Horse races have long been a spectacle to behold, but behind the glamour of elegant dresses and mint julips is a world of injuries, drug abuse and gruesome breakdowns. The sport has embraced technology in recent years, with the use of thermal imaging, X-rays and endoscopes, but its roots remain firmly in an era when horses were hit with whips and rushed down a track at speeds that could lead to fatal hemorrhage from their lungs.
Today, the industry is focused on ensuring that horses are healthy and safe on and off the racetrack. The use of MRI and X-rays has increased the speed and accuracy with which veterinarians diagnose health issues. Athletes and trainers also use a wide array of supplements and medications to keep their horses in top form.
Many of these medications are injected, but some are delivered orally. For example, a common medication is Lasix, a blood-thinning fluid that helps prevent bleeding during and after a race. Other drugs are used to treat pain and to calm a horse.
Every course has poles of different colors and sizes that stand at measured distances around the track. These poles are referred to as pylons, and they help fans and jockeys/drivers judge racing distances. There are furlong pylons (large green poles with white stripes), a quarter-mile pylon (small black poles with white stripes) and a 16th-mile pylon.
POLE POSITION- The position of a horse in the starting gate from which it starts a race. POOL- The total sum of money bet on a race, including the win pool, daily double pool and exacta pool.
PREPARATION RACE- A race that a horse runs to prepare for an upcoming engagement.
PRINCESS- A female horse, typically a filly up to three years old.
PREAKNESS- The Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, two major American Thoroughbred horse races held in May and June. PERFORMANCE- The overall quality of a horse during a race, usually measured by speed, finish place and distance traveled.
STAKES- A race that offers a larger purse than normal.
The most prestigious of stakes races are the Triple Crown, which feature the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. There are many other significant stakes races in the United States and around the world.
TRACK- A flat or paved surface for horse racing, often made of clay or crushed rock. The surface can be firm or sloppy, fast or slow, dry or wet.
WIN- A wager that the horse you choose will come in first place in a race. Place and show bets are also popular at the track, but payoffs are lower than for winning.
RUNNERS- The horse or jockeys that finish in the placing positions, often in order of finish.