Trotting races in France have special terms. Here are the main ones in alphabetical order:
A chevalBetting term meaning each-way (win and place).
It can refer to an ordinary win and place bet (‘pari simple à cheval’), or a win and place dual forecast (Couplé Gagnant-Placé). So a ‘Couplé à cheval 4-6’ means a ‘Couplé Gagnant’ 4-6 (selections must finish in first two) and a ‘Couplé Placé’ 4-6 (selections must finish in first 3).
This term qualifies the specific way a horse moves its legs and feet. It can be ‘good’, ‘big’, ‘bad’, ‘short’, ‘small’, etc.
AffûtéSharp or primed up.
Said of a horse on his best form, specially prepared for an event.
The sum an owner receives if a trotter wins or finishes in the first 7. Races are funded by a levy on betting turnover which is in turn reallocated to the race track authority.
AmbleA pacer’s gait.
A lateral two-beat gait where the fore and hind legs on the same side simultaneously come in contact with the racing surface. This gait is reprehensible under French trotting rules.
A stamina-based training method for trotters carried out at an average speed of 30 to 35 km/hour (1’40 to 14’2/km), over distances ranging from 6 to 12 kilometres.
Aubinlitteraly 'to hobble'
The trotter gallops with his fore legs and trots with his hind legs (opposite to ‘traquenard’). This type of gait is not allowed.
AutostartMobile starting gate.
The trotters are randomly allocated their position behind the mobile gate, but the richest are on the first tier. There are between 7 and 9 horses per tier (maximum 2 tiers). The vehicle progressively picks up speed, then after a few hundred metres releases the runners as the car quickly accelerates and the gate retracts.
Where jockeys weigh in before and after the race in mounted events. The term in French also extends to the winner’s circle and unsaddling area. ID checks are carried out in this zone on all trotters who have finished in the money.
Catch-driver (sometimes called ‘cash-driver’)
A top-class driver known for his talent in harness events who may have several drives for different trainers at a single meeting and teams up with his partner just before the race.
ClassiqueA Classic race.
A prestigious Group 1 harness or mounted event that a trotter only runs once in during his career between the age of 3 and 5 years old. These races are all held at Paris-Vincennes, except the ‘Saint Léger-des-Trotteurs’, run at Caen. The key word is selection, so geldings are not legible, and the aim is the best trotters of their generation will go on to improve the breed at stud. There are 10 Classics on the trotting calendar in France.
Hemispherical-shaped boots that surround the hoof. Not only do they act as protection, but also provide weight, contributing to a trotter’s balance so he trots more fluently.
The officials who make sure races are run in accordance with the Rules of Trotting. They can open an enquiry into how a race unfolds, convoke the drivers or jockeys after the race, and take action if necessary (either a fine or suspension). In the same manner, they can sanction a trotter for any unruly behaviour and suspend it from competing for an indefinite period.
Conditions de courserace conditions
A number of variables that stipulate the conditions needed to take part in a given race (e.g. age, sex, earnings, distance and speciality). Example: for 4yo fillies not having won €35,000 euros. Distance: 2,700 metres. Trotters having won more than €20,000 euros will have a 25 metre handicap.
Corderails side, or the inside of the track
Thus, the term ‘corde à droite’ designates a right-handed track. In trotting, races are run only right-handed or left-handed, not a mixture of both as can be the case in jumps racing.
The colours an owner runs under. They are also synonymous with silks. For example, ‘both horses running under the same colours’ means they will be sporting the same silks and belong to the same owner.
Courir cachéheld up
A tactic where a driver holds up his partner for as a long as possible before launching a challenge.
When a trotter runs close to his previous outing (usually an interval of 3 or 4 days)
D.A.I (Disqualifié pour Allures Irrégulières)
‘Disqualified for Irregular Gait’. If the horse breaks into a gallop and goes offstride he is disqualified (see also ‘amble’, ‘aubin’, ‘traquenard’).
When 2 or more horses cross the winning line at the same time. The term dates back to the origins of racing when there were no cameras. If the line judge declared the result too close to designate a winner, the race, or ‘heat’, was declared ‘dead’ (hence ‘dead-heat’) and had to be re-run.
A trainer can decide to run his horse without shoes, either behind, in front, or barefoot on all four. The decision must be announced when the trotter is declared to run (usually 48 hours before the event), guaranteeing total transparency for racegoers. It is considered a horse running barefoot will improve by one second/km. On the other hand, he may go offstride more easily.
