Terms to Know

Steeplechase Racing Terminology

Allowance: A race restricted to horses with certain records. Example: A “non-winners of two” allowance is open only to horses with one victory or less.

Apprentice: A relatively inexperienced jockey. The National Steeplechase Association gives apprentice jockeys the following weight allowances (deductions): Non-winners of one race, 10 pounds; non-winners of five races, seven pounds; non-winners of 10 races, five pounds. Riders must be at least 16 years old before obtaining a license.

Claiming: Certain races are designated as claiming races, where a horse may be purchased, or claimed. The claim is made and money put up before the race is run, and the purchase must go through, no matter where the horse finishes.

Furlong: The standard measure in U.S. racing. One furlong equals one eighth of a mile.

Handicap: A race in which the horses are assigned different amounts of weight to carry, according to their respective abilities and past performances. In theory, the purpose is to have all horses reach the finish line at the same time.

Hunt Meet: A sanctioned steeplechase meet in the countryside, as opposed to  steeplechase races run at thoroughbred racetracks.

Hurdle: See National Fence.

Maiden: A horse that has never won a race. National Fence: A synthetic steeplechase fence used at most stops in the U.S. Consists of a steel frame stuffed with plastic “brush” and standing 54 inches high. A foam-rubber roll, covered with green canvas, is placed on the takeoff side. Horses jump the fence in stride, much like human hurdlers in track and field events.

Novice: A horse in the early stages of its steeplechase career. Novice races are held at many meets, to give horses experience over hurdles before they compete with more-seasoned jumpers.

National Fence: A man-made fence used in most steeplechasing in the U.S., so named because the standard fence was developed by the National Steeplechase Association. Consists of a steel frame stuffed with plastic “brush” and standing 52 inches high. A foam-rubber roll, covered with green canvas, is placed on the takeoff side. Horses jump the fence in stride, much like human hurdlers in track and field events. The jumps are brought to racetracks and hunt meets by truck, set up a day in advance.

National Steeplechase Association: The NSA, founded in 1895, is the governing body for steeplechase racing in the United States. Based in Fair Hill, MD, the NSA sanctions, takes entries, approves officials, and inspects courses. The NSA licenses all participants and keeps official statistics.

Paddock: Area where horses are saddled before a race.

Paddock Time: The time all horses are due to be in the paddock before the race.

Point-to-Point: A steeplechase race meet that is unrecognized by the National Steeplechase Association.  Horseman participating at Point-to-Points are unlicensed and it is typically a training ground for amateur riders and events for horses preparing for sanctioned racing.

Post Time: The time that the race actually starts.

Purse: Total money distributed in a race. Winner usually collects 60 percent of total purse, with shares paid to fifth place.

Stakes: An open race which any horse can enter. Usually attracts most-talented horses. NSA requires purse of at least $25,000.

Stewards: Presiding judges or officials at a race meet. They have final decision on all matters pertaining to a race. They may levy fines on owners, trainers, or jockeys who violate the rules of racing. Typical rulings include disqualification of horses who interfere with others in a race. Each race meet has three stewards.

Timber fence: Natural, wooden fence constructed of boards, logs or posts and rails. Timber races are held as part of many race meets and typically attract good jumpers that are a little to slow to be competitive in the hurdle division.  Timber races are 3-4 miles long over the countryside.  Horses carry an average of 165 lbs in these races.

Wings: The panels on either side of a steeplechase fence which are designed to guide a horse to a fence.