On this day in 1973, something happened that had not happened in over two decades: a horse won racing’s Triple Crown. The name of the horse was Secretariat, and he didn’t just win the Belmont Stakes, he annihilated the competition, winning by an amazing 31 lengths. Other horses have won the Triple Crown since, but never has there been such a dominant performance on horse racing’s main stage.
After the race, Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte was as surprised as anyone at his horse’s amazing performance, saying “I know this sounds crazy, but the horse did it by himself. I was along for the ride” (1).
You might say that Secretariat won “hands down.” If you did, you would be using an idiom that means “with no trouble, easily,” and it would be an especially appropriate idiom because the expression originates with horse racing. A jockey who is ahead of the other horses will relax his grip on the reins and drop his hands.
Many other idioms (expressions that mean something different from the literal meaning of the individual words) in English relate to horses and horse racing, such as:
Horse sense, Beat a dead horse, Darkhorse, Hold your horses, A horse of a different color, On your high horse, Straight from the horse’s mouth, Horse around
In addition to horses, English features a whole menagerie of beastly idioms.
As the crow flies, bee in your bonnet, bird’s eye view, can of worms, cold turkey, dog and pony show, dog eat dog, the early bird catches the worm, eat crow, the elephant in the room, fish or cut bait, a fish out of water, a fly in the ointment, hornets’ nest, kangaroo court, lame duck, lone wolf, monkey business, night owl, spring chicken, one-trick pony, puppy love, putting the cart before the horse, rat race, red herring, sacred cow, sitting duck, topdog, ugly duckling, water off a duck’s back, white elephant, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink
Today’s Challenge: Your Best Beastly Bet to Win, Place, or Show
What are some examples of idioms in English that feature animals? In horse racing, the terms win, place, and show are betting terms. If you bet on a horse to “win,” the horse must place first; if you bet on a horse to “show,” the horse must place first or second; and if you bet on a horse to “show,” the horse must finish first, second, or third. Select your top three animal-related metaphors. Imagine you were writing to a person for whom English is a second language, and write an explanation of the meaning of each idiom. Also, give examples of how each might be used in a sentence. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)
Quotation of the Day: Horse sense is a good judgment which keeps horses from betting on people. -W.C. Fields
2- Ammer, Christine. Southpaws & Sunday Punches: And Other Sporting Expressions.