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Breeding a winner: What does a winning horse look like?

6 ways to spot a winning racehorse on sale

Racehorses can be an expensive investment. But if you make the right choice then they can pay off handsomely. 

In this article, we are going to talk you through 6 things you should be looking out for when you are purchasing a racehorse. 

Before we jump into things, we have one piece of advice. Not every horse is a race winner, so make sure you take as much time as you possibly can looking over a horse before you buy them. 

#1 – They come from good breeding stock 

If a horse comes from two successful racing parents then there’s a good chance they will have the potential to be a great racer themselves. 

Sadly, horse breeding isn’t an exact science. You can’t breed two really talented horses together to make a super-horse. You can’t even guarantee that their offspring will be any good at racing. But you have a much better chance with a horse like this than with an unknown horse. 

If you see that the horse’s parents are named, then this means that they were successful in some way. Research these parents, see if they raced in the same kind of races that you want to race your new horse in. If not, they might not be the right fit for you.  

#2 – Well mannered 

Studies have shown that polite and calm horses respond to training and riding cues much more effectively than stubborn horses. 

All horses can be stubborn in their own way. But after spending 5-10 minutes with a horse, you can usually get a good idea of their personality. 

Why do you want to avoid training with a stubborn horse?  

Let’s look at a quick example. You may remember Saint Boy from the Tokyo 2021 Olympics. 

He was a well-trained horse chosen by the Olympic Modern Pentathlon body to participate in the Women’s event. In this event, the competitors meet their horses on the day and have no chance to train with them.  

Saint Boy was paired with a few riders, including the Gold Medal hope Annika Schleu. Saint Boy was upset by something on the day and refused to jump for any of his riders. Schleu was eliminated from the event because he refused to perform. She went from 1st place to 31st place. 

Stubborn horses are more likely to crumble (or throw a hissy fit) on big occasions than a calm, well mannered horse. 

#3 – Pedigree 

We talked earlier about getting a horse with two successful parents. The downside of this is that these horses will be incredibly expensive and there is not a 100% guarantee that they will be as good as their parents. 

If you’re looking for a more economical way to buy a racehorse just look for one that is pedigree. And you should focus your research on the Dam’s side of the family. 

As the late, great Sir Henry Cecil once said “All Sires are excellent horses, but I feel 75% of the breeding comes from the Dam’s side.”

#4 – Ease of movement 

Movement is one of the most important elements of picking a good racehorse. It is said that a good racehorse should be able to move smoothly and with ease no matter the speed it moves at.

You can tell a lot about how a horse will run by looking at how it walks. Be on the lookout for horses that use their whole bodies while they walk. This is a good indication that they will do this while they are galloping. 

You should be on the lookout for descriptions such as ‘covers the ground with ease’ and ‘lengthy stride’. 

#5 – Healthy 

You must make sure that a horse is healthy before you buy it. 

If a horse’s price seems too good to be true, have a health check done upon it immediately. You don’t want to spend that amount of money on a horse that won’t ever race. 

This is a lot less likely to happen if you are buying at an event or auction. These will have vets on hand to check that all the horses are as healthy as their sellers say they are. Before fully committing to a horse, you should have them checked over. If the seller has nothing to hide, they won’t have an issue with you doing this. 

Don’t make the same mistake Donald McCain did. He brought a horse with a debilitating bone disease at an auction. He might be the luckiest man in history though, as things worked out pretty well for him and Red Rum. 

#6 – Balance and muscle tone

Finally, you want to be looking for a horse whose neck, back, and hips are all of equal length. 

Remember that racehorses get their power from their back legs. You should expect to see a good amount of muscle here, even before training begins.

Think you can spot a good racehorse?

Why not put this skill to use and place a bed on a horse you think could be a champion at

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