About the Racehorse

Thoroughbred races are the most common type of horse races in New Zealand. This is where you see jockeys ride a horse around the track. Each thoroughbred race generally sees male and female horses competing against each other.


Thoroughbred racing was the first regulated sport in the UK back in the 18th century with the creation of the Jockey Club. The first General Stud Book was documented in 1791 and used as a template for every country. In this way every thoroughbred racing in NZ can be traced back through many generations to their foundations in the UK.


The New Zealand thoroughbred industry is one of the most successful in the world. In 2010-11, the industry produced over 4000 foals and exported 1600 horses at an estimated value of $150 million.


The history of thoroughbred breeding in New Zealand goes back to the middle of the nineteenth century when people such as Henry Redwood, "father of the New Zealand turf", bred, raced and imported thoroughbreds and began the proud Kiwi tradition of raiding Australia's major races.


In New Zealand, flat thoroughbred races can vary in length between 800 metres and 3210 metres. Thoroughbred jumping races can be up to 6400 metres in distance.


Interesting facts about thoroughbreds

  • Around 4,000 thoroughbred foals are produced each year in New Zealand with 1,600 of these sold to overseas buyers.

  • Thoroughbred horses normally weigh between 450 – 500kgs

  • The famous Phar Lap, Carbine and Bonecrusher were bred in New Zealand

  • The world record speed for a horse galloping over a short sprint is 88km/h

  • If a horse has never won a race, it's referred to as a maiden. If a horse wins a maiden race, it will move up a grade and compete in harder races against more experienced horses.


All thoroughbred horses in NZ are aged as if born on 1 August each year

To standardise the process and avoid confusion – August 1 was created as the catchall birth-day for all racehorses. The choice of date has to do with the breeding season. Breeders generally try to breed in September/October so that the horse will be born as close to 1 August as possible.


This ensures the horse will be as mature as possible when it begins racing as two year old. For example every thoroughbred horse born between 1 August 2015 and 31 July 2016 is considered two years’ old at 1 August 2017 for the purposes of racing in two years’ old races. This is the reason to mate the stallion and mare so that the eleven month pregnancy results in a birth close to 1 August.


Websites specifically about the NZ thoroughbreds are:

www.nztm.co.nz and www.nzthoroughbred.co.nz