When the horses crossed the finish line in the 1896 Melbourne Cup, one anonymous journalist evocatively described the scene as 'Newhaven first, Daylight second'. Without knowing it at the time, with the term 'Daylight second...' that gentleman coined a phrase that would become part of the Australian sporting vernacular.
Unbeknown to most outside the racing industry, the origins of many Australian phrases and colloquialisms can be traced to the racetrack. Here's a quick look at some of the most commonly heard;
'At the drop of a hat' literally describes the manner in which races were started in the 1800's.
'Down to the wire', meaning a close, tight finish is from the 1800's as well, when a strip of tape was strung along the finish line to help determine the result in a tight finish.
A 'Dead Ringer' is someone who looks remarkably like someone else. A Ringer in racing parlance is a substitute of similar appearance, but more talent than the original. The word Dead, in this instance can be taken as meaning precise. e.g. dead centre or dead heat.
To win 'Hands Down' traces its origin to jockeys with a huge lead dropping their hands as they no longer need to urge their mounts along to win the race.
Often something or someone is described as 'Home and Hosed'. This being a horse that is such a sure thing it's hosed down and back in its box before the others have finished.
A 'Drongo' has long been a derogatory, albeit light hearted colloquialism for someone a bit slow. Drongo was a racehorse in the 1920's who never won a race (Although his record was not as bad as his legacy would suggest). Others such as 'Finished like Bernborough' and 'further back than Walla Walla' are self explanatory.
If you're agitated and annoyed it's fair to say someone or something has 'Got your Goat'. Often trainers would leave a goat with their horses as a companion to keep them calm in the paddock or around the stables. Take the Goat away..........You know the rest.