBebber clarified. In comparison, Thoroughbreds are given a running start.
Although Thoroughbreds break from the gate like Quarter Horses, their timer doesn’t begin until they’re several strides from the gate.
“Quarter Horses are specialized sprinters, perhaps defined best as dragsters of the horse racing world,” VanBebber grinned.
Quarter Horse races are typically between 220 and 770 yards. “The classic distance is 440 yards, a quarter of a mile, which is where the horse originally drew its name,” VanBebber said.
Originating in Europe, Thoroughbreds, taller, thinner horses, run distance races, between six furlongs (three-quarters of a mile) and two miles.
“Obvious to most Quarter Horse owners, the most famous American Quarter Horse races are the All American Futurity and Derby,” VanBebber verified.
Both with purses of more than $2 million are run at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico.
For Thoroughbreds, the most famous race is the Kentucky Derby, held at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.
Most horse people have heard common racetrack terms, but few really know what they mean, VanBebber said.
A horse of any sex that has never won a race is a maiden, she defined.
Additional notable racing definitions include:
Claiming: The blue-collar level of racing. All the horses in a claiming race are for sale, and licensed people can purchase them through the racing office.
Handicap: Horses are given different weights to carry based on ability. A horse that has a better race record is given a handicap (more weight) to even the playing field.
Allowance: Traditionally for horses beyond claiming ranks. These races give a specific criteria the horse must meet to be able to race, such as “3-year-olds and upward, which have never won two races.”
Stakes: A race for the best of the best. These high-prestige races have large purses attached to them.
“A Futurity is a stakes race for two-year-olds only,” while a Derby is a stakes race for three-year-olds only,” VanBebber said.
The speed index calculates the average speed of the three fastest horses over three years at a given distance at a given trace, according to VanBebber.
“It is a tool used only in Quarter Horse racing to compare horses in a race,” she added.
Most racehorses live on the backside, or barns located near the track. “They train in the mornings to get in shape for the races,” VanBebber said.
Sometimes, the horses are just jogged or galloped around the track. Other times, though, they are “sent to work,” in other words exercised at racing speed for a certain distance.
Before racing, a Quarter Horses must be registered. “Each racehorse is given a permanent tattoo on the inside of its upper lip before the horse’s first race,” VanBebber said.
Before each race, the number on the lip is checked with the official record to be sure the correct horse is entered in the race.
After they are saddled and ready, the jockeys mount up, and the horses are led onto the track. They parade before the stands to warm up, then to the post, the starting gate. Race begins at post time, with winner accolades including photos and prizes money.
“Don’t ever miss an opportunity to go to the races,” VanBebber encouraged.