Sunday, January 4, 2009

Horse Racing Jargon Through the Years

Santa Anita 1908
Grandstand, Santa Anita, c. 1908

On December 25, 1934, the Los Angeles Times ran a piece by Paul Lowry entitled "Horse Racing Has Its Own Peculiar Jargon."1 It was the final piece in a series leading up to the revival of racing at Santa Anita, which would open its gates that Christmas day after a hiatus of nearly a quarter of a century.

The point of the article was to help first-time racegoers to understand the sport by providing a glossary of terms they might encounter at the track. Many of those terms are still in use today. A few of them have fallen out of usage over time, and some were completely new to me; but some more seasoned racetrackers may recognize them -- and even wish to add a few of their own:
  • Box car and telephone numbers: A winning bet at big odds.

  • Goat: A poor racing horse.

  • Impost: The total weight carried by a horse.

  • Morning Glory: A horse which looks like a champion in the
    morning and can't click in the afternoon.

  • Nom de Course: Name other than his own under which an owner
    races his horses, such as the Northway Stables (Norman Church).

  • Plater: A horse which runs largely in claiming races.

  • Rail Lugger: A horse such as Equipoise which bears to the
    left for the inner rail.
I had no idea Equipoise was a rail lugger, but he certainly wasn't a morning glory! Let's hear some more old-time jargon if you've got it!

1 Los Angeles Times, December 25, 1934, A14.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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