Age, Sex, and Weight in Horse Racing

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Horse racing rules and regulations are fairly strict to ensure that all the races have fair outcomes. They are often a little bit complicated and not easy to understand for someone who is new to this sport.

Basically, races get categorised according to age, sex, and weight of a horse. These are the three most critical factors for structuring a horse racing tier list. Does it even matter for you as a punter? These are the questions that we will try to answer in the following article, so let’s dive into the details!

Age of a Horse

Before you understand the importance of a horse’s age, we must explain the different types of horse races. Flat racing is the purest form of racing. It consists of thoroughbreds who run a straight course with no extra obstacles.

Steeplechase races, on the other hand, have a set of jumps and fences. Horses must clear these, while also being a bit longer than flat races. Therefore, horses participating in this type of race need to have more strength and stamina, which depends on their age.

Here are a few examples of some popular National Hunt races. You can also see different horse categories for them.

Juvenile and Junior

Both Juvenile and Junior races are exclusively for three-year-olds. Juniors run in flat races, while Juvenile races can have hurdles on the course. It’s important to note that all horses age a year on New Year’s Day. Their actual birth date is irrelevant.


This race is all about young horses that have never won that particular race before. A Maiden race can be run as a chase or as a hurdle race. Horses can enter either of these two events as long as it doesn’t have a prior win at that course.


Novice races are similar to Maidens. The difference is that they don’t allow horses who have won an event prior to the season’s start. However, if a horse has won during the current season, it will be allowed to enter as a novice.

Horses race

Weight Measurements

Now that we’ve gone through the types of races and the specific age requirements for each of them, it’s time to talk about the weight. In certain situations, judges require horses to carry more or less weight, which depends on multiple factors.

Handicap Races

Similarly to golf players, horses can have a certain handicap. This applies if they have raced a particular number of races or have previously won a race. Naturally, a horse that has a rating of 130, for example, won’t be allowed to participate in a race for horses with a rating of 120 or less. Handicap and potential penalties add up to the horse’s weight at the start of a race.


The weight is taken into account when it comes to riders as well. Jockeys must report a correct weight and, if that weight is lower before the race, the extra weight is added to keep things in order. For example, if a jockey is ten stone three pounds and the horse is supposed to carry ten stone six pounds, then the extra three pounds will be added.

Conditional Jockeys

Conditional jockeys have some special rules regarding weight reductions. If you don’t know who a conditional jockey is, it’s a jockey under the age of 26 who has not won more than 75 official races in the last six months.

The reduction of weight for conditional jockeys gets calculated according to their experience and recent success. It works like this:

  • 3 lb reduction for fewer than 75 wins;
  • 5 lb reduction for fewer than 40 wins;
  • 7 lb reduction for fewer than 20 wins.

Additionally, trainee jockeys who have less than five wins and are riding a horse from the stable get an extra 3 lb in weight reduction, bringing their total to 10 lb.

Weight-For-Age (WFA)

Weight-for-age exists to even out the chances of all horses by giving weight reductions adjusted to a horse’s age. However, age is not the only thing that is observed, as weight reductions for WFA differ based on the distance and the time of the race, as well as the horse’s sex.

The WFA scale considers that mature horses will be able to cover longer distances, while the sex is important since male horses are generally stronger than female ones.

Weighing in and Weighing Out

Before the race starts, officials measure jockeys and their equipment; it is called weighing out. However, in order to ensure that the weight was correct the entire time, jockeys and their equipment are weighed after the race as well, in a process called weighing in.


There are several different terms used for horses depending on their age and gender. There are five names in total for both male and female horses:

  • A male under five years old is called a Colt.
  • A male that turns five becomes a Horse.
  • A male that is castrated is called a Gelding.
  • A female under five years old is called a Filly.
  • A female that turns five becomes a Mare.

Races are usually conducted among same-sex horses. However, if a race is featuring both male and female horses, females would be allowed a weight adjustment of between three and five pounds, depending on several factors.

As you can tell, age, sex, and weight of a horse play a significant role in its racing career.

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