Triple crown style guide

AP News
Posted: Apr 25, 2013 12:46 PM


To help with spellings and usage in coverage of the Triple Crown races, beginning with the Kentucky Derby on May 4, The Associated Press compiled a style guide of essential horse racing terms, phrases and definitions. Some terms are from the "horse racing" entry of the AP Stylebook: Others are common usage in AP sports stories. For style and usage questions, contact the AP Standards Center at 212-621-1600.

Triple Crown

Annual series of races for 3-year-olds: Kentucky Derby on May 4 in Louisville, Ky.; Preakness Stakes on May 18 in Baltimore, Md.; and Belmont Stakes on June 8 in New York. The races are televised by NBC. Only 11 horses have won all three races going back to the 19th century. Affirmed was the most recent Triple Crown winner in 1978.

Kentucky Derby

Dating from 1875, the "Run for the Roses" is held on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs. The race distance is 1 1/4 miles on a dirt track. The fastest time is 1:59.40 by Secretariat in 1973. Maximum number of entries: 20. Purse: $2 million; winner's share 60 percent. Traditions include mint julep drinks, women in flowery hats, a crowd upwards of 150,000 singing "My Old Kentucky Home" and a garland of red roses for the winner. The likely favorite is Verrazano, unbeaten in his four races.

Preakness Stakes

First run in 1873, the Preakness is two weeks after the Derby at Pimlico Race Course before 100,000 or more spectators. The distance is 1 3/16 miles on a dirt track. The fastest time is 1:53.00 by Secretariat in 1973. Maximum entries: 14. Purse: $1 million; winner 60 percent, the Woodlawn Vase trophy, and a garland of black-eyed Susans. The official song is "Maryland, My Maryland."

Belmont Stakes

First run in 1867, the Belmont is three weeks after the Preakness at Belmont Park on Long Island before 60,000 to 80,000 spectators. If a Triple Crown is on the line, the crowd can surpass 100,000. The distance is 1 1/2 miles on a dirt track. The fastest time is 2:24.00 by Secretariat in 1973. Maximum entries: 16. Purse: $1 million; winner 60 percent, a silver trophy and a garland of white carnations. The official song is "New York, New York."

winning times

Expressed In minutes, seconds and hundredths of a second: I'll Have Another's winning time in the Derby was 2:01.83.

margin of victory

Expressed in lengths of a horse, or other part of the horse's anatomy at the finish line: by a nose, by a neck, or in a photo finish: Seattle Slew won by three lengths.

race distances

Under a mile expressed in furlongs: six furlongs (3/4ths of a mile); more than a mile in figures: 1 1/4 miles, 1 3/16 miles.

Horse race descriptions


Fails to finish in the money: first, second or third.


Runs best in the latter part of the race, coming off the pace.


Male thoroughbred 4 years old and under.


Female thoroughbred under 5 years old.


A castrated male horse.


A horse bred by its owner.


The rider in a horse race.


A horse that has not won a race.


The male parent.


Three-year-old horses.


Prepares a horse for races.

Racing terms


Straight portion of the far side of the racing surface between the turns.

clubhouse turn

Generally, the turn on a racing oval that is closest to the clubhouse or main grandstand; usually the first turn beyond the finish line.

deep stretch

The track area very close to the finish line.


A horse that goes all out to win under strong urging from the jockey.


A horse that is gently pulled up during a race.


The horses in a race.


A horse whose running style is to get on or near the lead at the start of a race and continue there as long as possible.


One-eighth of a mile (220 yards).

half-mile pole

The pole on the race track that marks one-half mile from the finish line. The quarter-pole is a quarter mile from the finish.

hand ride

Jockey urging a horse with his hands on the reins without using the whip.

in hand

A horse running under moderate control, at less than top speed.


A measurement approximating the length of a horse, used to denote distance between horses in a race.

long shot

Two words, not longshot, for a horse with little chance of winning.

on the bit

When a horse is eager to run.


The horse running in front, or on the lead.


Area where horses are saddled and paraded before taken to the track.

post parade

Horses going from the paddock to the starting gate past the stands.


Barrier on either side of the racing strip.


Horse taken out of a race before it starts.


Jacket and cap with distinctive colors worn by a rider to designate the owner of the horse.

starting gate

Partitioned mechanical stalls in which the horses are confined until the starter releases the front doors to begin the race.


A horse being taken in hand by its rider, usually because of being in close quarters.


Officials of the race meeting responsible for enforcing the rules of racing.

under wraps

Horse under restraint in a race to keep it from pulling away from the competition by too large a margin.


A horse leading a race from start to finish.

Betting terms

across the board

A bet on a horse to win, place and show. If the horse wins, the player collects three ways; if second, two ways; if third, one way.

daily double

Type of wager calling for the selection of winners of two consecutive races, usually the first and second.


A wager in which the first two finishers in a race, in exact order of finish, must be picked.

exotic wager

Any wager other than win, place or show.

morning line

Probable odds on each horse in a race, as determined by the track handicapper who tries to gauge the ability of the horse and the likely final odds as determined by the bettors.


For a strong favorite to win, odds of less than even money: Overanalyze was sent off as the 4-5 favorite.

Pick Six

A type of multiple wager in which the winners of all the included races must be selected.


A wager picking the first three finishers in exact order.