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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Racing Two Year Olds

With the first stakes payments of the year having been made, perhaps now would be a good time to discuss the wisdom of racing two years olds.  It may be early to start talking about this now, but there has already been some discussion elsewhere about it, so why not discuss it now?  Some people claim that racing two year olds ends up with a large number of horses tossed to the side in the rush to make it to the big money events.  Some of these people want to stop two year old racing completely, others want to limit the number of starts a two year old can make.  Of course, others say no changes should occur; it is the owner's right to do what they will.

It is a known fact that two year olds are not fully developed.  Many of the anti-racing groups for that reason call for banning horse racing or at a minimum, not racing horses until they reach their maturity.  Perhaps, this is part of the reason they are called baby races?

In the perfect world, I would like to see nothing more than us eliminating two year old racing.  However, this is not a perfect world, so there needs to be a realistic approach to racing two year olds which allows the industry to sustain itself, yet consider the health and well being of our two year olds.  A complete ban of racing two year olds would likely send most medium and small breeders to bankruptcy and may drag down some of the larger breeding establishments down just as well.  Why?  Right now some breeders are already being hurt with low yearling prices that don't cover their cash outlays.  If a yearling buyer has to continue to purchase horses as yearlings and incur the expense of maintaining two year olds without racing, some individuals will get out of buying yearlings completely and purchase ready made three year olds; or the additional expense will translate into further reduced yearling prices.  If breeders had to maintain yearlings another year, and incur the expense involved, how would they survive when they are barely covering their expenses now?

A middle ground solution may be the way to go.  My proposal would be for two year olds not be able to start in a purse race until July 1; cutting two months of their racing season.  Secondly, with the exception of sires stakes races for two year olds, I propose we eliminate all big money stakes races for two year olds; moving that money into four year old stakes races.  Instead of stakes races like the Breeders Crown for two year olds or big money stakes races like the Woodrow Wilson, I would suggest we schedule what can best be called 'trial stakes'; stakes races where purses can not exceed $50,000 and limit two year olds to no more than eight starts in their two year old career.  This would allow owners of two year olds the opportunity to recover some of their investment in purse races and see what they have, yet not offer purses which will induce some trainers and owners in keeping a two year old in training for that pot of gold when they would be better off turning the two year old out.

Make no mistake, even this proposal would reduce the prices people would be willing to pay for yearlings.  As part of this solution, it may worth considering reducing the number of mares a stallion can cover to reduce the supply of yearlings available to force yearling prices up enough to offset any potential decrease resulting from changing the rules for two year olds.  And lastly, two year olds have no business racing against older horses in overnight events. 

I would like to hear your thoughts on this subject.  What do you think, if anything, should be done regarding racing two year olds?

Two of my favorite things are horses and dogs.  This video gives us both.  It was filmed at the Standardbred Retirement Foundation Farm.  Warning:  Some people may find this video too cute.

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