Word Of The Month: Triple Crown

In June, Funny Cide, a three-year-old gelding, almost won the Belmont Stakes and the American Triple Crown. Instead he placed, or finished third. Had Funny Cide won the Belmont, he would have been the first horse to win the Triple Crown since 1978. Like Funny Cide, twelve other horses have won the first two jewels in the Triple Crown only to falter at Belmont. Only eleven horses in history have won all three races.

In honor of Funny Cide our word of the month is Triple Crown. The original Triple Crown is the English one, the winning of the three races known as the Two Thousand Guineas, the Derby, and the St. Leger. Only fifteen horses have captured the English Triple Crown.

The American Triple Crown, consists of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. The American sense of the term was coined by sportswriter Charles Hatton in 1930 after the English practice. That year Gallant Fox won the American Triple Crown. Sir Barton, who had won the three American races in 1919, was retroactively awarded the honor.

Racing Terms:
across the board, adv., pertaining to a bet on a horse to win, place and show. If the horse wins, the player wins all three bets, if second, two of the bets, and if third, one.

also-ran, n., a horse who finishes out of the money, 1896.

apprentice, n., a jockey who has not ridden a specified amount of winners within a specified period. Apprentices are given weight allowances.

baby race, n., a race for 2-year-olds.

backstretch, n., the straight section of the track on the far side from the club house, 1839.

Belmont Stakes, n., the third and, at 1½ miles, the longest of the three American Triple Crown races, first run in 1867, named for August Belmont (1816-90), financier and race horse owner, Belmont Park is on the grounds of his old estate on Long Island, New York. The race is run three weeks after the Preakness Stakes.

blanket finish, n., a finish where two or more horses are so close that one could theoretically put a single blanket across them, 1934.

blinker, n., leather screen on a bridle that restricts the horse’s vision to straight ahead, used to avoid distractions, 1789.

clubhouse turn, n., the first turn in a race, the one closest to the clubhouse.

colors, n., racing silks, the jacket and cap worn by jockeys, the design can be generic and provided by the track or specific to one owner.

daily double, n., a bet on two horses to win two specified races, usually the first or second races of the day, the two races specified by the track officials for the bet, 1932.

dead heat, n., a tie between two or more horses, 1796.

Derby, n., name for an annual horse race run at Epsom in England since 1780, from the founder, the Earl of Derby, a similar important race in other countries, e.g., the Kentucky Derby.

distance, v., to beat another horse by a specified interval, horses that are distanced in qualifying heats are eliminated from the competition, 1674.

exacta, n., a bet picking the first and second horses, in order of finish, in a single race, also perfecta, 1964.

fast track, n., a dry, hard, and even dirt track, allowing for the fastest running, 1934.

firm, adj., the optimum condition for a turf course corresponding to fast on a dirt track.

furlong, n., unit of measure equaling one-eighth of a mile, from furrow + long, originally the length of a furrow in a common field, c.1330. 

gelding, n., a castrated animal, esp. a horse, from Old Norse, 1380.

groom, n., one who tends to washing, grooming, and feeding them, 1340, ultimately of uncertain etymology, the word has an earlier Middle English sense of man-child or boy.

handicap, n., 1) a race where an umpire determines the weights to be carried by each horse, evening the odds, 1754; 2) extra weight carried by a horse deemed to be superior, 1883; v., to equalize the odds in a race, by decreeing what weights should be carried or by other means, 1852; from “hand in cap,” a method of setting odds, each player/owner would place forfeit money in a cap, an umpire would decree the odds/weights, the players would then simultaneously remove their hands from the cap. If they withdraw their forfeit money with their hands, they accept the umpire’s decision. If both players accepted or forfeited, the money went to the umpire as payment. If only one player agreed to the match, the forfeit money went to him.

in the money, adv., finishing among the winners of a race, in first, second, or third place, 1902.

jockey, n., a professional rider in horse races, 1670. From a hypocoristic form of Jock or John.

Kentucky Derby, n., the first race in the American Triple Crown, run on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky and 1¼ miles long, named after the British Derby race, first run in 1875.

lock, n., a horse guaranteed to win, a certainty, also a mortal lock, 1942.

maiden, n. & v., a horse that has never run a race, a maiden race is a race open to horses that have never won, 1760.

morning glory, n., a horse that performs well in morning exercise, but runs poorly in races, 1898.

morning line, n., the odds quoted before betting begins, 1935.

mudder, n., a horse that runs well in mud and wet conditions, 1903.

neck, n., unit of measurement, equal to the length of a horse’s neck, about a quarter of a length.

nose, n., a distance of a few inches, 1908; to bet on the nose, to bet to win, 1951.

odds-on, adj., odds less than even money, 1890.

on the bit, adj., a horse either pulling at the bit (eager to run) or on a tight rein, 1928, also off the bit, a horse ridden on a loose rein.

overlay, n., odds that are unjustifiably high, 1944. Also underlay, unwarranted short odds.

paddock, n., a turf enclosure where horses are saddled and kept before post time, 1862.

photo finish, n., a race result so close that reference to finish-line photograph is required to determine order of finish, 1936.

place, v., to finish among the winners, in US usage to finish second, 1826.

pole, n., the inside fence surrounding a race track, the starting position closest to the inside fence, 1851.

post, n., a pole that marks the finish or, esp., the starting point of a race, the start or finishing point of a race, 1642. Also, to pip at/on the post, to beat by a narrow margin at the last moment, 1924.

post time, n., the scheduled time for a race to start, 1941.

Preakness Stakes, n., the second race in the American Triple Crown, run two weeks after the Kentucky Derby at Pimlico, in Baltimore, Maryland. It is 1¼ miles long and was first run in 1873. It is named after the race horse that won the inaugural race at Pimlico in 1870, the horse’s name came from a corruption of a Delaware Indian word Pra-qua-les, meaning quail woods.

scratch, v., to withdraw a horse from a race, 1859. 

short head, n., a distance less than the length of a horse’s head, Briticism from 1898.

show, v., to finish among the top three, esp. to finish third, 1903.

silk, n., a jockey’s jacket, from the material it is made from, 1884; to wear silk, to ride in a race.

sloppy, adj., wet, covered with mud, 1727.

sport of kings, c.phr., horse racing, 1918, earlier uses of the phrase equated war as the sport of kings.

stake, stakes, n., a race where the owners pay an entry fee that becomes or is added to the purse for the race.

steward, n., an official at a race, 1703.

straight, adj., a bet that a horse will win only, as opposed to finishing in the top three, 1928.

stretch, n., a straight portion of the course, esp. the straight portion leading to the finish line, the home stretch, 1895.

stretch turn, n., the turn leading into the home stretch, 1972.

tote board, n., a display on which odds, payoffs, and other race information is given, 1950, tote is a clipping of totalizator, a device for registering and displaying the number of bets on a race, 1879.

trifecta, n., a bet that picks the top three finishers in order, 1974.

turf, n., a grass track, more generally any track or the racing world as a whole, 1755.

valet, n., the person charged with caring for a jockey’s tack and silks, 1591.

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