Race Horses With the Longest Careers
 By Saferaphus   •   4th Jan 2017   •   812 views   •   1 comments

American Pharoah won the American Triple Crown in 2015, and at the end of the year his life as a race horse ended. As a four-year-old, his athletic career was over. In much of the horse world, four years old is just the beginning of a performance horseís career. So, why are racehorses retired so early, while other horses donít hit their stride until much later? Some horses arenít even started under saddle until they are five years old. Many dressage horses arenít considered fully developed until they are in the double digits. And many horses are competitive until late into their twenties. Why the difference?

Much of it has to do with money. If a horse like American Pharoah were to keep racing and winning it would no doubt earn an impressive collection of purses. However, as breeding stock, it would be worth much more. There is a lot of risk in racing. A minor injury can end a racing career, or a catastrophic injury could be life ending. Itís better to quit while youíre ahead and retire a horse while sound, popular and winning.

That doesnít mean that all racehorses end their careers end relatively early in life. I recall being in the backstretch at Woodbine Racetrack and hearing the exercise riders talking about a nine-year-old gelding that was still racing. He still brought home a few purses for his owners and continued to race for awhile after that. After a thirteen-year-old had a breakdown during a workout at that same track, many people there questioned if there was such a thing as too old for a racehorse. Others argued that similar breakdowns happen to horses much younger and that itís an unfortunate part of the game.

Just the same, there are horses out there that arenít superstars, donít have names that are familiar, but nevertheless, bring home enough money for their owners that they keep entering them in just one more race. One example is a horse named John Henry. This horse started running as a two-year-old and at age nine won six stakes races and earned the title of Horse of the Year. He was retired at age ten and his trainers tried for a comeback as a thirteen-year-old, but injuries ended his career for good. By the end of his career, the horse had earned over six million dollars and a second Horse of the Year award.

Racehorses over ten years old is more common than youíd think, especially if they are a gelding. Over the age of five, the bone injuries that can plague younger horses tend to disappear. Soft tissue injuries increase, however, requiring trainers to watch for things like arthritis and tendon strains. But, older horses know their jobs, so training is more about keeping them fit and sound. In fact, retirement may be harder on many of these older horses than a continued racing career. Used to the routine of track life and training these horses may be more difficult to put into retirement or retrain.

Retraining hasnít been a problem for the horse that holds the record for the oldest race horse. An Egyptian bred Arabian named Al Jabal had a very successful racing career, but was also used for endurance riding, dressage, and jumping. At age nineteen, this hardy athlete won a 6-furlong stakes race. Sadly, his life ended due to a training injury at the age of twenty-one.
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Valkyrie  MOD 
Down here in New Zealand and Australia we usually have two types of racehorses - early runners, and stayers. Early runners are the 2yos and 3yos, they win the big Derbies and Oaks races and usually retire after their fourth year.

Then you have the stayers. They mature late so they aren't raced until they're four or five (sometimes as late 3yos they'll have a couple of starts). And they can run anywhere up to age seven or eight or nine. I've seen 5yos making their raceday debuts before, and the other day there was an 8yo mare making her debut.

Sometimes they go on to become jumpers and race into their teens. We don't over-race horses down here so raceday fatalities are usually just horrible accidents, not breakdowns.
  Jan 6, 2017  •  793 views
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