All horses share the same birthday irrespective of the exact date of the foaling.
This is fixed to facilitate the framing of races according to age groups, and is 1 January each year in the northern hemisphere.
Until 1834, the fixed date was 1 May, in line with the end, more or less of the foaling season.
The next year the official date was shifted for Newmarket horses, to the present one, which occurs before the foaling season has properly got under way.
The majority of races on the flat are for two year olds only, or for three year olds only, with a fair proportion also confined to three year olds and four year olds only, or three year olds and upwards.
A horse of either sex before its first birthday is known as a foal; between that date and its next birthday, a yearling.
A somewhat misleading term referring to the racing on synthetic surfaces at Lingfield, Southwell and Wolverhampton, although they are proof enough against frost, even these courses cannot race in foggy conditions.
When all-weather racing began in late 1989, it was officially being introduced, primarily to offset the financial losses caused to the Levy, by the abandonment of race meetings during the winter period.
Despite early criticism and setbacks such as the banning of hurdle races because of the number of horses killed, all-weather racing has established its own following and betting public.
The standard of performance is not high but some horses thrive and excel on the all-weather surface.
Lingfield has a surface known as Equitrack consisting of hard-graded sand and covered in a polymer approximately 6inches deep and producing a cushion effect. The main difference between Lingfield, Southwell and Wolverhampton is that on the Equitrack the rainwater runs of the sand and at the other two it filters through.
Traditionally this is betting that takes place before the day of a big race often several weeks or even months beforehand, as distinguished from the usual betting immediately before any given race.
The term has been given several derivations, the most likely being a connection with the “post betting” that occurred in earlier days.
Bets used to be the struck on Newmarket Heath, for instance round the betting posts, which can be seen in the contemporary illustrations.
To bet ante-post therefore was to strike a bet as today, before the wagering which immediately preceded a match between two horses.
There are many big races notably those comprising the spring double and autumn doubles as well as the classics like The Grand National and events at Royal Ascot, Goodwood, York, Cheltenham and elsewhere on which bookmakers advertise betting prices long before the event, and which can attract a lot of business.
In the case of the Guineas races and the Derby, bets are struck as much as a year or more before the actual date, usually at considerably longer odds than are available nearer the day, and on it.
Despite the fact that many big ante-post gambles have been successful, continued existence of this form of betting suggests that bookmakers find that, despite the losses, it is a worthwhile exercise.
In the past few years there has been an extension of ante-post betting. This takes the form of offering prices in the morning of the day on which certain bigger races, are to be run.
Advertised in the sporting press, and known under various names, such as early prices, these, like the traditional form of ante-post wagering, offer the attraction of possible longer odds than those available immediately before the race or races in question that afternoon.
This, particularly on Saturdays, has become a popular and lively feature of the betting scene, with on occasions, some very successful bets being struck.
In order to compensate for inexperience, apprentice jockeys receive an allowance in terms of weight according to the total number of winners they have ridden.
This weight is subtracted from the weight their horse is set to carry in a race, except in races confined to apprentice riders.
The value of a good claiming apprentice, particularly in a big handicap cannot be overemphasized, especially at their natural riding weight.
If they are talented, their light weight and ability to make their allowance more than compensate for inexperience, can be a winning factor, with the reservation that apprentice’s do not often do well in competition with senior jockeys on courses that require very skilful and experienced jockeyship, notably the Derby course at Epsom, the round course at Ascot and the equivalent at the main Goodwood meeting.
AT THE POST
Nothing to do with ante-post betting, not these days anyway. Horses, when they have arrived at the point from which a race is to be started are said to be at the post.
Auction races are specifically for two year old horses which have never before won and were bought as yearlings at specified public auctions