Thoroughbred horse racing is a worldwide sport and industry involving the racing of Thoroughbred horses. It is governed by different national bodies. There are two forms of the sport: Flat racing and jump racing, called National Hunt racing in the UK and steeplechasing in the US. Jump racing can be further divided into hurdling and steeplechasing.
Traditionally racehorses have been owned by very wealthy individuals. It has become increasingly common in the last few decades for horses to be owned by syndicates or partnerships. Notable examples include the 2005 Epsom Derby winner Motivator, owned by the Royal Ascot Racing Club, 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide, owned by a group of 10 partners organized as Sackatoga Stable. 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown, owned by IEAH stables, a horse racing hedgefund organization.
Historically, most race horses were bred and raced by their owners. Beginning after World War II, the commercial breeding industry became significantly more important in North America, Europe and Australasia, with the result that a substantial portion of Thoroughbreds are now sold by their breeders, either at public auction or through private sales. Additionally, owners may acquire Thoroughbreds by "claiming" them out of a race (see discussion of types of races below).
A horse runs in the unique colours of its owner. These colours must be registered under the national governing bodies and no two owners may have the same colours. The rights to certain colour arrangements ("cherished colours") are valuable in the same way that distinctive car registration numbers are of value. It is said that Sue Magnier (owner of George Washington, Galileo etc.) paid £50,000 for her distinctive dark blue colours. If an owner has more than one horse running in the same race then some slight variant in colours is often used (normally a different coloured cap) or the race club colours may be used.
The horse owner typically pays a monthly retainer or, in North America, a "day rate" to his or her trainer, together with fees for use of the training center or gallops (if the horse is not stabled at a race track), veterinarian and farrier (horseshoer) fees and other expenses such as mortality insurance premiums, stakes entry fees and jockeys' fees. The typical cost of owning a race horse in training for one year is in the order of £15,000 in the United Kingdom and as much as $35,000 at major race tracks in North America.
The facilities available to trainers vary enormously. Some trainers have only a few horses in the yard and pay to use other trainers' gallops. Other trainers have every conceivable training asset. It is a feature of racing that a modest establishment often holds its own against the bigger players even in a top race. This is particularly true of national hunt racing.
In 1976, Canadian Bound became the first Thoroughbred yearling racehorse ever to be sold for more than US$1 million when he was purchased at the Keeneland July sale by Canadians, Ted Burnett and John Sikura, Jr.
Racing is governed on an All-Ireland basis, with two bodies sharing organising responsibility. The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board is the rulemaking and enforcement body, whilst Horse Racing Ireland governs and promotes racing. In 2013, Ireland exported more than 4,800 Thoroughbreds to 37 countries worldwide with a total value in excess of €205 million ($278 million). This is double the number of horses exported annually from the U.S.
In Great Britain, Thoroughbred horse racing is governed by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) which makes and enforces the rules, issues licences or permits to trainers and jockeys, and runs the races through their race course officials. The Jockey Club in the UK has been released from its regulatory function but still performs various supporting roles.
A significant part of the BHA's work relates to the disciplining of trainers and jockeys, including appeals from decisions made by the course stewards. Disciplinary enquiries usually relate to the running of a horse, for example: failure to run a horse on its merits, interference with other runners, excessive use of the whip. The emergence of internet betting exchanges has created opportunities for the public to lay horses and this development has been associated with some high-profile disciplinary proceedings.
In order to run under rules a horse must be registered at Weatherbys as a Thoroughbred. It must also reside permanently at the yard of a trainer licensed by the BHA or a permit holder. Similarly the horse's owner or owners must be registered as owners.
Thoroughbred racing is governed on a state-by-state basis in Australia. The Australian Turf Club administers racing in New South Wales, the Victoria Racing Club is the responsible entity in Victoria, the Brisbane Racing Club was an amalgamation in 2009 of the Queensland Turf Club and Brisbane Racing Club, and administers racing in Queensland.
Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne is home to the Melbourne Cup, the richest "two-mile" handicap in the world, and one of the richest turf races. The race is held on the first Tuesday in November during the Spring Racing Carnival, and is publicised in Australia as "the race that stops a nation".
Regulation and control of racing in the United States is highly fragmented. Generally, a state government entity in each American state that conducts racing will license owners, trainers and others involved in the industry, set racing dates, and enforce drug restrictions and other rules. Pedigree matters and the registration of racing colors, however, are the province of The Jockey Club, which maintains the American Stud Book and approves the names of all Thoroughbreds.
