In Reply to: They got in just under the wire - further thoughts posted by ESC on April 01, 2009 at 22:43:
: : Original posts by Baceseras and others in Oct, 07.
: : I used the phrase today, and hence pondered its origin. Came to hypothesis that it probably related to racing, but envisioned remote bookie joints that received race results by wire, including a wire that announced the start of the race. One who got their bet in at the last minute would have gotten in "Under the wire." No sources, pure conjecture.
: I just asked a horse person who just happened to pass by. There used to be an actual wire. Now close races are subject to photo finish in which the photo "may be triggered by a laser or photovoltaic means." Quote from Wikipedia.
: DOWN TO THE WIRE -- It is a horse racing term. "...'wire' is synonymous with the finish line in horse racing, because of the wire stretched across the track that the horses passed under at the end of a race." From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).
[Still unexplained is the thought behind the use of the phrase. To "get in just under the wire" means to complete an action just in time, at the last possible second. On this sense, the well known racetrack set-up has no bearing.
As I think I said back in '07, in a horse race even the latest finisher, far out of the money, does pass under the wire (i.e., the stewards don't take down the wire, or divert the rest of the horses, after the winners cross the line).
Either the phrase originates in vast confusion, or we're still missing something.