In horse racing, ‘novice’ is often used in the same sense that it is used elsewhere – that is, to describe a horse that is new to racing, or inexperienced in its selected discipline – but, officially, ‘novice’ has a highly-specific meaning.
Under the Rules of Racing, on the Flat, a novice is any horse that is eligible to run in a novice, novice auction or median auction novice race. What that means, essentially, it that is has won no more than twice and has run no more than twice, unless it has yet to win or is a two-year-old, although it must also satisfy certain other eligibility criteria.
In National Hunt racing, a novice is defined as a horse that has yet to win, in its selected discipline – that is, over hurdles or fences – before the start of the current season. The only caveat is that horses that win one or more races in their selected discipline in the last two months of the National Hunt season ‘proper’ are still regarded as novices, and therefore eligible to run in novice hurdles or novice steeplechases, until the end of the following October.
The majority of racehorses are sold at public auction, where they are grouped by type – yearlings, two-year-olds, horses in training and so on – listed in an auction catalogue and sold to the highest bidder. Depending on your budget and other requirements, buying a horse privately, directly from a breeder or trainer, at a negotiated price, may be your easiest option. Other choices include buying the winner of a selling race, which will be offered for auction immediately afterwards, or claiming a horse, at the advertised claiming price, from a claiming race.
Each method of buying a racehorse has its own pros and cons, so it is important, once you have decided on your budget, to seek a professional advisor, in the form of bloodstock agent or licensed trainer. Their knowledge and experience in analysing pedigrees, assessing form and, generally, in buying and racing horses, is likely to prove an invaluable asset.
A thoroughbred racehorse typically gallops at around 30 miles per hour, on average, but, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the fastest speed ever recorded was 43.97 miles per hour, by Winning Brew, a two-year-old filly, who covered two furlongs at Penn National Race Course, in Pennsylvania, USA in 20.57 seconds on May 14, 2008. Of course, the minimum distance over which thoroughbred horses race, in Britain, is five furlongs; the record over that distance belongs to Stone Of Folca, a four-year-old gelding, who achieved an average speed of 41.9 miles per hour when winning at Epsom Downs Racecourse, in Surrey, UK on June 2, 2012, in a time of 53.69 seconds.