Essential Horse Racing Terms

Horse racing is called “The Sport of Kings,” and it’s hard to disagree. A day at the races means warm weather, nice clothes, delicious food and drinks, and above all, the thrill of the race (especially when you have money on the line). Whether you spend a day at the racetrack with co-workers, business partners or clients, the only thing that can make your day less-than-perfect is not knowing how to talk about the races. So with the Kentucky Derby coming up this weekend, we’ve made a list of essential horse racing terms that will make you sound like a pro.


Win—Pretty obviously, but this refers to the horse that finishes first in a race. Bear with me, I’m actually going somewhere with this.

Place—The horse that comes in second place in a race.

Show—The horse that finishes third in a race. You can place bets on a horse to Win, Place or Show. So at this point, you’ve already got your basic bets covered. 

Trifecta—A bet in which you must correctly predict the horses that win, place and show in the right order. The odds on a trifecta bet are usually very high.

Across the Board—A bet on a horse to win, place and show. If the horse wins, the bettor collects three ways; if the horse places, they collect two ways; if the horse shows, collect one way.

Handicap—A race wherein the racing secretary assigns weights to the horses with the intention of making the race more competitive and to equalize the winning chances of the bettors.

Furlong—One eighth of a mile; American tracks are measured in furlongs.

Sprint—A race that is shorter than seven furlongs.

Marathon—A race that is longer than 1 ¼ miles (The Kentucky Derby is 1 ¼ miles).

Stretch Turn—The final turn of the track that leads into the straightaway—or the final leg of the race.

Break Maiden—The first time a jockey or a horse wins a race. A “maiden” is a horse that has never won a race.

Trip—A horse’s individual race as described by the difficulties the horse encountered. A “good trip” means that the horse had little difficulty, while a “bad trip” means the horse had troubles in the race, such as being boxed in by the other horses.

Triple Crown—The three biggest races in thoroughbred racing. In America, the Triple Crown is made up of The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness Stakes, and The Belmont stakes. Many countries have their own Triple Crown, and winning all three of these races is considered the greatest accomplishment a thoroughbred racehorse can achieve.

Ready to put your new racing knowledge to the test? Contact the experts at Kapow to get passes or VIP suites at The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 5th and 6th, The Preakness Stakes in Baltimore on May 20th or The Belmont Stakes in Elmont, NY June 8th through the 10th. 


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