Basics of Thoroughbreds – Birthdays and Naming Race Horses


The Breed

Thoroughbred ancestry will be traced all the way back to the original foundation sires and named after the respective owners:

  •  Darley Arabian – Thomas Darly
  • Godolphin Arabian – Lord Godolphin
  • Byerly Turk – Capt. Robert Byerly

These men imported stallions to England in the 1700’s from the Middle East. This resulted in an initial stage in the development of the Thoroughbred racehorse.

A breed that can carry weight while maintaining a sustained speed for long distances.

There is quite a history dating back to before the US Revolutionary War, thoroughbred racing was introduced into colonial America.
Today’s ‘Jockey Club‘, formed originally in 1894 is the breeding registry for Thoroughbreds in all of North America. They register as many as 23,000 foals each year.

The Jocky Club also journals and maintains the ‘American Stud Book‘. This book was published initially in 1873.

Thoroughbred Birthdays

horse-foalThoroughbreds throughout Northern America and the UK, all celebrate birthdays collectively, January 1st. A newborn is called a foal. Once it’s weaned, usually in the fall, it’s referred to then as a wean-ling. On the first day of the next calendar year, the horse will turn one, regardless of what day it was born. It is then referred to as a ‘Yearling’. The young thoroughbred will be eligible to race after its second birthday.

The male is commonly referred to as a ‘Colt’. They’re not referred to as horses until after they turn 5. Young females are called, ‘fillies’, as well up to their fifth birthday when there then called mares. Parents of a ‘Fillie’ or foal are referred to as the ‘Sire’, and ‘Dam’.

How They’re Namedarabian-foal-thoroghbred

To avoid duplication in naming the race horses, the Jockey Club governs naming processes of Thoroughbreds. In the US, the process involves the submission of proposed names to the club for approval. Various restrictions govern this naming process. For example, there is a maximum 18 character rule (including spaces and punctuation). In addition, names used for some famous horses, like Secretariat, would not be approved.