Thoroughbred Classifications

By Art Parker, author of the upcoming and revised Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns book

I remember one of my first, if not the very first, trips to the track, at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, and probably when Jimmy Carter was still President. Shortly after a race concluded, and all the contestants were coming back in front of the old grandstand, the winner was guided to an area near the finish line that was used to take the winner’s picture. As the horse was turned around toward the photographer, a fan near the track began to yell, “She ran good today. That’s my girl. She’s a winner,” and so on. It was clear the patron had purchased a ticket on the winner with his loud and incessant verbosity.

copyright  My friend who took me to the track and served as my first teacher of the game looked at me and said, “It’s too bad he doesn’t know the difference between a boy and a girl.” Being the novice I looked at him and asked what he meant. He told me the winning horse was a male, not a female. I replied with the expected, “I see,” and then followed up with the question, “How do you know?” And that’s when I first learned about conditions.

My friend pointed to the conditions in the racing form and showed me that the race was written for two year old colts and geldings. Then he showed me the next race, which was for fillies and mares. In less than a couple of minutes I got an education on the gender deal in horse racing. Looking back over the years, I can now remember many people calling a horse he or she and not knowing the horse was the opposite gender of their description. I think it is just one of those things that people either pay no attention to (which is a mistake) or they just don’t care (which is also a mistake).

In less than a couple of minutes I got an education on the gender deal in horse racing.

For those of us that have paid attention or have been around long enough, gender of the horse and the gender conditions of a race are important factors that always warrant consideration.

Thoroughbred nomenclature goes beyond gender but also includes age and breeding status. For those of you not familiar with all of the classifications, the following should provide you with the knowledge to understand who is who and what is what when it comes to the broad classifications of thoroughbreds:      

Broodmare – Female horses used for breeding.

Broodmare Sire – A sire whose female offspring became producers of racehorses.

Colt – A non-gelded male horse less than five years of age.

Dam – The mother of a horse.

Filly – A female horse less than five years of age.

Foal – A baby horse. A horse is a foal from the time it is born until January 1 of the next calendar year.

Gelding – A castrated male horse of any age.

Horse – A non-gelded male horse five years of age or older.

Juvenile – a two-year old horse.

Maiden – A horse that is yet to win a race.

Mare – A female horse five years of age or older.

Ridgling or rig – a male animal with an undescended testicle. An undescended testicle is not a serious or life-threatening condition, though it may cause the animal discomfort at times. This condition can be corrected by either surgery to place the testicle in the correct position or by castration to remove the testicle altogether.

Sire – The father of a horse.

Sophomore – a three-year-old horse

Stallion – Any non-gelded male horse.

Stud – A male horse used for breeding.

Weanling – a young horse that has been weaned from its dam.

Yearling – A one-year old horse.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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