"Home stretch" is an idiomatic English expression referring to the last part of a journey or process. It is must usually part of the phrase "in the home stretch," meaning that a project is nearing completion. The expression originates from horse racing, but its usage has spread widely, to the point that the analogy is now much more common than the original term.
In horse racing, the straight areas between the turns of a race track are known as "stretches" or "straightaways." Racing announcer David Johnson is known for his trademark exclamation, "and down the stretch they come!" During a race, horses may run around the track several times. When they pass the last turn and head down the track toward the finish line, they are said to be on the "final stretch" or "home stretch." The term thus refers not to part of the race track, but to part of the track at a certain point in the race.
The use of home to refer to the goal or finish line in a race dates to the 18th century, and can be seen in sporting terms such as "home plate" in baseball. "Stretch" as a description of an area seems to date to the 17th century, although the term in horse racing does not appear until the mid-19th century, roughly contemporary with "home plate." The term seems to have left horse racing early in its history; it is also found in baseball, sometimes being used to describe the line between third base and home plate, as well as in backgammon.
The expression "on the home stretch" is a simple analogy. Just as a horse which is on the home stretch is nearly at the finish line, a person or activity "on the home stretch" is nearing completion. The expression is often used to encourage others to persist in the face of obstacles, with the implication that after the finish line is reached, all will be well.
The expression is used widely outside the world of horse racing, and has permeated popular culture. The expression has been used as the title of several songs, television programs and books. A series of workshops related to home buying uses the name "The Home Stretch," as does a set of exercises. Despite the fact that the term has no connection to "stretching" in the sense of exercise, other than early linguistic roots, the phrase is recognizable enough for marketers to use it in this sense.