A time-honoured question among horse racing neophytes is “how often do horses run”? More specifically, many people wonder whether or not a horse can run more than once in a single day.
The short answer is that horses may not run more than once in a day. The wellbeing of the racehorse would never allow for this.
A similar question surrounds whether a horse can run more than once in a single meeting which we aim to answer in some detail.
Can Horses Run More Than Once During a Meeting?
Some meetings last two days or more. Glorious Goodwood and Royal Ascot last for five days in fact, while some meetings in Ireland go a full seven days.
This gives some horses the chance to take in more than one race during the meeting.
It will take a certain type of horse to do this. Much like humans, long-distance runners tend to need more of a rest. Think of the Olympics. Sprinters can often run heats on consecutive days, even taking part in more than one event in a day.
Horses are the same, but only to an extent. Sprinting is about explosive energy. It’s all about speed over five and six furlongs, then there is a quicker recovery time.
But, with human runners, a 100-metre sprinter is only covering 1/100th of the distance a 10,000-metre runner will cover. In horse racing, a five-furlong sprinter is still covering almost a third of the distance a two-mile stayer will run over.
In 2018, Charlie Appleby’s sprinter Blue Point was an outstanding winner of the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. In beating Battaash, he truly announced himself as one of the best horses in the division.
A year later, it was clear he was to be retired after Royal Ascot. Trained to peak that week, a plan was in place to attempt to win back-to-back King’s Stand races and if so, he would go on to run in the six-furlong Diamond Jubilee Stakes four days later.
Blue Point indeed did smash Battaash again on the Tuesday over five furlongs, before completing his Group 1 double on Saturday when just beating Dream Of Dreams by a head before heading off to a glorious retirement.
Blue Point’s example is far from the only one. Horses can indeed run more than once during a meeting, or even simply run at different tracks on consecutive days or during the same working week but it remains rare.
How A Trainer Decides When and Where to Run a Horse
It’s often the case that a horse may have more than one target during a racing week. This may be that the trainer knows the horse is very fresh and could take in more than one target, or it simply means that they are keeping their options open and don’t yet know which race to go for.
In the first instance, horses going for more than one race within a few days may be coming from a couple of different angles. At the top level, such as with Blue Point, they are likely to be sprinters who can arguably recover very quickly from their exertions.
Another reason may be that, even with longer distance horses, that they are simply very well handicapped at the bottom of the racing ladder. The trainer may know full well that the horse can likely win its first race with its head in its chest, meaning it can be turned out quickly under a penalty and win again before the handicapper has a chance to reassess them.
Deciding Which Race to Go For
If it’s the case that the trainer only wants their horse to run once but enters them for two races, this means they simply haven’t made up their minds yet.
A horse can be given a final declaration to run on Friday and Saturday, but with the intention to only take in once race. This is legal, but punters hate it as when the decision is made, they will be pulled out of one race, affecting the pace angle and of course the odds as they are now a non-runner.
Why does the trainer do this in the first place? Well, as always in Britain and Ireland, the weather plays a major part. If the horse in questions needs good ground or faster and there is forecast rain at one track, they may be given another entry somewhere else.
The other reason could be the level of the opposition. When a trainer enters their horse, they cannot know until all entries are received exactly who else is running. It could be that one horse, either because they are outstanding or because they affect the pace, puts a trainer off.
One more reason could even be the horse’s health. While generally ready to run, a trainer may want to give themselves the option of one more day to assess their horse’s weight, see how they’ve eaten overnight or check their general wellbeing. If they feel one more day would be appropriate, they can declare themselves as a non-runner in their first race and go for the second.
Will We Ever See Horses Running in More Than One Race in a Day?
This is doubtful. For this to happen, there would need to be some very short races such as over 3-4 furlongs and nobody within British or Irish racing can genuinely envisage this.
Even when going over shorter distances, veterinary inspections would most likely be needed and even when no problems are found, specialists are highly unlikely to want to see horses run again.
Having warmed up by moving to the start, then gone flat-out before warming down again, asking a horse to do that over again would simply be cruel and unnecessary.
We wouldn’t expect a 1¼-mile horse to run two races in two days, let alone on the same day. So, asking a five-furlong horse to essentially do ten furlongs and moving to the start twice in one day would be grossly unfair.
Way back in the earliest days of organised horse racing there were recorded examples of horses running more than once in a day. These were often over long distances too.
However, the opposition was often virtually non-existent and the champion horse would have been winning at a canter. As well as this, those involved at the time simply didn’t possess the equine knowledge we have now and would not have known at all that what they were doing was potentially dangerous for the animal.