Why 2YO Racing Has a Place
The ‘Breednet’ website is one of my favourite hobbies and an enduring addiction. It provides comprehensive categories of up-to-the-minute statistical information on thoroughbred racing and breeding. Tara Madgwick often raises topical issues of pivotal interest. Racing of 2yos is an example of a long standing (‘controversial’) topic. The debate will go on. I’ve taken the liberty of augmenting the portfolio with some veterinary dialogue as quoted.
Featured Image: Skeletal Development in Horses (acknowledge the author identified in the image)
Tara Madgwick – Tuesday December 20
A conversation with somebody not involved in racing this morning got me thinking about the justification for racing two-year-old thoroughbreds and why many in the outside world see this as some sort of cruelty and yet for those involved in the industry it’s one of the most interesting facets of our sport.
With the Magic Millions 2YO Classic on next month, the focus is very much on two-year-old racing and while there are hundreds of babies in work at stables right around the country, only a small percentage of the foal crop will race as juveniles and fewer will succeed and win as juveniles.
For most of them, their juvenile season is about education and building the muscle, bone and mental skills required for successful competition later in life.
Thoroughbreds have been purpose bred for speed for over 200 years with the first Epsom Derby run in 1780. Over generations they have been selectively bred to mature faster and run faster than any other horse and like human athletes that succeed at the highest level of sport, they begin training for their destiny early in life.
We encourage our children to play sport and be active and if they show a particular talent in a particular field and have parents up for the challenge, those kids are pushed along, and most Olympians were well and truly on their way by their early teenage years if not before.
Swimmers, runners, tennis players, gymnasts, football players, cricket players… if they get to the very top of their sport, invariably they’ve spent a lifetime doing it.
|Horse to Human Age Comparison Chart
|Stage of Life
|Stage of Life
|Foal, Weanling, Yearling
|Infancy, Babyhood, Toddler, Preschooler
|Adolescence / Puberty
A look at the chart above comparing horse years to human years, shows that our two-year-old horses are about the equivalent of 13-year-old people and like the people, our two-year-old horses compete largely against their peers at this age.
As three-year-olds, equivalent of human 18-year-olds, they can sometimes match strides with the older horses, but usually receive a weight advantage to offset the physical disadvantage and by age four they begin to at attain full maturity, a process that goes on for several years.
The great champion Winx is a glowing example of a well-managed horse that raced twice as a late season juvenile for two wins and trained on to win 37 of 43 starts, bowing out on a high at age seven with over $26million in prizemoney.
Thoroughbreds are bred with the aim of being elite athletes, not intellectual sit at home and pontificate types, and an important part of that process for the vast majority is education and training at two.
Not all of them are physically or mentally suited to athletic pursuits, as not all humas are suited to becoming professional athletes, but the early education with a good trainer is where we find out more about them and realistic decisions can be made to benefit the horse and it’s owners.
Statistically by the end of December only around 5% of the yearlings offered for sale have made it to the races and by the end of February when the Golden Slipper field is decided we’ve seen about 10%.
By the end of the season come late July we’ve usually seen about 25% of the yearlings offered for sale, so around three-quarters of the commercial foal crop don’t race at two, for them it’s all about education and process.
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