British Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association chairman Philip Freedman called for an end to discrimination against premature foals born before Jan. 1, during a keynote speech Jan. 9 to the TBA annual general meeting at the Hyatt Regency Churchill Hotel, London, England.
Freedman’s remarks follow the high-profile pre-Christmas birth of the Pivotal filly foal carried by world record-priced broodmare Magical Romance, who recently sold for 4.6 million guineas at Tattersalls December Sale.
Magical Romance’s first foal arrived 24 days prematurely and is consequently now regarded as a yearling according to the registration rules of British and other northern hemisphere jurisdictions, which dictate that all Thoroughbreds turn a new chronological age on January 1.
Should the filly race in the northern hemisphere as a 2-year-old and 3-year-old, she will face rivals older than herself.
Freedman said: "It is of course a nonsense that premature foals of mares covered after the start of the covering season are discriminated against in this way."
He called on the new British Horseracing Authority to consider change "in the near future" and lamented the "failure to gain any support from our colleagues in Ireland for a united approach" to the issue.
Freedman asserted: "It is ultimately for the rules of racing, and not the stud book authority, who merely record when a foal was born, to regulate on how a horse’s age should be determined."
He will meet with BHA officials to discuss the issue.
Freedman’s comments come in the wake of an announcement by the U.S. Jockey Club the previous week that it had conducted numerous inspections of broodmares with early foaling dates on stud farms in nine states. The inspections were in response to an increase in the number of foals registered as born in the first few days of January.
Jockey Club registry staff discovered a small number of foals born prior to Jan. 1, which were subsequently registered as 2006 foals.
Another episode involving premature foaling was only subsequently discovered in Britain. Endless Summer, winner of the Richmond Stakes (Eng-II) for juveniles in 2000, was subsequently determined as having been born on Dec. 26, 1997, rather than Jan. 2, 1998, as registered.