Friday, August 29, 2014

Quarter Horse racing

In addition to owning the world's best cowpony, my friend Andrea works an editor for the Q-Racing Journal.  In honor of this weekend's All American festivities, she offers this look at the sport of Quarter Horse racing.  Thanks, Andrea!

Quarter Horse Racing

by Andrea Caudill

Quarter Horse racing is a niche sport within the world of horse racing, but is practiced around the world. It is most popular in the United States, Mexico and Canada, as well as South America and Australia. The “drag racing” version of horse racing, Quarter Horses run very short distances at very high rates of speed. Typical races are 220 to 870 yards. The most popular races are 300-350 yards, but the “classic” distance is 440 yards – a quarter mile – and where the Quarter Horse’s name originates from.

The best horses can hit a top speed of 55 miles per hour within a sprint race. Unlike Thoroughbred racing, Quarter Horse racing is timed from the instant the gates open (Thoroughbreds get a running start). The world record for 440 yards is :20.274.
Ruidoso Downs, in the mountains of Southern New Mexico, is one of the premier Quarter Horse tracks. These photos were taken during the All American trials. In Quarter Horse racing, for some of the prestigious stakes races, owners pay periodic nomination fees on young horses to nominate them to the stakes races (in this case, the All American Futurity and All American Derby), starting when the horses are weanlings and continuing as they get older. If they’re still nominated, to get into the stakes race, the horses must run trials. The ten fastest times from these trials get to compete in the stakes final. The All American Futurity is worth $2.6 million, and about 280 horses competed to earn one of 10 slots to race in it. The final is always on Labor Day.
Handsome Jack Flash, who won last year’s All American Futurity and was running in this year’s Derby trials. You can see how close he is to the Smarty Jones mold! He’s earned $1.48 million for his owners/breeders, and he is a sweet fellow.
The finishes in QH racing are often close. Here is a good example…there are 3 horses in this photo (can you find them all?)
The tack can range from, as in this case, minimalistic – just a bridle with a flash noseband and saddle….
….to blinkers and racing wraps….
….sometimes even a nasal strip (as made famous by California Chrome!)…. 
….and something called a flipping halter, which you can see hanging underneath this horse’s head. The gate/break is very important in QH racing. They run a rope through the ring in the flipping halter to keep the horse from rearing or getting unfocused. Obviously the rope comes out when the horse breaks from the gate.
A closeup of a pretty head and a racing bridle.
Morning gallop.
Another morning gallop.
Please visit for more information about Quarter Horse racing. There is a link that leads to the All American page with news, photos and bios of the qualifiers, and is available free through Labor Day so you can watch some Q racing free of charge!


  1. I think maybe I am not as knowledgeable about thoroughbred racing as I believed. I thought that TBs also broke from the gate and were timed from the break? I know they used to do a running start years ago, and I know that trotters and pacers get a running start - is there a time delay on the timing for TB races?

  2. I thought that for a long time, too, but learned fairly recently (within the last five years) that time doesn't start immediately at the break for Thoroughbreds. Instead, they get a step or two before going through the timers.

    Ha! This is just another one of those random horse trivia things I've learned through the model horse hobby!


  3. Awww. This makes me homesick for Ruidoso. We were blessed to win the First Consolation to the All American Futurity, and the Consolation to both the AA & Kansas Derby back in the day when we trained Quarter horses...that's why I love to use running models in performance, as you know Jen! A good friend of mine finally breed a qualifier for the AA finals this year:)

  4. Wait, weanling races, please tell me that is a typo?

  5. They pay nomination fees as weanlings--they don't race them. :)

    We live about a mile from a track that features QH and TB races. My OTTB owning boyfriend indulges me occasionally to join me for the QH races. He calls them "'s over."