One of the biggest steps toward becoming a racehorse in the United States is actually based on paperwork. While a foal born to a Thoroughbred stallion and a Thoroughbred mare is genetically a Thoroughbred, it cannot be a Thoroughbred racehorse unless we register it with The Jockey Club.
Starting in 2017, The Jockey Club required all foals to be microchipped in addition to the registration processes already in place. The microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and is implanted on the left side of the horse in the middle third of their neck.
Although new to us, microchips have been a part of the Thoroughbred registration process in many parts of the world for several years in places like Great Britain, France, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Italy, and New Zealand.
Microchips are just the beginning, though. In order for Thoroughbreds to be registered in the United States, all of the requirements listed in the Principal Rules and Requirements of The American Stud Book have to be met.
The first stage of the process, and perhaps the most important, is the fact the foal must be conceived via live cover, not artificial insemination, and its pedigree must authentically trace to horses recorded in The American Stud Book or a foreign stud book approved by The Jockey Club.
Making sure a foal is registered accurately is a team effort, and The Jockey Club’s web-based Interactive Registration program has digitalized much of the process. All stallion owners are required to report the mares that are bred to their stallions by August 1 of each year, and then within 30 days of the birth of a foal, we must complete a Live Foal/No Foal Report.
When the foal is three or four months old, we receive a pre-printed Registration Application and genetic typing kit. We carefully mark down a foal’s color and any markings. Four color photographs must also be submitted, so all of the foals get their pictures taken, too.
These photos are vital because a horse’s markings and cowlicks help identify it throughout the course of its life. Now, the microchip will help with this as well. In order to maintain the integrity of the breed, genetic proof is also required for each foal. We do this by submitting a sample of the foal’s mane or tail.
Once we have submitted all the required paperwork and paid our fees, a Certificate of Foal Registration is usually issued within a month. As of 2018, the registration papers are issued digitally rather than in the mail. These digital papers can then follow the horse to sales grounds and racetracks around the world.
Though the foal is now registered, that doesn’t mean we have named it. The Jockey Club allows everyone to wait to name their Thoroughbreds until Feb. 1 of their 2-year-old year, so most of the time foals are registered without a name.
Assuming we meet The Jockey Club’s requirements within one year of a foal being born, the cost associated with registering each colt or filly is $225. To encourage prompt registration, the fees go up incrementally after that. If someone waited until after December 31 of a horse’s 2-year-old year, it would cost them $2,025, or nine times the original fee!