What Is the "Home Stretch"?

J.E. Holloway

"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 "home stretch" refers to the final race towards the finish line.
In horse racing, the "home stretch" refers to the final race towards the finish line.

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.

Home stretch is sometimes used in baseball to describe the line between third base and home plate.
Home stretch is sometimes used in baseball to describe the line between third base and home plate.

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 "home stretch" may refer to the final days of a planned exercise routine.
The "home stretch" may refer to the final days of a planned exercise routine.

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.

Someone might be entering the "home stretch" if they are nearly done with physical therapy.
Someone might be entering the "home stretch" if they are nearly done with physical therapy.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments

summing

I am a big fan of horse racing and it is amazing how much a race can change when it enters the home stretch. The leader can fall to the back of the back or the last hose, the one you completely counted out, can make a surge and win by a nose.

It is almost like the hose knows that the home stretch is their last chance. I have heard it said that the best race horses have an actually competitive spirit and I have to think that this kicks in when they near the end of a race.

Ivan83

I am so excited, I am entering the home stretch on my PhD thesis. I have been working on it for the last three years but it is finally all written and now all I have left is to defend it. That gives me plenty to be nervous about, but I know that the hard part is out of the way with.

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register: