Ten Horse Racing Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

Millions of people flock to racetracks every year to watch the fastest horses compete against each other. Novices quickly learn to read betting odds before wagering on the horse with the strangest name or the loudest silk. Betting pros will turn their nose up to this and probably use it as an opportunity to show off their horse-racing knowledge. However, there are plenty of interesting facts that even the most clued-up horse racing enthusiasts aren’t aware of.

Take a look at ten horse racing facts you probably didn’t know to get an edge when discussing the odds for upcoming horse races. Also, make sure you check out this horse racing betting guide to learn the fundamentals before wading into a war of words with a wannabe John McCririck.

1. Thoroughbreds Have the Same Birthday

That’s right, Thoroughbreds all share one of two birthdays. For Thoroughbreds born in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s January 1. In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s August 1. However, they aren’t born on that day. Instead, they are given these birthdays on the year of their birth to make it easier to keep track of a horse’s age. This is because several big races enforce an age limit to provide horses with only one chance of winning it. For instance, horses have to be three years old to race in the Kentucky Derby.

Breeders try to get their mares to give birth as close to January 1 or August 1 as possible. Doing this provides foals with more time to mature before starting their racing career. Although a horse’s gestation period is 11 months and that mares generally go into heat during the spring, many Thoroughbred breeders use lights to trick a mare’s body into thinking it is spring at the end of winter so that she will go into heat early.

2. The Queen Has Owned Many Successful Racehorses

The reigning Queen of England is a famous horse lover. Over the years, she has owned many racehorses, which have won more than 1,600 times. Apart from the Epsom Derby, her horses have won all British Classic Races – some even multiple times. What’s more, there are even races named after the royal: the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup, Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes, and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

3. Thoroughbred Name Rules

When looking at the bizarre names of some horses, it may come as a surprise that Thoroughbred owners must follow guidelines set by the Jockey Club when naming their horses. Owners can submit up to six names no longer than 18 characters in length for the club to choose from. However, horses can not have the same name as race tracks or graded stakes races, cannot consist of only numbers, and mustn’t have the names of actual people unless the Jockey Club receives written permission from that person. In addition, names cannot be reused until at least five years after the original horse has left racing and breeding and can never be named after Hall of Fame or Eclipse Award winners.

4. The Sport of Kings

Horse racing is famously known as the Sport of Kings. This royal moniker originated In 1605 when King James I took a significant interest in the sport. In fact, he became so obsessed that Parliament urged him to refocus on his duty as King instead of racing. These pleas didn’t deter the King. He held horse races at his royal resort in Newmarket before his son, King James II, made the English town the headquarters of British horse racing. From then on, the sport gained even more popularity among the royals, earning it the nickname.

5. The First American Horse Racetrack Opened in 1665

Horse racing in America is even older than the United States itself. The first horse racetrack in America dates back to 1655 when the Newmarket course opened in Salisbury, New York. Although horse racing was popular locally, it wasn’t until 1868 that organized racing became officially regulated. By 1890, there were 314 racetracks in the USA. To this day, the sport continues to grow in popularity in many US states.

6. Horse Racing Is Britain’s Second Favorite Sport to Watch

After football, horse racing is the most-watched sport in Britain. Over six million spectators visit Britain’s many racetracks every year, contributing to this lucrative industry. Around six million people attend the races each year in Britain alone.

7. What It Takes To Become a Successful Jockey

Unsurprisingly, as it’s quite a dangerous sport, you need to be at least 18 years old to get a jockey license. After this, there are specific requirements expected of you to be a jockey.

Firstly, being light is essential. Riders often weigh around 108 -118 pounds (49kg – 53.5kg). Although there isn’t a height limit per se, most jockeys measure around 4’10”- 5’6” ft (1.47m – 1.68m).

Jockeys usually get into racing via an apprenticeship or by getting a degree at the North American Racing Academy (NARA).

8. The Fastest Speed Recorded by a Racehorse

The fastest recorded speed achieved by a racehorse is a whopping 43.97 MPH (70.76 KPH). Winning Brew, who Francis Vitale trained in the United States, holds this Guinness World Record. This race speed was recorded over two furlongs at the Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Pennsylvania, on May 14, 2008.

9. Racing Horses Have To Be Microchipped

Before the introduction of microchips, racehorses had their identification details tattooed to the inside of their lip. The tattoos consisted of a letter that corresponded to the horse’s date of birth, along with four or five numbers. However, microchips replaced tattoos in 2020. To apply with Jockey Club rules, every Thoroughbred must have a microchip to compete.

10. Gender Rules in Horse Racing

Horse racing is one of the sports where men and women can compete against each other. Yet, the rules are different for the gender of the racehorses themselves. Male horses (colts or geldings) – cannot compete in female (fillies and mares) – horse races, but female horses can enter and run against males. Generally speaking, male horses are faster and stronger than females. Therefore, it doesn’t always make economic sense to pit a filly or mare against a colt or a gelding, but it occasionally happens.