Written by JANE ALLIN
Globally, the sport of horse racing is a multi-billion dollar industry where both fortunes are made and fortunes are woefully lost. More than $100 million worth of bets are placed each year on the Kentucky Derby alone. 
What once existed as a revered pastime is now a powerful commercial empire replete with influential stakeholders all vying for a piece of the proverbial pie.
While many may believe that the vast majority of the money funnels into the industry via purses and wagering, the principle source of capital is central to the breeding shed and auction ring.
Akin to the stock market, racing is governed by callous investors thirsty for prosperity while profiteering at all and any expense, most notably the horse.
Moreover, with the evolution of this lucrative industry’s business model the arrival of two-year-old racing has become the norm, in part as a consequence of the ever-increasing prize money together with the added advantage of maximizing profitability by exploitation of mere babies in the most honest sense of the word.
More than a sport, horse racing is a huge business where moneyed gentry spend their fortunes during yearling sales with the expectation that these horses begin to earn their keep at the tender age of two. Indeed an unyielding situation in which horses are valued largely for the first three years of their life wherein their bona fide value is ultimately established. Above all the investor’s main objective is to race 2-year olds in preparation for the celebrated 3-year old stakes races after which these adolescent horses will be retired to the breeding shed. It is well recognized that the modern Thoroughbred’s peak earning potential occurs at the age of three with, on average, diminishing return at the age of four and beyond.
- “I think there’s probably a much stronger tendency to have two year old racing nowadays than there used to be….and the lure of prize money. There’s a great incentive to race their horses too young too immature. In the old days, you bought your yearlings, you broke them in, you castrated them, you turned them out. You didn’t think about them until late 2 year old and mostly three year olds. The big money came with three-year-old racing. The current owners want two-year-old racing and I think it’s a pity. I think it’s a pity because it certainly does cause the breakdown of a lot of two year olds.” – Percy Sykes, horse racing industry vet. 
However pressing and cost-effective it is to race a 2-year old rather than maintaining their upkeep without profit for a year, one must query whether this is in the best interest of the horse. It is a given fact that a horse is not physically mature until the age of six yet racehorses are routinely forced to begin training at 18 months which puts extreme and unnatural stress on their developing musculoskeletal systems.  Many contend this leads to an elevated risk of injury during training and racing while others maintain it is necessary to maximize bone and tendon strength in preparation for the demanding racing schedule many are confronted with as 2 and 3-year olds.
As with anything related to horse racing, it seems, there is much controversy regarding 2-year old racing. Undeniably exercise is recognized as enhancing strength and bone density during skeletal development. However, for practical purposes, it is the question as to the degree and rigorousness of what exercise regime is necessary. More to the point should 2-year old racing be tolerated in consequence of greed overshadowing judiciousness?
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Jane Allin is Chief Research Analyst for the Int’l Fund for Horses and regular contributor to Tuesday’s Horse, primarily specializing in the Premarin Horses and Horse Racing issues. Jane dedicates numerous hours working for the welfare of horses and is the proud mother of two spoiled Golden Retrievers, Alex and Abby. A native Canadian, Jane has volunteered with the Int’l Fund for Horses since 2009.
© Int’l Fund for Horses
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