Happy New Year to you all!
For Thoroughbred horses, it’s also happy birthday. No matter what day of the year they were foaled, all Thoroughbreds officially turn one year older on January 1. Since the conditions for entry into most any race include being at, or above, a specified age, keeping track of individual birthdays would drive racing stewards even crazier. This way, knowing the year is enough.
That’s why breeders aim for late winter or spring foals. Two and three year olds, who are maturing physically and mentally each month, would be at a real disadvantage racing against youngsters who were actually nearly a year older than themselves, so most are foaled by the end of May. At least, in the northern hemisphere. In Australia and New Zealand where the hot and cold seasons are the reverse of ours, race conditions are figured differently; hence Aussies Bint Marscay and Interwin having their actual birthdays only a few months ago.
While the Georgetown farm throws no birthday bash for the horses on January 1, the tour guides stretch their brains making mental adjustments. No more can we throw out on automatic pilot, “Game On Dude and Little Mike are both 10 years old,” or “Popcorn’s in his teens.” Visitors often ask how old a horse is, and each horse’s age needs to be scooted up by one year. Our Kentucky Derby winners, for instance, are now 24—Silver Charm, and 19—War Emblem. Same for the Belmont winners. Touch Gold has turned 24, Sarava 19. And our Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Alphabet Soup, is now a venerable 27 years old.
Eleven of our Georgetown residents have especially noteworthy rites of passage. They have now moved into a new decade by attaining ages 30 (one horse), 20 (several), and 10 (still kids!). So, here are the horses celebrating these rite of passage this year.
Since our much-loved old generation passed in 2015 and 2016—Creator, Ogygian, Gulch, Francis—the oldest horses on the farm (except for he of the mysterious agelessness, Little Silver Charm) have been in their late 20s. Dinard leads the way, now officially turning 30 years old. Just behind him are Archie’s Echo, Highland Ack (a.k.a. Landy), and Silver Ray, all of whom now reach 29.
Our former teens who now hit the big two-oh, not old yet but dignified (hear that, Popcorn?) are Medaglia d’Oro’s half-brother Cappucino Kid, and graded stakes winner Discreet Hero.
Also turning 20 are 2002 Breeders’ Cup Sprint participant Disturbingthepeace, sometime Australian racehorse and later four star eventer Interwin, Popcorn Deelites (…ahem, the name’s Seabiscuit…), and here’s the one I can’t believe. Riva Way, who so short a while ago was a new 6 year old resident, is now 20 and our longest time resident. Amazing. Well, at least, our longest time resident who isn’t Little Silver Charm.
And then there are our kids-no-more, those who’ve moved from one digit to two. Though some of them are still kids at heart, and we love the fun their play brings. The newly-turned-10s are Euronfire, Litigate, Maybesomaybenot, and the eternally spunky kid, Starspangled Heat.
To all of them as they begin a new decade, happy birthday, and to all of you a good, hopeful and satisfying new year. And many happy returns.
Photos by Laura