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Lets face it – buying a yearling or a share in a Yearling is largely pot luck in the general scheme of things and most people think it’s a lottery – however whilst the odds of getting a Group 1 star are the same of winning powerball- there is a number of things the average man in the street can do to make the odds greatly in his favour and I thought its worth highlighting a few areas where you can increase your chances of success using some science and some genuine common sense

The first thing to remember is that a good horse can come from any breeding and the worst pedigree and a horse with the worst confirmation in the world can still see a champion made- however the idea of this article is to perhaps get as many important factors lined up as possible and play the percentages to ensure they are in your favour. We are trying to limit the degrees of risk and we are not looking for the needle in the haystack but ideally get the all your ducks lined up . There is no right and wrong decision and its why the world over there is not one person in this big wide world of ours who can put their hand us as an expert yearling judge and back it up with proven results. There are plenty of wannbe self-proclaimed experts and plenty of guys spending millions or other people’s money yet they never put their own hand in their pocket to put their money where their mouth is as deep down they realise it’s a numbers game

An expert is described as someone who is very knowledgeable and skilful in an area. There is plenty of knowledgeable thoroughbred people in the world but there is no skilful people. Skilful is some one who does something and constantly succeeds and gets it right. In the yearling ring , history says the world has never seen a skilful buyer as simple it doesn’t matter how much money you spend no one gets it right all the time and no one even gets it right 50% of the time, such is the difficulty in picking FAST racehorses as yearlings. Even people like Bart Cummings and Gai Waterhouse the two biggest legends of our game spend millions of dollars a year – yet if you where to look at the financial return on all the horses they buy- its heavily in the red . This is not a blight on them its just that to this point in time its impossible to buy these Top line horses without plenty of luck.–Buying a yearling is a weight of numbers game- in that the more you buy the more chance you have of success. That doesn’t mean that you can’t buy a fast one with just one purchase- its just more unlikely than likely

However for most people they can’t afford to buy 100 horses and hope 2-3 of them are any good like the big trainers do and we ourselves fall into the same category. For most people who enter horse racing they want to own a city class horse. If you own a city class horse it is usually one who can pay its own way and a few lucky horses are better than that and are group horses. Of a standard 100 horses 5 would be considered to be Group horses and another 10 on top of that would be considered to be “pay their own way types” who would be capable of winning City races and for most people its these that are more realistic – but it still leaves on average 85 of the 100 that can’t get out of their own way.

To help highlight a few things that the average man in the street can look for we have highlighted some of our must have set of criteria that you should look for when buying yearlings. There is no set formula but through following these points we hope to increase your chances of success and take those odds from 15% to hopefully over 50% in order to “get a good one”

The First area you need to look at is Physical Make Up

The Physical make up to a horse is extremely important in that we want to see a few key areas or criteria meet. The first is physically does the horse have any areas of concern that could affect it racing.

Areas such as front leg confirmation: The front legs are taking up to the equivalent of 3 times a horses body weight when galloping and carry at any one time up to 65% of the horses weight when still. Bad confirmation is not always a sign they will break down – but it is something that is a warning sign . Most trainers though will tell you that their best horses none of them where perfect with confirmation

Below we see what is ideal but also some other types that in some instances should be avoided at all times. For mine we really dislike Base Wide horses as if you think of a British Bulldog they generally are short fat little waddlers and with this confirmation we find they are generally slow horses. Pigeon toed if not too severe is something I can forgive.If you look at human elite sprinters at the Olympics most are piegeon Toed

The Calf Kneed or back of the knee types and Buck Kneed are horses we also like to avoid as the vets advise that its these horses who constantly have tendon and knee issues and that’s largely due to the amount of pressure these legs have to absorb in high impact exercise

A horses leg confirmation can also in most cases give you a indication to what type of distance range a horse will run. This is one area that should be closely looked at. A horses legs are what helps give it the power and momentum and a horse should look what it is bred to look like. For example if a horse is bred to be a Sprinter we need to make sure biomechanically that the horse has the right physical make up to give it its best chance. A good sprinter will be extremely muscular and have an enormous rear end ( which isk the power) and strong shoulder and chest. It will have a very strong forearm and these levers such as the forearm,gaskin and cannon bones dictate how strong and how much power the horse is capable of outputting. Like wise A Good stayer will generally be lean- much longer in the back, have longer pasterns but also have longer legs and hence they lever to cover more ground and its what helps them get and maintain their stamina

Once you have a possible race horse that is thrown to type and it looks to have good legs and the right levers for what its is bred to do . Its time to assess the horses shoulder angulation and also its main engine room which is the hind quarters and hip length. Like any engine room you want to see your fast racehorses with plenty of power behind but also in proportion to the rest of the horse.

Below is a excellent picture that I found on the internet of what a sound and well put together horse should look like

Phsyically for a horse if it has the correct levers and is well muscled and in proportion you then give yourself a better than even chance to get a horse that is capable of winning you races in the better events. However physical is not the be all and end all- as if it was the richest people would always own the fastest horses.

