Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Race Is On

Magnet # 431:  Kentucky Thoroughbreds

Material:  Pewter

Purchased By:  Me

Happy Birthday to all of the Thoroughbreds in the Northern Hemisphere, as all of them are officially born on January 1st.  Yep, no matter when they are actually born over the course of a year, their birth date is registered as the first day of that year.  And why is this the case?  Well, that makes it much easier to categorize them for races, which are grouped according to age.  For example, the Kentucky Derby only races three-year-old Thoroughbreds.  Given that this is the case, breeders try to have their broodmares give birth as close to the beginning of the year as possible.  That way, their foals will be as strong and fast as possible when it comes time for them to race.  And when horses are born at the end of the year, it's a pretty big disappointment for breeders.  In fact, some unscrupulous parties may even try to falsify records to give their Thoroughbreds an unfair advantage.  Fortunately, the Jockey Club, which registers all Thoroughbreds in North America, sends out their representatives for periodic checks to prevent such behavior.  And that's not the only role they play in overseeing the breed on the continent.  They also use DNA and blood testing to prove the horse's parentage and they must approve the names of all horses for them to be eligible for racing.  The owners must submit a list of six names to the Jockey Club, from which they will pick one.  And there are many rules involved with the names that are eligible.  The names must not be longer than eighteen characters, and that includes punctuation and spaces.  They may not end in any horse-related word, such as "filly," "stallion," "mustang," or "colt."  Nor can they end with a numerical designation, like second or seventh.  And the name cannot be made up entirely of numbers or initials.  If the name is the same as any that are currently in use or reserved by other Thoroughbreds, it's ineligible.  The horses cannot be named after racetracks or any commercial companies.  There's also a restricted list of names from past champions, meaning there will be no more Secretariats or Seabiscuits.  I had no idea choosing the name of a racehorse was so involved!  I guess I'll keep that in mind next time I'm watching one of the Triple Crown races and hear a strange name.

All modern Thoroughbreds can be traced back to three original stallions who were brought into England during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries - the Byerly Turk, the Darley Arabian, and the Godolphin Arabian.  They were Arabian horses who were bred with native English mares.  The line they produced has become one of the best for horse racing.  Thoroughbreds are high-spirited, sensitive animals with powerful lungs and strong legs that give them considerable agility and speed.  While they're most often used in racing, they can also excel at show jumping, polo, dressage, and combined training.  They've also been studded to help improve other breeds by developing new breeds, like the Quarter Horse, the Standardbred, and the Anglo-Arabian.  And they've become some of the most popular breed of horses in Kentucky and Tennessee - if fact, President Andrew Jackson even once bred and raced them at his home in Tennessee.  And by the early nineteenth century, famous matches in the United States were making them even more popular.  Of course, perhaps no event has made them more beloved in the country than the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, one of the most important racing events worldwide.  Thoroughbreds may have debuted in England, but they've become a beloved part of American culture and it's worth considering how important they are on this day, when they all celebrate another birthday.

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