Friday, October 5, 2007
The Friday Fact
Thoroughbred Horse Racing
I've been puzzling all day over what to post and coming up with nothing. So I'm falling back on my sporting passion- Thoroughbred horse racing! Today will be a brief look at how the sport is organized. The picture is of my favorite race horse Silver Charm, he's the gray, and his arch rival Wild Rush. Wild Rush is the bay in the background.
Horse racing is one of the oldest sports still in existence. It dates back to at least the time of the ancient Egyptians. Every continent on the Earth has a racing association of some sort. Here in the US there are two major ones. The Jockey Club and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. The NTRA is the governing body as far as rules go and covers harness racing, steeplechase and dirt.
The Jockey Club is where all Thoroughbred race horses are registered. There is a limit of 18 characters to the horse's name, and this does include spaces. It's a big part of the reason that run-on names are so popular. The Jockey Club also keeps the stud book and compiles the annual breeding statistics.
There are three age/sex divisions in dirt racing. Juvenile, Filly/Mare and what's generally known as Classic. Juvenile horses are the two-year-olds. Fillies and mares don't normally race against the boys, because they're usually smaller and not quite as fast. There are noteable exceptions though, such as Ashado, Azeri and Rags to Riches. Rags to Riches was the FIRST filly to EVER win at a mile and a half in the United States. She's one amazing little horse, won the Belmont Stakes back in June.
Classic is three years old and up. Usually it's the boys against the boys and the girls against the girls. Every once in awhile there will be a mare that can put the boys in their place and it's awesome to watch.
The races themselves are also divided into three categories. A horse's first race is called their Maiden. They break their Maiden whenever they have their first win. Most horses race in a maiden more than once. Once the maiden is broken, they'll move into one of three categories. Those are Claiming, Allowance and Stakes. Claiming is the lowest tier. Anyone who's watched Seabiscuit has a general idea of what a claiming race is. Basically the horse runs, and depending on how he finishes, you can "claim" him for xx amount of money. Next up is Allowance. No big purses, but the horse also won't change ownership three times in one day. (yes, that can happen in claiming races) Then the graded Stakes races. The Stakes are where the money is. Grade 3 Stakes have decent horses in them. Grade 2 Stakes have a mix of decent and good horses and Grade 1 is where the outstanding, amazing horses are. Every single race horse name you're thinking of is a Grade 1 winner.
The Triple Crown races are Grade 1 Stakes, and most of the Derby prep races are Grade 2 Stakes. Running in the Derby is every trainer's dream. Only a handful of them make it. The truly great trainers like Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher go dozens of times, though they don't always win.
Next week- the GREATS of TB racing. By that I mean jockeys, horses and trainers.