How does an Owner Decide to put a Horse in a Race?

It does not matter if you are attending the Royal Racemeeting at Ascot in England, the Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse in the United Arab Emirates, the Breeders Cup in the USA or the Cape Town Met at Kenilworth Racecourse in Cape Town, you can only be enchanted by those majestic thoroughbreds racing competitively in all of those world-renowned races and iconic venues. 

All the horses that run at these meetings all have an owner and a trainer. All these horses, no matter how brilliant they are are to run at such an important race meeting all have their start as a foal on a Stud Farm, from where they will be bought by their respective owner and then placed with a trainer. 

How does an owner then decide to put a Horse in a Race? At a race meeting with the stature of a Breeders Cup, a World Cup of Racing, or Royal Ascot,  it will be a joint decision between the owner of the horse and the trainer to place the horse in a race. However, from the time when the owner places a horse with a trainer, it is the responsibility of the trainer to decide which races to place the horse in.

The Horse – A Yearling

After a horse is born, for the first year to eighteen months of its life, it is raised on the Stud Farm it was born. There it will enjoy life, learn to run, and experience the steps of hopefully becoming a top racehorse that will be able to compete in world-renowned race days like The Breeders Cup or Royal Ascot Racedays. 

On the Stud Farm, the yearling will be taught leading kills, will be allowed to take long walks, will accompany the older horses and riders on trail rides, and will practice the grooming rituals in preparation for when the horse will move from the Farm to the training year of the owners preferred trainer. 

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Once an owner has placed the horse with its favoured trainer, the trainer will slowly bring the horse to its racing peak via daily gallops in the training tracks of the said trainer. When the trainer believes that the horse is at, or close to its peak to be entered into a race, it will be schooled in entering the starting stalls. To this end, the horse will have to “pass a starting stall exam” so that the horse can be certified and receive its starting stall certificate. 

The Horse – Entering a Race

Once the horse has been certified and received its starting stall certificate, the trainer will then decide, based on how the horse has been performing in the morning in its gallops, what type of race the horse will be entered for.

As the horse is unraced, its first run will be in a race for Maidens (horses that have not won a race) and the trainer will have to then decide over which distance he will enter the horse. If the horse has shown a strong pacework in the gallops, it is always better to enter the horse over the shorter distance for its first run, which would normally be an 800/900-meter race.

The Horse – Entering More Races

As the horse gains more experience in racing, the trainer will start to discover all the horse’s quirks, will see in the morning gallops how much the horse is improving,  and decide whether the horse is forward enough to be entered into more demanding races, ow whether the horse requires more time to mature and then start improving.

The British Horseracing Authority

The trainer will also be able to ascertain, via the races the horse has been running in, and in which position it has finished in those races, whether the horse should be:

  • Entered into longer distance races – certain horses are speedy and prefer to run over shorter distances, and others will be bred for longer distances, and therefore will not be suited to the shorter distance races. Longer distance races (1600, 1800, 2000 metre races) will be their forte.
  • Whether the horse will require Blinkers – Some horses could have trouble concentrating (mostly on running straight) in races, and trainers will consider putting a pair of blinkers (a pair of small leather screens attached to a horse’s bridle to prevent it from seeing sideways and behind and being startled). It is used mostly for skittish horses and sharpens their concentration and focus during races.
  • Whether the horse prefers to race on the lead or from off the pace – this will allow the trainer to analyse the pace of a race that the horse is entered for and to decide as to what the best way the horse will want to run. This will allow the trainer to give better instructions to the jockey who will be riding his horse in the race.

A Yearling to Royal Ascot

There are many factors that a trainer will take into consideration when accepting a horse into his training yard. However, if the owner that is bringing him a horse is a loyal patron of many years, and has bought horses for the trainer before, the trainer will be more willing to accept the horse than if the owner is not one of his established patrons.

Each horse comes with its quirks and idiosyncrasies, but what every owner and trainer wants is to own their own great, either yesteryears Secretariat or Sea Cottage or today’s superstars USA-based Knicks Star, or the UK’s Charlie Appleby trained superstar, Adayar. 

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Every horse has to go through the process of receiving its starting stall certificate, has to win its Maiden race, and has to be entered into the correct races as the trainer plots the course of the horse. However, if the horse is considered good enough to be a contender at Royal Ascot by its trainer, the owner and trainer will consult regularly to plot the direction of how the horse will reach its end goal. 


Hi, I'm James, a long time horse racing fan. I was introduced to racing by my granddad. He taught me a little about horses and I was hooked. I have been to most racecourses in the UK .

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