A study in England commissioned to look at how many horses make the races found almost 40% of 2-year-olds in training fail to start. Of those that do start, two-thirds fail to win.
A Racing Post story said the odds improved for 3-year-olds, with about 75% making a start and 40% winning at least one race. The study was paid for by the Levy Board and performed by professors Twink Allen and Sandra Wilsher of the Equine Fertility Unit in Newmarket, England.
The two found that using a conservative figure of £10,000 to keep a horse in training each year, 5% of 2-year-olds and 17% of 3-year-olds covered their costs.
In research presented at the Thoroughbred racing and breeding seminar at Cheltenham racecourse, Allen and Wilsher explained how they followed the careers of 1,022 foals conceived in the Newmarket area in 1998, tracking them through the end of their 3-year-old season in 2002.
The foals were identified from a breeding efficiency study involving 1,369 mares from 25 studs in the region.
A total of 592, or 58%, of the foals were sold at public auction: 113 as foals, 390 as yearlings, and 89 as 2-year-olds, for prices ranging from 500 guineas to 320,000 guineas.
Just over half of the foals in the study (537) entered training in Britain or Ireland at two. Another 28% were exported. Of the 2-year-olds who went into training, 61% made the racecourse. The mean number of runs for those horses was 3.2, and the mean prize-money won was £2,646.
Injuries were also tracked through questionnaires sent to trainers, with sore shins by far the most widespread ailment among 2-year-olds (29%). Non-specific respiratory disease, joint problems, and fractures also had a greater than 10% frequency.
By the end of 2002, the study had 562 horses it was following. Just one-third of those remained in flat-race training in Britain or Ireland at four.