Regulation of horse racing in Canada is under the Jockey Club of Canada. There are a few racing venues across Canada, but the major events are mainly in Ontario and managed by the Woodbine Entertainment Group, formerly Ontario Jockey Club. While British Columbia's major venue is Hastings Racecourse with popular events like the annual BC Derby.
Thoroughbred racing is divided into two codes: flat racing and jump races. The most significant races are categorised as Group races or Graded stakes races. Every governing body is free to set its own standards, so the quality of races may differ. Horses are also run under different conditions, for example Handicap races, Weight for Age races or Scale-Weight. Some of the most prestigious races in the world, such as the Grand National or Melbourne Cup are run as handicaps.
Flat races can be run under varying distances and on different terms. Historically, the major flat racing countries were Australia, England, Ireland, France and the United States, but other countries, such as Japan and the United Arab Emirates, have emerged in recent decades. Some countries and regions have a long tradition as major breeding centers, namely Ireland and Kentucky.
In Europe and Australia, virtually all major races are run on turf (grass) courses, while in the United States, dirt surfaces (or, lately, artificial surfaces such as Polytrack) are prevalent. In Canada, South America and Asia, both surface types are common.
Jump races and steeplechases, called National Hunt racing in the United Kingdom and Ireland, are run over long distances, usually from two miles (3,200 m) up to four and a half miles (7,200 m), and horses carry more weight. Many jump racers, especially those bred in France, are not Thoroughbreds, being classified as AQPS. Novice jumping races involve horses that are starting out a jumping career, including horses that previously were trained in flat racing. National Hunt racing is distinguished between hurdles races and chases: the former are run over low obstacles and the latter over larger fences that are much more difficult to jump. National Hunt races are started by flag, which means that horses line up at the start behind a tape. Jump racing is popular in the UK, Ireland, France and parts of Central Europe, but only a minor sport or completely unknown in most other regions of the world. National Hunt flat races (or "bumpers") without fences or hurdles are also staged to provide experience for horses which have not taken part in flat racing.
In the world's major Thoroughbred racing countries, breeding of racehorses is a huge industry providing over a million jobs worldwide. While the attention of horseracing fans and the media is focused almost exclusively on the horse's performance on the racetrack or for male horses, possibly its success as a sire, little publicity is given to the brood mares. Such is the case of La Troienne, one of the most important mares of the 20th century to whom many of the greatest Thoroughbred champions, and dams of champions can be traced.
The Triple Tiara of Thoroughbred Racing, formerly known as the Filly Triple Crown, is a set of three horse races in the United States which is open to three-year-old fillies. Presently the only official Triple Tiara is the three race series in New York; they are: The Acorn Stakes, run at Belmont Park at a distance of 1 mile, The Coaching Club American Oaks, run at Saratoga Race Course at a distance of 1⅛ miles and The Alabama Stakes, also run at Saratoga at a distance of 1¼ miles.Assault (horse)
Assault (March 26, 1943 – September 2, 1971)
was an American Hall of Fame Thoroughbred racehorse who won the U.S. Triple Crown in 1946.Canadian Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing
The Canadian Triple Crown is a series of three Thoroughbred horse races run annually in Canada which is open to three-year-old horses foaled in Canada. Established in 1959, the series is unique in that it shares the same distances as its American counterpart, but is contested on three different race surfaces.The first leg, the Queen's Plate, is contested at 1¼ miles on Tapeta at Toronto, Ontario's Woodbine Racetrack, whereas the July Prince of Wales Stakes is a 1³/16 mile event run on dirt at Fort Erie Racetrack in Fort Erie, Ontario. The final leg is the 1½ mile Breeders' Stakes in August which is run on Turf over one full lap of the E. P. Taylor Turf Course at Woodbine.
The Canadian Triple Crown shares another characteristic with its American counterpart—all of the races in both series are open to geldings. This differs from the situation in Europe, where many important flat races, notably the British and all but one of the French classics, bar geldings.
Since 2014, all of the races in the Canadian Triple Crown have been televised by TSN.Citation (horse)
Citation (April 11, 1945 – August 8, 1970) was an American Triple Crown-winning Thoroughbred racehorse who won 16 consecutive races in major stakes race competition. He was the first horse in history to win one million dollars.Duke of Magenta
This article is about the racehorse. For the French statesman and general, see Patrice de MacMahon, Duke of Magenta. For other holders of this title, see MacMahon family.Duke of Magenta (1875–1899) was one of the most successful racehorses in the United States in the 19th century.Eclipse Award
The Eclipse Award is an American thoroughbred horse racing award named after the 18th century British racehorse and sire, Eclipse. The Eclipse Awards were created by three independent bodies in 1971 to honor the champions of the sport. Although widely viewed as a national standard, they are not an official national award as Thoroughbred racing in the United States has no sport governing body. Rather, the Eclipse Awards are sponsored by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers Association who select all finalists at the end of the year. Those same voters then vote any of the three finalists in each category. Winners are announced in January of the next year. J. B. Faulconer, the first full-time publicity director at Keeneland, is credited with starting the Eclipse Award program. The Lexington, Kentucky artist and sculptor Adalin Wichman designed the Eclipse Award, each of which is individually cast in the traditional lost wax method and is hand finished.
