Race horses go through many stages of development when they are being trained to reach peak physical condition. It takes years to nurture a foal into a thoroughbred racehorse capable of topping the horse racing betting odds and winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe or the Grand National.
And while many horses show excellent racing promise almost from birth, horse racing trainers and owners must take their time to ensure they are in prime condition for the Flat and National Hunt seasons.
One of the stages horses go through is the yearling stage — and Paddy Power is here to explain what a yearling is, and why we don’t see them racing every week of the year.
WHAT IS A YEARLING?
A yearling is a horse aged between one and two years old. It is not yet old enough to race but is likely showing promise, and so it can be bought and sold in the hope it will one day become a champion racehorse.
But there is also a discrepancy in ageing yearlings — and horses in general. The horse racing ageing system doesn’t work like the human one, when you get a year older on your birthday. In horse racing, all horses born in the same year are given their birthday as 1 January.
This is important because many young horses compete in handicap races that have age requirements. So, a horse born on 15 January 2020 is considered the same age – and to have undergone the same development and training – as a horse born on 15 December 2020, even though there is 11 months difference between the two!
This means that yearlings born in the early months of the year tend to be better developed than their counterparts born in October, November and December.
DO YEARLINGS COMPETE IN HORSE RACES?
Yearlings do not run in horse races on the basis that they are too young and underdeveloped to race. While a horse may be able to walk almost from birth, they do not reach full racing capacity until around three years old.
Therefore owners and trainers focus on developing yearlings, ensuring they are in prime physical condition by the time they are ready to race. Race horses can compete from the age of two, often in juvenile races, which offer great racing betting experiences. The majority of young race horses will start out in the Flat season and could retire in just a few years.
However, those that prove strong, durable runners and have a proficiency in jumping will often go on to compete in the National Hunt season. This is where horses race over fences and hurdles, and feature famous races such as the Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Check out these other guides in Paddy’s Demystifying Racing series!
- What does it mean when a horse is On the Bridle?
- What is a Black type horse race?
- What are the different types of going in horse racing?
- What is a bumper horse race?
- What are blinkers and why do some horses wear them?
- What is an Allowance Race in horse racing?
- What is the difference between hurdles and fences in National Hunt racing?
- What is a halter and why do some horses wear them?
- What does it mean when a horse has spread a plate?
- What is the Rule 4 betting rule in horse racing?
- What is the difference between graded, handicap and selling horse races?
- What does a novice hurdle in horse racing mean?
- What is a listed horse race?
- What does a novice chase in horse racing mean?
- Why do race horses have different ratings and what do they mean?
- When does the National Hunt season start and when does it end?
- Why are there different grades of horse race?
- Why are there 3 different types of National Hunt race?
- Why are race horses given different weights and what does it mean?
- How many different classes of horse race are there?
- What is a claiming race and what do they mean?
- What is an optional claimer in horse racing?
- What is a shadow roll and why do some race horses wear them?
- Why do some races start from stalls and some not?
- What is the difference between Derby and Oaks races?
- What does it mean when a horse knuckles during a horse race?
- What is a stayer in horse racing?
- What is a yearling horse and when are they ready to race?
- What does it mean if a horse has won a point race?
- What does a maiden mean in horse racing?
- How are horses’ ages calculated and why is it not the same as humans?
- What advantages do apprentice jockeys get when riding against professionals?
- What is a conditional jockey?
- What does the term ‘connections’ mean in horse racing?
- Why do some horses wear cheekpieces?
- Who are the stewards in horse racing?
- What does ‘weighed in’ mean at the end of a horse race?
- What is a nursery race?
- Why are some National Hunt races run without fences?
- Why are some horses given a tongue tie during races?