A Horse In This Race
Posted by Elyse Bruce on November 1, 2013
When someone has nothing to gain or lose by the outcome of a situation where there’s some degree of competition, it can be said that you either have no horse in this race or you don’t have a horse in this race. And if you do have something to gain from being involved, then you have a horse in this race. It’s an odd expression but one that appears occasionally in the U.S. as well as in the UK, Europe and Australia. It’s the kind of idiom that paints a visual picture with few words, especially for literal and visual thinkers.
Gamers have even been known to use the expression as evidenced by the forum discussion on the gamespot.com website in the November 2012 thread entitled, “Wii U Launch Aftermath, Halo 4 Review, Vita’s Death And More!” When the discussion came around to Halo 4 and its perceived shortcomings by a few gamers. One gamer threw his two cents into the discussion by stating in part:
Haven’t played Halo 4, not a big fan of the series, so I don’t have a horse in this race, guys.
When Seth Abramovitch published an online story for TV.com on March 16, 2012, he wrote about the American Idol season that was already into the Finals segment. Entitled, “The Week in Idol: No More Jermaine, No More Migraine” he used the idiom twice in the same piece with the nicer of the two being this version:
Someone else who has a horse in this race, though it’s probably more of a pony who can compete in the Triple Crown, is Hollie Cavanagh, the tiny, adorable powerhouse with the equally adorable cockney parents who now call Texas their home.
In Caleb Woodbridge’s blog at calebwoodbridge.com, he used the expression on October 11, 2011 when he wrote about Gair Rhydd’s article on the cuts to arts and humanities in Britain. Before getting into the thick of things, he stated outright:
I’ve just returned to university to study for a master’s degree in English Literature, so I’ve obviously got a horse in this race, but I find this attitude very short-sighted.
When Lloyd J. Jassin, an attorney whose primary focus is publishing, entertainment and IP law discussed the matter of copyright in his blog article, “Bible Chains, Book Curses And Copyright” he discussed the matter in detailed, understandable terms. While it’s true he tied it up with a curse he adapted, dating back to 2260 BC, note that he, too, used the idiom.
When an author settles for fame, as opposed to an advance, is anything lost? What about the faithful reproduction or authenticity of the text? I have no horse in this race.
On Ed Cotrell’s website, he published a blog entry entitled, “Illinois’ 1st Congressional District Race” in which he discussed the three candidates: Bobbie Rush, Phillip Jackson and Jason Tabour. It was a brief entry and the idiom found its way into the first paragraph with this sentence:
I’m still registered to vote in North Carolina, so one could say I have no horse in this race, except that I have to listen to it.
When the Buffalo News published a news story on August 1, 2002 on decisions made by State Senator Byron Brown and Erie County Legislator Charles Swanick as they pertained to the congressional campaigns in the new 28th District, the editor ran with the headline, “No Horses In This Race.” While it’s not an exact version of the idiom, it certainly is a direct variation.
And so it was, as shown in a story in the Boston Globe newspaper on August 10, 1994 entitled, “Can Dogs Paw Their Way Back To The Top?” While it’s a fact that the story was about cats and dogs, and their rich histories, the piece authored by Alex Beam included this tidbit:
But I have no horse in this race. I own a cat and a dog. The cat is named Einstein, because he is a genius.
Try as we might, however, Idiomation was unable to find a published version that preceded the Boston Globe. However, it certainly was a phrase to be understood by readers of the day, which indicates that it was part of everyday language. While Idiomation would like to guess at the date the idiom came into existence, it’s safest to go with 1994 and leave the door open for readers and visitors to add their research to this entry.