Prior to creation of the Eclipse Awards, the Thoroughbred Racing Associations of America and the Daily Racing Form each published their own opinion of annual champions. For more than a century, annual champions have been chosen by various bodies and these have been compiled and condensed with Eclipse Award winners by The Blood-Horse magazine.
As well, Thoroughbred Heritage has their own list of "Champions of the Turf" with many from much earlier years based on a retrospective assessment by their own experts.The Eclipse Award of Merit is the industry's highest honor. The most prestigious Eclipse Award for horses is the Horse of the Year title.The equivalent in Australia is the Australian Thoroughbred racing awards, in Canada the Sovereign Awards, and in Europe, the Cartier Racing Awards.
An Eclipse Award Trophy is presented to the winner in each division that is made by a few small selected American foundries with expertise in studio bronze casting. It is then mounted on the hand-crafted native Kentucky walnut base to comprise the Eclipse Award on which a brass plate recites the award winner.
The Eclipse Award categories:
American Horse of the Year
American Champion Two-Year-Old Male Horse
American Champion Two-Year-Old Filly
American Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse
American Champion Three-Year-Old Filly
American Champion Older Dirt Male Horse
American Champion Older Dirt Female Horse
American Champion Sprint Horse
American Champion Female Sprint Horse
American Champion Male Turf Horse
American Champion Female Turf Horse
Outstanding Steeplechase horse
Outstanding Apprentice Jockey
Eclipse Special Award
Eclipse Award Of Merit
National Thoroughbred Racing Association Moment of the YearGallant Fox
Gallant Fox (March 23, 1927 – November 13, 1954) was a United States Thoroughbred horseracing champion. In a racing career which lasted from 1929 to 1930, he ran seventeen times and won eleven races. As a three-year-old in 1930, he won nine of his ten races and became the second horse to win the U.S. Triple Crown. The term "Triple Crown" was not commonly used at the time but was employed by the New York Times to describe the colt's achievements.Johnstown (horse)
Johnstown (March 12, 1936 – May 14, 1950) was an American Hall of Fame Thoroughbred racehorse who won two out of every three races he competed in.Nashua (horse)
Nashua (April 14, 1952 – February 3, 1982) was an American-born thoroughbred racehorse, best remembered for a 1955 match race against Swaps, the horse that had defeated him in the Kentucky Derby.National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame
The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame was founded in 1951 in Saratoga Springs, New York, to honor the achievements of American Thoroughbred race horses, jockeys, and trainers. In 1955, the museum moved to its current location on Union Avenue near Saratoga race course, at which time inductions into the hall of fame began. Each spring, following the tabulation of the final votes, the announcement of new inductees is made, usually during Kentucky Derby Week in early May. The actual inductions are held in mid-August during the Saratoga race meeting.
The Hall of Fame's nominating committee selects eight to ten candidates from among the four Contemporary categories (male horse, female horse, jockey and trainer) to be presented to the voters. Changes in voting procedures that commenced with the 2010 candidates allow the voters to choose multiple candidates from a single Contemporary category, instead of a single candidate from each of the four Contemporary categories. For example, in 2016, two female horses (Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta) were inducted at the same time.
The museum also houses a large collection of art, artifacts, and memorabilia that document the history of horse racing from the eighteenth century to the present.National Thoroughbred Racing Association
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) is a broad-based coalition of American horse racing interests consisting of leading thoroughbred racetracks, owners, breeders, trainers and affiliated horse racing associations, charged with increasing the popularity of horse racing and improving economic conditions for industry participants. The NTRA has offices in Lexington, Kentucky, and Rye Brook, New York.
