Keith Knight ar­gues that the weights car­ried by two-year-olds are dam­ag­ingly high

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Keith Knight ar­gues two-year-olds are car­ry­ing too much weight

This is an emo­tive sub­ject and very few race­horse train­ers, breed­ers or even ad­min­is­tra­tors will have any de­gree of ac­cep­tance of my point of view. I dare say few will agree with me.But then again how many peo­ple ac­tu­ally ever con­sider the sub­ject of two-yearolds and the weight we put on their backs?

In the 3.00 at Brighton on Septem­ber 4th, a Nurs­ery, the top-weight car­ried 9st 9lbs, with the bot­tom weight due to carry 9st 1lb. The nine run­ners were all twoyear-olds. Does no one ask whether it is right for two-year-olds to be sad­dled with more weight than the three-year-old colts who run in the Derby and the other clas­sics?

To my mind it is ut­terly wrong to ex­pect a two-year-old to race with any­thing like 9st 9lbs on its back. I be­lieve the weights al­lo­cated to horses these days is based more on the weight of jock­eys than what is fair to the gen­eral wel­fare of the horse. Two-year-olds are ba­bies, for pity’s sake. This time last year they were un­bro­ken year­lings. If chil­dren are the fu­ture of the hu­man race, can we not treat two-yearold horses as the fu­ture of the sport of horse racing and not treat them as if they are read­ily dis­pos­able?

In case you should think I have high­lighted a race in iso­la­tion sim­ply as an ex­am­ple of my point let us move on to Ripon and the 2.10.Top weight is 9st 5lbs. The 2.40,top weight 9st 11lbs. At Wind­sor, the 1.50, top weight 9st 5lbs. The 2.20, top weight 9st 10lbs. Roscommon, the 4.45, top weight 9st 5lbs. Good­wood, 2.40, top weight 9st 5lbs. The 3.15, top weight 9st 7lbs. Kemp­ton 5.50, top weight 9st 9lbs. Enough ex­am­ples. Racing has al­lowed a form of pas­sive abuse to be­come stan­dard prac­tice. No two-year-old should ever carry more than 8st 11lbs. If this sug­ges­tion was to be im­ple­mented it would serve a sec­ond pur­pose – be­cause in the main the top jock­eys can al­low them­selves the lux­ury of a square meal ev­ery now and agai; a max­i­mum top weight in two-year-old races of 8st 11lbs would al­low the lesser lights of the weigh­ing room to re­ceive more op­por­tu­ni­ties per sea­son to prove their worth.

To re­turn to my first ex­am­ple, the weight range would be­come 8st 11lbs to 7st 13lbs. I be­lieve the whole is­sue of twoyear-old races should be re­assessed. If I had my way there would be no two-yearold races un­til May or June and the num­ber of Group races for two-year-olds se­verely re­duced. That, of course, will not hap­pen as a large part of the in­dus­try is founded on the ill-con­ceived no­tion of pro­duc­ing pre­co­cious two-year-olds and for own­ers of fil­lies the need for ‘black type’. Race­horses, as it is with the breed­ing of other types of horse, should be reared with longevity in mind. At the mo­ment, as for many decades, foals and year­lings are cash crops, with very lit­tle em­pha­sis put on longevity or even the well-be­ing of the species as a whole.

Two-year-old racing is not wrong, there is sim­ply too much im­por­tance put on it.It is no co­in­ci­dence, I sug­gest, that year af­ter year the Derby win­ner hardly runs as a two-year-old and when it is raced it is with the fu­ture in mind. Ask­ing a twoyear-old to carry 9st 9lbs is in no way look­ing af­ter the in­ter­ests of any horse’s long-term fu­ture.

For not only the good of its image but for the good of the thor­ough­bred species, the sport as a whole should ask it­self whether there is now too much em­pha­sis on the breed­ing of early, pre­co­cious two-yearolds, with the re­sul­tant ‘col­lat­eral dam­age’ of so many young horses end­ing up sur­plus to re­quire­ments at the end of its first, and some­times only, sea­son? Two-yearolds are ba­bies and though they may ap­pear strong at an age when the rules al­low them to be raced, it should be

To my mind it is ut­terly wrong to ex­pect a two-yearold to race with any­thing like 9st 9lbs on its back

re­mem­bered that in ev­ery other walk of eques­trian life a two-year-old would hardly have been weaned, never mind asked to go out to work. At such a young age they are nat­u­rally soft, with back mus­cles, joints and ten­dons eas­ily strained. A thor­ough­bred is not so very dif­fer­ent from a horse bred for show-jump­ing, dres­sage or any other eques­trian sport.

Ask­ing a two-year-old to carry more weight than a Derby run­ner is plain il­log­i­cal, if not bor­der­ing on the image of the over-bur­dened don­key that the ex­cel­lent Brooke Hospi­tal Char­ity ad­ver­tise­ments de­pict.

I fin­ish by quot­ing Lt-Col PD Ste­wart from his book Train­ing The Race-Horse.

“Mr Py­croft com­pares the skele­tons of Eclipse, Per­sim­mon, Ayr­shire, St Frusquin and St Si­mon. All the neu­ral spines of Eclipse stand per­fectly clear of one an­other; the slight ad­he­sions be­tween the six­teenth and sev­en­teenth tho­racic and the last two lum­bar are due to old age. With Per­sim­mon, how­ever, no fewer than nine of the tho­racic – from the eleventh to the nine­teenth – have formed false ar­tic­u­lar sur­faces, due to hav­ing been loaded with a greater weight than they should carry in the early days of train­ing – con­se­quently the free ends of the neu­ral spine have been forced one against the other and the fric­tion to set up has caused them to throw out ‘bony ex­ostases’.”

The point Lt.Col. Ste­wart is mak­ing is that Eclipse did not race un­til he was four. Per­sim­mon and the oth­ers raced as twoyear-olds. He goes on to say: “I would ask all who are in­ter­ested in the wel­fare of the horse to do all they can to per­suade the Ste­wards of the Jockey Club to act now, to re­duce and fi­nally abol­ish two-year-old racing al­to­gether.”

Race­horses, as it is with the breed­ing of other types of horse, should be reared with longevity in mind

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