In horse racing, a selling race, also known as a ‘selling plate’, or ‘seller’, for short, is a low-grade race in which the winner must be offered for sale at public auction, subject to a minimum bid of £3,200, or more, at the discretion of the racecourse. Aside from the winner, beaten horses in a selling race may be ‘claimed’ for a value specified by the trainer of the horse in question when making the entry for the race.
Selling races can be conditions, or stakes, races, in which horses carry weight according to their age and sex, or handicaps, in which horses carry weight according to their official handicap ratings, as allotted by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), Either way, the prize money in selling races is generally poor and, prior to October, 2018, selling races were subject to varying amounts of commission, up to 50% above the minimum bid, from racecourse to racecourse. At that point, in a effort to encourage owners to run their horses in selling races, the BHA capped the maximum commission retained by racecourses at 10% of the sale price.
In the last two decades or so, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has encouraged better horses to participate in the Grand National by ‘compressing’ the weights. What this means, in practical terms, is allowing horses at the top of the handicap to run off lower handicap ratings than would otherwise be the case. This, in turn, decreases the difference between the highest and lowest weighted horses in the National field, creating, at least in theory, a more competitive race.
The notion that horses at the top of the handicap had previously been disadvantaged by carrying additional weight over the extreme distance of the Grand National appears to be borne out by results since the turn of the twenty-first century. Since 2001, seven horses have carried 11st or more to victory in the National, whereas in the preceding two decades only Grittar (1982), Corbiere (1983) and Rhyme ‘N’ Reason (1988) did so. At the other end of the handicap, no horse has carried the minimum weight of 10st to victory since Bobbyjo who was, in fact, 14lb out of the handicap proper, in 1999.
Typically, horses should consume about 2.5% of their body weight daily, but intense training programmes often mean that racehorses often only have limited access to high-quality grass and hay, from well-maintained pastures, and may struggle to consume enough calories to maintain their optimal weight. Consequently, racehorses are typically fed large amounts of cereal-based feedstuffs, such as grain mixtures and oats, to provide the calories they need to perform as elite athletes.
Indeed, oats were once the staple diet of working horses but, because they are low in calcium and macronutrients, such as copper and zinc, and high in phosphorus, are rarely fed in isolation nowadays. Instead, they are fed alongside high-quality hay and grass, vitamin supplements and additional feedstuffs, such as sugar beet pulp, which is a good source of dietary fibre, or roughage, and helps to balance the diet of a typical racehorse. An average racehorse must also drink between five and ten gallons of clean water every day to maintain its health and performance.
In Flat racing, an apprentice jockeys’ licence allows young, inexperienced riders – aged between 16 and 26 years – to receive a weight allowance, or ‘claim’, when riding against full professional jockeys to compensate for their initial lack of experience. According to Rule (F) 140 of the Rules of Racing, apprentice jockeys can claim 7lb until they have ridden 20 winners, 5lb until they have ridden 50 winners and 3lb until they have ridden 95 winners.
In other words, once an apprentice has ridden 95 winners, his or her apprentice licence becomes invalid and he or she is said to have ‘ridden out’ his or her claim. He or she is then required to apply for a full professional licence with six months. Of course, it is also possible for an apprentice to turn 26 before he or she has ridden out his or her claim, in which case his or her apprentice licence becomes invalid anyway and he or she must apply for a full professional licence immediately.