British Racehorses Seldom Pay Their Way

The odds are pretty high that a thoroughbred foal born and raced in Britain or Ireland won't pay off their training fees with racetrack earnings. These conclusions come from researchers at the Department of Veterinary Medicine with the University of Cambridge who tracked the fate of over one thousand foals born in 1999.

About half (562) of the thoroughbreds born that year eventually entered racing training with a registered trainer in Britain or Ireland. Many of the other foals got exported to other countries. For only 17 foals in that year's thoroughbred crop did the owners never envision entering their horse in races.

As two-year-olds, 327 of these colts and fillies competed in races during 2001. Altogether 95 won races and 165 were placed. But only 28 horses accumulated enough prize money while two-year-olds to cover their training fees.

By the next year, 456 three-year-old thoroughbred horses were in training and 347 of these entered races. Their race records improved slightly over the previous year.

Nearly one-third of the trained horses (138) won a race and almost half (218) placed in races. Still, only 78 horses earned their way by recouping their training fees in prize money.

Overall then, just 5% of two-year-olds and 17% of the three-year-olds in training actually made enough money at races to pay for their training costs.

Injury and disease plagued many of the young horses. Two-year-olds most commonly suffered from sore shins or inflammatory airway disease. Sore shins also cropped up frequently among´┐Ż the three-year-olds, as did joint injuries.


S. Wilsher, W.R. Allen and J.L.N. Wood. 2006. Factors associated with failure of Thoroughbred horses to train and race. Equine Veterinary Journal. 38(2): 113-118.

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