Départ voltévolt start
This kind of start is the one most frequently used for trotting in France. Paying attention to the starter’s orders, the runners gather in an adjacent starting area, then enter the track in an orderly fashion, using up the full width of the track. They volt a quarter of a turn before the start is officially given. If one or more horses takes an unfair advantage over his rivals, the starter declares a false start and a recall.
If a trotter gallops and goes offstride, or does not stay in trot (see ‘traquenard’, ‘amble’, ‘aubin’), he may be ‘disqualified for irregular gait’ by the stewards (see ‘D.A.I.’). The sanction depends on the number of irregular strides and at what moment during the race they are committed.
D.P.G. (Disqualifié pour avoir atteint le Poteau d'arrivée au Galop)
Disqualified for passing the winning post while galloping. This happens if a trotter breaks into a gallop as he passes the winning post.
The rider in the sulky in harness events.
It can of course be a place where racehorses are kept and trained. But the term ‘Faire écurie’, referring to two or more runners in the same race, means the horses belong to the same owner. In this case, they are coupled in the betting for win bets (signified by the letter ‘E’ on the race card). If one of them wins, the punter can cash in his ticket, irrespective of which of the owner’s horses triumphs. This rule applies only to win bets and does not apply to place bets.
En dedanson the inside
‘Producing a run on the inside’. Instead of challenging on the outside, some jockeys and drivers prefer taking the shortest route along the rails.
When the race conditions are particularly favourable for a trotter, he is referred to as ‘having a good entry’.
Enrênementtype of headstrap
A leather strap or lash which ensures a horse’s head is adjusted to the right height. Head posture is important for trotting dynamics. In order to trot quickly, some trotters need to carry their head high, while others have a lower position.
En retard de gainsbehind in earnings
Refers to horse whose earnings do not match potential ability.
The stewards can open an enquiry if they consider there was a problem during the race (hampering, falls and suspect behaviour). They may also take a closer look at the race replay to check if a trotter hasn’t gone offstride.
A person who trains racehorses and prepares them for racing. The trainer must hold a licence issued by LeTrot. He manages his charge’s racing career, in agreement with the owner.
Épreuve de sélection
Specific Group 3 and Group 2 races (also known as ‘semi-classics’ in French) which act as springboards to Group 1 Classics. Targeting selection and attracting the best trotters of each age group, a trotter will only run once in events of this kind between the age of 2 and 5 years.
Etre dans la boîteto get boxed in
A term used when a runner is surrounded by other rivals and is unable to produce a run in the home straight.
Etre sur la montanteon the up
The horse is progressing both physically and form-wise.
Etrier d’or‘golden stirrup’ award
A title awarded to the jockey who has scored the most wins under saddle in France during a calendar year.
Faire illusionto look like winning
A horse who looks like winning the race in the closing stages, but is finally outpaced.
Faute (faire une)to go offstride (or break stride) during the race
Depending on the number of irregular strides, the trotter may be disqualified.
The young offspring of an equine animal who is still under a year old.
Gagner arrêté, dans un canter to win ‘pulled up’ or in a canter
An easy win.
Grand National du TrotA trotting ‘Tour de France’
The event comprises 13 regional stages. Points are awarded after each round. The Tour finishes off with a Masters held on the first Sunday of the Vincennes Winter Festival.
Groupe 1Group 1 event
The top of the pyramid in racing terms, designating top-class events. All Classics are Group 1s, as well as big international races and intergenerational events such as the Opodo Prix d'Amérique. There are 24 Group 1s in France.
Comes just under a Group 1. Group 2s include races aimed at selection and lead up to Group 1 level.
Group 3s are of a lower level than Group 1 and 2 races. Some major provincial Grand Prix are labelled Group 3.
A workout that trotters usually undergo about an hour before a race. The goal is to build up heart rate and insure muscular warm-up. Like for athletes, a heat is personalised according to physical characteristics and mind-set. At Vincennes, when preparing for big events, champions very often do two heats.
a jockey who rides a trotter in a mounted (or ‘saddled’) event.
Juge à l'arrivéeJudge
The official who declares both the winner and placed horses in a race. He also interprets any photo finishes and officially issues the result.
