Age. Every horse celebrates a birthday on January 1, regardless of the actual date of birth. Yes, this would mean a horse born on December 31st would be a yearling on January 1st. However, the breeding industry avoids this problem by timing the breeding season to start in February. (Mares carry their foals for approximately 11 months.)
Two-year-olds only race against other two-year-olds. Three-year-olds normally only compete amongst themselves during the first half of the year then begin to challenge older horses as they gain experience. Many handicappers watch for older horses racing against three-year-olds. It takes a special three-year-old to challenge their elders and win. Handicappers also watch four-year-olds as they come of age. Because most three-year-olds are protected for a majority of their racing lives, as a-four-year old they may have trouble making the transition to becoming a competitive older horse.
Chalk – When a horse is the favorite — or has the most money bet on it — that horse is termed the “chalk.” Interestingly, this term comes from the pre-computer era of the bookie. When a bookie recorded bets on a blackboard, the odds would change over and over as more and more people bet on the favorite. The horse became known as the “chalk” because the horse’s name would disappear in chalk dust as the bookie constantly erased and lowered the horse’s odds.
Condition book. The Racing Secretary at all tracks writes a condition book for upcoming races every two weeks. The condition book allows horsemen to schedule their horses for races. Del Mar’s condition book is available on-line. The condition book also reminds horsemen of upcoming stakes and nomination deadlines.
Entry. In California, when two or more horses entered in a race belong to the same owner, they are called “entries” or “coupled” horses. In other states, a coupled entry is defined when two or more horses are trained by and/or owned by the same person. The coupled entry is comprised of two or more horses and are a single betting interest. For example: In California, Mrs. Smith owns horse A and horse B. Mrs. Smith’s entry would thus be 1 and 1a. This is considered a bet on #1 for betting purposes. Once in awhile, there will be more than one coupled entry: Mrs. Smith owns Horses A and B while Mr. Jones owns Horses C and D. Mr. Jones’ entry would be numbers 2 and 2a. In other states, if the same trainer conditions Horse A and Horse B, these horses will be coupled, and/or if the two horses are owned by the same person, they will be coupled.
While this seems complex, what it means is that you get two horses for the price of one. However, it usually means that a horse you thought would be at long odds may be affected by the other “coupled” entry. The industry has not determined how to address this issue. Some bettors believe that common interests mean that the horses should automatically be coupled (to prevent conflict of interest). Other bettors believe it isn’t fair that the other horse has lower odds because of common ownership (or conditioning). This is the reason that each state has differing rules on coupling.
Handle – Amount of money wagered on a single race or a full-day of racing (e.g., the handle for the day was $2,000,000).
Handicapping. Some people feel that this is one of the hardest games of skill. Others feel that they can quantify it on their computers, spit out some selections and make their bets. Some folks agonize over their selections each night for hours before the they go to the races, while others take no more than an hour per race card. Whichever you become, here are some “lessons” as developed by the DRF.Most people learn these lessons with a friend or someone knowledgeable at the track. It is not necessary that you take these lessons or make the racing experience into something difficult. Many people like to be able to spot a horse that others wouldn’t choose at long odds. However, in order to win bets at long odds, one does need to know how to handicap!
Morning Line. A prediction by the Track Line Maker of what the final odds will be based on how the public wagers. It depends on the line maker whether the prediction is accurate. Many people often get confused thinking that the Morning Line is an indicator of the possible winner. This is one critical area of handicapping.
The public can and does choose the wrong horse, termed a “false” favorite. Many people bet exclusively on favorites without handicapping the races. If the horse is a false favorite, the other bettors — especially those who do not like to bet low odds — will seek out a more qualified horse. The payoff is usually much better. The trick is finding those horses that are false favorites and not talking yourself into believing a favorite isn’t qualified to win today’s race.