The next area then is pedigree- if your happy with the horse as a specimen then the next stage should be examining it to be determine exactly how well bred your horse is. With so much money at stake its very important not to get carried away with what you percieve to be a well bred horse- but actually put some homework into assessing the individual mating . With millions of dollars getting spent each year by the big studs on marketing its very easy to be swayed by perception- however the idea of this article is to help you reduce the odds in your favour and this can be easily done by determining firstly the direct parentage of your horse. The simplest and best way to determine this is firstly have a look at the DAM. I think its best to assess her first as she after all plays such a massive part not only in the raring of the horse but also she contributes a large portion of the DNA into her offspring. Just on DNA – science has proven that the dam and the sire make up over 50% of that horses characteristics and then combine the grandparents DNA – and baiscally that is what you are seeing and anything further back is basically not relavant . Therefore if you find someone who tries to tell you that a horse will be fast due to some mating 6 generations back- nod your head and say thanks and get away from them – as science tells us this is just not true. Now back to the dam – I like to assess them on race ability first. We know that 95% of all sires have generally been fast racehorses otherwise they would not be at stud- however as the dam is bringing a large portion of her DNA to the offspring it stands to reason that to increase your chances that she should be of reasonable ability. With the saturation of racing these days if you have a dam that raced on multiple occassions and she was not a city winner then for mine I start to lose interest. None of us want to race non winners or non city class horses and if she was to throw herself ( a large chance this will happen) then you don’t need to take this risk and better to let other people take the punt. Even then if the horse is a city winner its worth looking up her record. Did she win a midweek at a 100/1 and never win another race ? Even though she is a city winner she perhaps was not really of that ability. ?Likewise perhaps the DAM only raced a few times and never raced in the city ? In this instance its worth looking at where she raced and did she only have a few starts due to injury? If so was she a hot favourite ( indicating she had ability but then broke down ? Or perhaps she was unraced on the pedigree page but its worth looking these horses up as in a lot of times they might have trialled and shown they had zero ability and hence have been hidden and sent to stud ( most likley to produce more slow horses ?) A good racemare as we know doesn’t always produce fast progeny but when assessing young mares without a proven breeding record I find its safest way. Again there will be always freakishly slow racehorses who produce champions ( the dam of Australia’s best ever two year old in DANCE HERO comes to mind) but again better to let someone else experiemt with these rather than risk your hard earned

For young or unproven mares I would advise try and buy out of these good class racehorses- they don’t have to have won a big race or even a city race- but they definitely need to have shown better than average ability and sometimes a racehorses record can look or seem much better than what it is.

Once you have determined that the Dam had ability its now worth looking at her progeny to date and what have the done. One massive trap that a lot of smart people fall into is that the constantly buy great physical types and yet keep making excuses for the mare. The recent Inglis Easter sale was a classic example- there was dozens of mares whose progeny average $200,000 plus but a look through these progeny record after 3-4 foals and largely they are slow or have done nothing. What this says to me is the mare is one of those good mares who throws flashly looking animals but regardless they just not fast horses. If a mare is proven in throwing winners and city winners or better then she deserves a big tick

The Sire

The sire is a interetsing one – you might have heard the saying they can all get a good one and I think this is largely true- but a large portion of this is effected by what mares the horse is covering. A sire should be judged on his record. For some reason racehorses that where wet trackers only or horses who won their big race coming from last rarely are successful as sires. I have a few theories but largely they do struggle for results on the race track with their progeny.Likewise Colonial bred and raced sires seem to a much safer bet when assessing the merits of perhaps the lastest shuttle horse versus a local proven stallion. When assessing your stallion its very important to draw a hard line on what you consider success or failure. For example a stallion that stands at $5000 might have a runners to winners strike rate at 50% whilst a sire that stands at $100,0000 might have the same strike rate and any fair minded person will tell you – that the $5000 stallion is in more likley hood a better sire or better risk as he has done it the hard way and not got all the blue blood mares. For my own line I believe that if a commerical stallion ( standing at $10,000 or greater) can not have a strike rate of runners to winners of at least 60% and produce a Group horse of at least 5% of occassions then they sould be avoided at all costs. Remember this is a winner at any track in a Australia- including bush racing and if a sire cant meet this bench mark then they are largely a high risk investment . If you have a stallion that is running at these figures he warrants a further look. The next step then is to assess the stallion based on his sex bias. For some reason certain sires can be prone to throwing better fillies or better colts and the results will surprise you. The great Redoute’s Choice is a sensation with his fillies where as some like High Chapparal is good enough with his colts but his fillies are largely legless

So there we have it – if you can firstly find yourself a nice type- whose dam is either proven on the racetrack or a proven producer , but a proven sire who can get 60% runners to winners and greater than 5% Stakes winners then you can immeadietly reduce your odds of 15 out of a 100 to more like 50 out of 100 and at a 1 in 2 chance your odds are much better than the average Joe. Remember there is no such thing as a a proven method and that most of the supposed experts are far from it – and that a champion horse can be bent legged and have horrible breeding- but we feel if you follow the above approach you will get more success than most.

Whether it be one of our horses or one of our competitors if you ever need our advice or our opinion we are more than happy to provide it free of charge. Just email us on

For those people who really like reading about science and how it can help improve your chances we highly recommend Byron Rogers website for thought provoking articles. We also recommend for our statistics and information

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