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Rife in horse racing circles

RIGHT AND READY: Preparations are well under way at the Flamingo Park Racecourse, as Kimberley readies itself for a horse racing extravaganza. Pictures: Danie van der Lith

Sport is riddled with superstitions, rituals and lucky charms and horse racing is no exception.

The utterance of an inappropriate phrase can be the difference between the winner’s circle and the glue factory.

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet but changing the name of your steed is bound to leave you in a funk.

It’s considered bad luck for breeders to name a horse after themselves or for owners to change the name of a horse.

Wearing green is an absolute no-no, whether you are placing your bet or waiting for your horse to make a break for it.

But, above all else, never… ever tell a horse or jockey to “break a leg”.

This is not Shakespeare so keep your well wishes down to “Equus” and “let’s make some money”.

Do not forget to keep an eye out for two white horses together, as this will bring you luck. However, if one is all you see, it is better to be in the company of your lover or no good will come of it.

In horse racing, first thoughts are usually best thoughts and it is crucial to stick to your guns while betting or prepping for a race.

At the bookies, it is paramount to go with your gut, put the money on the table and walk away with your head held high. There is nothing worse than second guessing yourself to a loss.

Changing a horse’s name is likely to change your luck. Some feel that this type of dabble could easily give your horse an identity crisis as a name fits a personality and redubbing an animal may well leave it rattled.

More practical trainers will say that the change can mess up the important thoroughbred genealogical records, giving the runner bad karma.

Some of these records go back 300 years and lineages that have several Triple Crown champs are given favourable odds.

Belief in this superstition of such a nature that the owners of 2008 Kentucky Derby winner, California Chrome, would not change anything in the horse’s routine for each race.


Chrome’s owners actually considered not running him in the Belmont Stakes because the track was not going to allow Chrome to wear a nasal strip even though Chrome was going for the US Triple Crown, a feat that had not been accomplished in over 30 years.

Do not be afraid to check out the legs, shamelessly, if you feel like it, as horses don’t mind being objectified.

People believe that darker hooves are stronger than brittle white hooves.

White markings on the shins, called “stockings” are also said to hold significance.

There is an old wives’ tale that says “One white foot, buy him. Two white feet, try him. Three white feet, be on the sly. Four white feet, pass him by.”

Arab horse breeders also believed that stallions with four stockings were evil.

Unlike people, horses may be judged by the colour of their skin, as well as the content of their character, as a black horse can be seen as either good or bad, depending on who you ask.

To the Spanish and Hungarians, a black beauty is a bad thing while the French would view it as a positive sign.

In England, a white or grey horse is an omen of death but since the middle ages these steeds have also been a symbol of victory.

Brown mares have a bad reputation, and many spectators live by “Chestnut mare, beware!”

In Native American cultures, pinto and spotted horses are good luck, but other colours have a mixed reputation.

It’s good luck to pick up a coin at the racetrack if heads is up but bad luck if heads is down.

Avoid hanging up pitchforks or rakes with straw stuck in the prongs, installing cloves of garlic in barns and spreading salt in stall corners.

Photographs of horses that will be racing have been shunned in barns, along with overnights and past performance data.

If it is rainy on race day, bettors should pick the grey horse to win and if your horse is in the lead mid-race, it is bad luck to declare your horse is going to win.