Happy Birthday to all Thoroughbred Racehorses on 1 January! | Chester Racecourse
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Happy Birthday to all Thoroughbred Racehorses on 1 January!

Did you know that all thoroughbred racehorses have an aristocratic lineage and share a privilege with The Queen?  They all have an official birthday, which is celebrated on 01 January every year, in addition to the actual day they were foaled. The universal birthday was introduced in 1833 and became nationwide in 1858 to reflect the changes in the racing calendar.

Watching horses parade in the paddock is an essential part of the social activity at Chester Racecourse throughout the season – but what are you looking at? The answer is a 300-year long development of the thoroughbred breed.  Thoroughbred describes a specific breed of horse whose ancestry, originating from the enthusiasm of the British aristocracy for racing, which became a closed population in 1791 and ringfenced the available gene pool. 

What does this mean?   The family tree of every thoroughbred is located on the Jockey Club data base which now has over three million entries and there are three stallions, the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian and the Byerley Turk who are the foundation of the breed.  Developments in genetics now indicate that 95% of modern racehorses can be traced back to the Darley Arabian foaled in 1700.

How influential is the female side?  In short, very.  Bred in the UK, Mumtaz Mahal is still believed to be the fastest two-year-old ever seen on a racecourse, multiple successes on the racecourse earned her the nickname “The Flying Filly” in the early 1920’s.  Her legacy lives on almost a century later in her descendants as part of the Aga Khan’s mighty breeding operation in Ireland.

What is the modern approach?  Racecourse performance is the most critical factor, taking into account the grade and distance of the race.  Speed is most important and usually a balance of stamina and speed, with one being dominant in the off-spring of a carefully considered mating.   Patterns emerge as a stallion produces one crop per year in the Northern Hemisphere and the foals will race as juveniles at the age of two. The subsequent performance of the youngsters will indicate whether speed or stamina are dominant in the very inexact science of breeding.  There are unexpected freaks which defy the pedigree – adding to the reputation – and excitement of the long-held view that horseracing is a glorious uncertainty!

How do I check out the breeding?  In the racecard, the breeding of each runner is directly under the name of each runner.  For example, the winner of the 2019 Chester Cup was Making Miracles.  His sire (father) is Pivotal and his dam, Field of Miracles was born in Ireland.  Pivotal was a sprinter who won races over five and six furlongs.  The Chester Cup is for horses with stamina, covering two miles and two furlongs! 

What did Field of Miracles achieve on the racecourse?  This is the stamina route as the dam won a maiden race on the all-weather surface over one and a half miles at Kempton back in 2011.  She was well bred, being by the Epsom Derby winner Galileo, described within the breeding industry as the best sire in the world. 

Making Miracles is a product of modern thoroughbred breeding where the cross of speed and stamina has produced a horse capable of winning valuable races.  A result!

Why not make a 2020 Chester Racecourse resolution?  Checking out the breeding of your race-day selections will give your more insight into the family tree and the answering that all-important question: “Will my selection win?”.  See you at the Roodee paddock rails to be Part Of Our Story in 2020!