Is Age Just a Number With Race Horses

November 21, 2019

There is a lot of fuss about Green Gratto returning to the races. I understand that people think it’s the wrong thing to do. Let’s face it, we all get old. I’m not a spring chicken. Age is only something you keep count of for birthdays. 

When it comes to horse racing this is where it gets a little fuzzy. We want to start them too young and decide when they’re too old to race. Like people some get better when they get older. It’s called growing up and maturing. Some are late bloomers and some just tread water. 


I’d sure hate for someone to tell me I’m too old to train or write just because I’m older. I didn’t forget how to train or write. Might be a step slower but I didn’t forget. Same with a race horse, he or she may not be as fast as they were but they still can do it. Why stop a horse from racing because he is up in age, if they are sound and willing to train and race? However, let’s be realistic, there is a time when you have to stop. 

Think about it. A horse, in most cases, has been in training in one form or another since he has been a year old. That’s what he has been trained to do and in most cases like to do it. Of course you always have those, like people, who just don’t want to do it. To each there own that’s why they make Vanilla and Chocolate ice cream. We all don’t like the same thing. 

Let’s get back to Green Gratto, a graded stakes winner and money earner. He was retired to stud but wasn’t getting mares in foal. His connections believe he could race again, he apparently showed them he was bored with farm life. So, knowing that, they gelded him and put him back in training in Ocala. He is 9 yrs old… not 12 or older. He has the will and soundness, so why not? 

When a horse has spent most of his life at the race track that’s all he knows. The horse likes the barn, he likes the attention and the other horses. Farm life is just like sending him to a nursing home. Some like it, most would rather be where the action is. You’d have a hard time keeping me in a nursing home. I would be jumping over the fence just like a horse.  

If a horse wants to run and is running well, leave him to it. Time and age is only something you keep count of when you’re in jail. Being a claiming trainer most of my life, I’ve had plenty of older horses.  If I had my choice, I’d always claim an older horse. They know how to win and they know how to take care of themselves. Let’s face it, they wouldn’t be running at their age if they weren’t able. I understand how people feel, they just need to re-think it . Give horses credit, they’re very intelligent animals. When a horse has had enough you will know. 

If a horse is happy and doing well leave him alone and enjoy the ride. There is a famous race horse called Lava Man, he is still at the race track being the stable pony. I would be the first person to say a horse needs to find a new vocation. Just because you are older doesn’t mean you can’t do it anymore.

See you at the races. 

Contributing Authors

JJ Graci

JJ was born in Philadelphia, Pa.  and attended Villanova University. He has vast experience in horse racing and broadcasting. JJ has been a fixture in...

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