Historically, it is the marketing departments of the individual tracks, not the national marketing campaigns, which have attracted a fan base. In 2012, the radio campaign by advertising agency, DeVito/Verdi, led to an increase in a younger, more affluent fan base, and won the Mercury awards for the best radio campaign.Robert J. Frankel
Robert Julian Frankel (July 9, 1941 – November 16, 2009) was an American thoroughbred race horse trainer whom ESPN called "one of the most successful and respected trainers in the history of thoroughbred racing." He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1995, and was a five-time winner of the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer. Often referred to as "Bobby" by others, he preferred and always used "Robert." Frankel set the single-season world record for most Grade/Group I victories in 2003 with 25 Grade I wins, a record that stood until it was beaten by Aidan O'Brien in 2017.Thoroughbred Racing on NBC
Thoroughbred Racing on NBC is the de facto title for a series of horse races events whose broadcasts are produced by NBC Sports, the sports division of the NBC television network in the United States. Race coverage is currently helmed by, among others, hosts Bob Costas and Mike Tirico, along with analysts Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey, handicappers Eddie Olczyk and Britney Eurton, reporters Kenny Rice, Donna Barton Brothers, Laffit Pincay, III and Carolyn Manno and track announcer Larry Collmus.Tim Tam (horse)
Tim Tam (April 19, 1955 – July 30, 1982) was an American thoroughbred racehorse. He won the 1958 Kentucky Derby.Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing
The Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, often shortened to Triple Crown, comprises three races for three-year-old Thoroughbred horses. Winning all three of these Thoroughbred horse races is considered the greatest accomplishment in Thoroughbred racing. The term originated in mid-19th century England and nations where thoroughbred racing is popular each have their own Triple Crown series.Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing (United States)
In the United States, the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, commonly known as the Triple Crown, is a title awarded to a three-year-old Thoroughbred horse who wins the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. The three races were inaugurated in different years, the last being the Kentucky Derby in 1875. These races are now run annually in May and early June of each year. The Triple Crown Trophy, commissioned in 1950 but awarded to all previous winners as well as those after 1950, is awarded to a Triple Crown winner.
The first winner of all three Triple Crown races was Sir Barton in 1919. Some journalists began using the term Triple Crown to refer to the three races as early as 1923, but it was not until Gallant Fox won the three events in 1930 that Charles Hatton of the Daily Racing Form put the term into common use.
In the history of the Triple Crown, 13 horses have won all three races: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978), American Pharoah (2015), and Justify (2018). As of 2018, American Pharoah and Justify are the only living Triple Crown winners.
James E. "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons was the first trainer to win the Triple Crown more than once; he trained both Gallant Fox and his son Omaha for the Belair Stud breeding farm. Gallant Fox and Omaha are the only father-son duo to win the Triple Crown. Bob Baffert became the second trainer to win the Triple Crown twice, training American Pharoah and Justify. Belair Stud and Calumet Farm are tied as the owners with the most Triple Crown victories with two apiece. Calumet Farms won with Whirlaway and Citation. Eddie Arcaro rode both of Calumet Farms' Triple Crown champions and is the only jockey to win more than one Triple Crown.
Secretariat holds the stakes record time for each of the three races. His time of 2:24 for 1 1⁄2 miles in the 1973 Belmont Stakes also set a world record that still stands.Twenty Grand
Twenty Grand (1928–1948) was an American thoroughbred race horse. Owned and bred by Helen Hay Whitney's Greentree Stable, Twenty Grand was a bay colt by St. Germans out of Bonus.United States Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing on television
In the United States, the Triple Crown races have been broadcast on television since 1960, under various individual race-broadcaster agreements. Triple Crown Productions was formed in 1985 after CBS terminated its contract with the New York Racing Association. Prior to that, the individual racing associations made their own deals with the TV networks (ABC and CBS).
ABC Sports won the rights to broadcast all three races, as well as many prep races. Ratings went up after the package was centralized. This arrangement continued until 2001, when NBC Sports took over. Under NBC, ratings continued to go up, by as much as 20 percent in some years. It didn't hurt that many horses, like Funny Cide and Smarty Jones, were making Triple Crown runs during those years (although all of them failed).Whirlaway
Whirlaway (April 2, 1938 – April 6, 1953) was an American champion thoroughbred racehorse. The chestnut horse was sired by English Derby winner Blenheim, out of the broodmare Dustwhirl. Whirlaway was bred at Calumet Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. Trained by Ben A. Jones and ridden by Eddie Arcaro, Whirlaway won the U.S. Triple Crown in 1941. Whirlaway was widely known as "Mr. Longtail" because his tail was especially long and thick and it would blow far out behind him during races, flowing dramatically in the wind.He was voted the American Champion Two-Year-Old Colt in 1940 by Turf & Sports Digest magazine. The rival Daily Racing Form award was won by Our Boots.