June 2, 2024

The Jargon of the Horse Race

As long as horses have been bred for racing, the sport has been fraught with cruelty. Horses are drugged, whipped and pushed to their limits — often beyond them. And despite being social animals, they spend their work lives in solitary confinement. The result is that, according to animal-rights activists, ten thousand American thoroughbreds are slaughtered each year. The equine industry defends horse races as legitimate sports, saying that the animals’ welfare is of the highest importance. Patrick Battuello, who runs the animal-rights organization Horseracing Wrongs, calls it “the Big Lie.”

In a horse race, humans perched on the backs of animals compel them to run at breakneck speed in close quarters. It’s not natural for horses, who understand self-preservation and try to stay healthy in the wild. When they’re injured, they stop and rest. In a horse race, the injuries may be serious or even fatal.

The horse race also comes with a lot of betting jargon that can be confusing for those who aren’t familiar with the game. Here are some of the more common terms:

Condition book: The schedule of races a track offers during a specific time period. If a race in the condition book doesn’t fill, the trainers can substitute another race.

Graded Stakes: The most elite level of race classification for a North American horse. There are less than 500 of these races in a season.

Handicap: The handicapping system of assigning weights to equalize a horse’s chances of winning a race. The weights are assigned by a racing secretary and based on the horses’ past performances.

Steadied: A horse that is held in hand by its jockey, usually due to being in close quarters with another runner. A steadied horse will move out of the way of a runner and may not use the whip.

Sealed track: Maintenance measure to compress the racing surface and make it harder for water to soak in when anticipating rain. A sealed track can produce fast times as the horses remain on top of the dirt instead of sinking in.

Half sister: A female horse who has the same dam as another horse but different sire.

While some companies choose to horse race for a new CEO, others say it’s not the best practice. This is because the process of selecting a candidate can take weeks or months, which can disrupt business operations. Plus, it can cause a company to lose other senior leaders who would have aligned themselves with an unsuccessful candidate. Those who support the horse race approach say that, when done well, it can serve as a powerful signal to employees that they must compete for management roles. It can also help foster a culture of leadership development in which high performers are groomed through a succession of critical roles until they acquire the competencies and seasoning to lead the company. The challenge is to ensure that the process is fair and unbiased so that the company doesn’t lose strong candidates.