Juge aux allures
Acting under the stewards’ authority, these judges ensure a competitor trots fluently and does not break stride during the race. On big tracks like Vincennes, the judges sit close to the action in a transporter with a panoramic view which follows the runners during the race.
Livret signalétiqueIdentification booklet
A document stating the horse’s breeding, (ascendants spanning 4 generations), its description (markings), name, breeder and vaccinations. The booklet must be made available at all times, and is indispensable on race days.
A summary of past form as it appears on the race card. The form is read from left to right, (starting with the most recent result). The form figures indicate the position the horse finished, or any possible incident that occurred, as well as the speciality (a: attelé = harness events ; m: monté = mounted events)
Nez au vent
means the horse travels uncovered on the outside, a usually unfavourable position.
Limits the horse’s field of vision. They isolate a nervous horse from its immediate environment, or, on the other hand, helps an unmindful horse to focus more on the job at hand and less on what’s going on around it.
Occurs when a horse doesn’t keep a straight course when coming under pressure. Because of fatigue, he may hang (or ‘lean’) left or right.
P.M.H (Pari Mutuel Hippodrome - on-track Pari Mutuel)
A range of bets only available at the track.
A piece of leather or synthetic material which protects certain parts of the horse from knocks. The most common are knee guards, or protections for tendons and articulations.
Trotters must run in a qualifier before debuting competitively. They have to complete 2,000 metres in a specific time, depending on their age (2-5yos) and the discipline (harness or mounted). Between 40 to 45% of horses of the same generation manage to qualify.
Ramasser les mortsto pick them off
When a horse makes up ground in the straight over rivals who are already beaten, thereby ‘picking them off’.
An event where all the runners are up for auction after the race. Potential buyers must place their bid in an urn within a certain time limit. The highest bidder becomes the new owner. Nothing prevents the vendor from making a bid and buying back his own horse.
Réduction kilométriqueglobal race time expressed as an average time per kilometre
This means races run worldwide can be compared regardless of the distance. Speed-wise, trotters do an average of about 48 to 50 km/hour at Vincennes.
Rendre la distanceto concede a handicap, expressed in meters
In France, runners on the second starting line concede a 25 metre handicap, and 50 metres if setting off from the third starting line.
Rester en suspension
when a horse travels on the outside during a race and just ‘stays there’ and fails to overtake his rivals.
The colour of a horse’s coat. The main ones are chestnut (reddish brown), bay (brown), and dark bay (black bay).
Ronger son freinliterally ‘to keep a foot on the brakes’
A term used when a horse can’t get a clear run between rivals in the home straight.
Rouge à l’arrivéethe result is official
A red light appears next to the result on the track’s results board. Once displayed, the tote returns are calculated and the result is final.
Se désunirto go offstride or break stride
This happens when the trotter’s stride starts getting out of sync and he is no longer trotting adequately in the required gait, or if he breaks into a gallop.
S’élancer comme un fer à repasserliterally ‘to start like an iron’
A term used when a trotter gets off to a really slow start.
The official who brings the runners under orders and makes sure everyone gets a fair start.
An official record of the pedigree of purebred horses. All current ‘Trotteur Français’ are registered in the stud-book, just like their ascendants are, spanning several generations. The Stud-Book rules define the modalities for registration.
A light two-wheel carriage or cart. The driver sits on the upper section and the two shafts are attached along the trotter’s flank to a harness, a sort of belt which encircles the thorax. Sulkies used in competitive harness racing (also known as ‘race bikes’) are lighter than ever and made out of sophisticated materials, but must be approved.
Sulky d’or‘golden sulky’ award
Awarded to the driver having won the most harness races in France during a calendar year.
Surfacesurface, or track type
In France, the two main surfaces used in trotting are grass and sand tracks (sand refers to cinders, pozzuolana, quarry sand, etc.).
The horse trots with his fore legs and gallops with his hind legs, the opposite to ‘aubin’. This type of gait is not permitted.
A diagonal two-beat movement where the horse moves its legs in diagonal pairs. On the first beat, the left fore leg hits the ground at the same time as the right hind leg. On the second beat, the right fore leg and left hind leg are in contact with the ground.
Mounted trotting, where the runners compete ‘under saddle’.
A young horse born the previous year. Every year on January 1st, a yearling can be aged between 7 to 11 months depending on the month he was born in, and on the 31st of December of the same year can be aged between 19 to 23 months.