what does distaff mean in horse racing

In the world of horse racing, the distaff is a term used to refer to races exclusively for female horses, typically three years old or older. These races provide a platform for female horses to showcase their athleticism and compete against each other on a level playing field. The term distaff originated from the Roman goddess Distaff, who was associated with spinning and weaving. In equestrian terminology, it signifies the female lineage in breeding and is used to distinguish races specifically dành riêng cho mares and fillies from those open to both male and female horses.

Distaff in Horse Racing

In the world of horse racing, the term “distaff” refers to female horses, and it often appears in the names of races or events specifically designated for them. It’s a distinction that highlights the unique qualities and characteristics of these equine athletes.

Female Horse Distinction

  • Physiology: Female horses, also known as mares or fillies, exhibit distinct physiological differences from their male counterparts, stallions and colts. These differences include a different reproductive system and hormone profile.
  • Racing style: Mares and fillies often demonstrate different racing styles than stallions and colts. They may prefer different running distances or surfaces, and their temperament and running style can vary.
  • Breeding: Distaff horses are highly valued for breeding purposes, as they can produce future generations of racing champions or sport horses.

Distaff Races

To acknowledge and celebrate the unique attributes of female horses, racing organizations around the world host distaff races. These races are exclusively open to mares and fillies and offer significant purses and recognition.

Notable Distaff Races
Breeders’ Cup Distaff1 1/8 milesSyntheticUnited States
Epsom Oaks1 1/2 milesTurfUnited Kingdom
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe1 1/2 milesTurfFrance

Distaff in Horse Racing: Lineage and Breeding Significance

In the world of horse racing, the term “distaff” holds a specific meaning related to lineage and breeding. It refers to the female line of a horse’s pedigree, or the line of ancestors that descend through the mare, or female horse.


The distaff line traces the ancestry of a horse back through its female ancestors. This includes the mare, her dam (mother), granddam (mother of the dam), and so on. The distaff line is important because it provides insights into the genetic traits and characteristics passed down from generation to generation.

  • Broodmare: The foundation of the distaff line, the broodmare is the female horse that produces foals.
  • Dam: The mother of a horse.
  • Granddam: The mother of the dam.

Breeding Significance

The distaff line has significant implications for breeding racehorses. Breeders often look to produce horses with specific qualities or characteristics. By studying the distaff line, they can identify mares and dams that have consistently produced successful offspring.

Characteristics that may be influenced by the distaff line include:

  • Speed
  • Staミナ
  • Conformation
  • Temperament

Additionally, breeders may consider the “black-type” performances of a horse’s distaff line. Black-type refers to graded stakes races, which are prestigious competitions that offer high levels of purse money. Horses with a strong distaff line of black-type winners are often considered to be more valuable and desirable for breeding.

Example of a Distaff Line
GenerationMareNotable Accomplishments
1Secretariat’s SisterChampion 2-Year-Old Filly, U.S. Triple Crown winner
2Weekend SurpriseWinner of Kentucky Oaks
3Lady’s SecretChampion 3-Year-Old Filly, U.S. Triple Crown winner
4Secret DesignWinner of Breeders’ Cup Distaff

What Does Distaff Mean in Horse Racing?

In the world of horse racing, a distaff race is a race reserved exclusively for female horses. The term “distaff” is a Middle English word for a woman’s spinning staff, which symbolized women’s work and, by extension, women themselves.

Distaff races are often named after famous female horses or women involved in horse racing. Some of the most famous distaff races include:

  • The Kentucky Oaks
  • The Black-Eyed Susan Stakes
  • The Acorn Stakes
  • The Coaching Club American Oaks
  • The Breeders’ Cup Distaff

Distinguishing a Distaff Race

  • Distaff races are always open to female horses only.
  • The name of the race will often include the word “distaff” or “fillies” (another term for female horses).
  • The conditions of the race will specify that the race is open to female horses only.
Race TypeGenderCommon AgeDistance
DistaffFillies and Mares3+1 1/8 to 1 1/4 miles
MaidenFillies and Mares3+1 1/16 miles
AllowanceFillies and Mares3+1 1/16 to 1 1/8 miles
StakesFillies and Mares3+1 1/16 to 1 1/4 miles

Distinctive Ladies

In the world of horse racing, the term “distaff” holds a special place, denoting exclusive races reserved for female horses. Its origins can be traced back to the ancient Greek mythological figure of Distaff, who was associated with spinning and weaving.

Historical Context

  • The distaff originated in England, where races for fillies and mares were first established in the 17th century.
  • These events became popular and were often run at major racecourses, following the main races for colts and geldings.
  • The term “distaff” was adopted to distinguish the races specifically reserved for female horses.


Over time, distaff races evolved into a significant part of horse racing, with many prestigious events being established around the world.

Oaks StakesEngland1779
Kentucky OaksUnited States1875
Irish OaksIreland1914
Prix de DianeFrance1843
Epsom OaksEngland1779

Distaff races are designed to showcase the speed, stamina, and athleticism of female thoroughbreds. They play an important role in preserving the bloodlines of elite mares and identifying potential broodmares for the future.

So there you have a quick rundown on what distaff means in the world of horse racing. Thanks for reading! If you’re still curious about other horse racing terms, be sure to check out our other articles on the subject. And don’t forget to stop back again soon for more updates from the track!