The Anonymous Widower

What is a Selling Race?

Several of my friends today, have asked me to explain what a selling race is in horse racing in the UK. I did try to find an explanation on the Internet, but everything was just too technical or only gave the basic facts.

The concept is simple, in that it is basically a horse race, where the winner is sold at auction.  The auction is very little different to a typical auction at the local furniture saleroom, except that if you are the ownerof the winner, you can bid yourself.  If you succeed, you are said to have bought the horse in. Just like in the saleroom, the auctioneer or in this case the racecourse takes a proportion of the sale price.

As yesterday’s race was a stakes race, the weight the horses carry depends on their age and sex.  Free As A Lark carried eight stone four pounds as she is a three-year-old filly. The winner, Prince Apollo carried nine stone and a pound because he was a five-year-old gelding.

Other selling races are handicaps, where the better horses carry more weight according to their official rating.

So you may argue what is the purpose of a race, where if you win it, you lose the horse in the auction? Especially, as the prize money in selling races is not very good.  But then as they are the lowest level of horse racing , the entry fees are low.

I’ll give two examples of when we have run horses in sellers.

C once bought a yearling filly at the sales for just a thousand guineas, despite being extremely well-bred.  But Infant Protege, as we called her,  was very small and to put it mildly, just a tiny bit nasty, fully living up to her nickname of Sybil. We needed to get a run out of her, so that she knew what racing was supposed to be about. The trainer put her in a not-very-good selling race at Brighton with an experienced jockey who could get the best out of her. It worked and she ran properly for the first time to be third. In the end she won a race at Haydock and was second in another in quite good company. At the end of the season, she was sold at Tattersalls, for a price that gave us a small profit!

In Free As A Lark’s case, because I still own the brood mare, it would have been nice to get a win out of the filly, so that the pedigree looked better, when any other progeny are sold. There was also the subsidiary reason, that as she was in effect C’s last runner, it would have been nice for it to be a winner! But you shouldn’t let sentiment interfere.  I don’t think C would have!

There are other reasons, the biggest of which is probably betting.  If a trainer picks the race right, then the horse will have a better chance of winning. So putting a better horse in a poor selling race may almost guarantee that win.  But remember that all form and ratings are open and fully published.  So you may well get the win, but the odds would be so short, that you won’t make much money, if any!

I’ve also known that horses have been entered in sellers, because the trainer is owed money by the owner and wants to see if they can get some of their money back.

So essentially, as in many things in life, it all comes down to money!  Whether it be concerned with breeding, prize money, betting or debts!

But you have to throw in the fact that a win is a win and it is very good feeling to be a winning owner and/or a breeder.

September 23, 2010 - Posted by | Sport |


  1. Great explaination! Thanks

    Comment by Andy Jackson | September 10, 2014 | Reply

  2. I’m running my horse in a seller if he wins and I buy him back in what is the cost to me

    Comment by Mark Bloomfield | January 4, 2017 | Reply

    • Make sure you ask the trainer. He probably won’t want to lose a horse from the yard.

      It’s at times like this, I need my late wife! She would have known what to do, including how to cover the bets properly.

      Comment by AnonW | January 4, 2017 | Reply

  3. If a horse is bought in by owner for half its value who gets the money?

    Comment by Colin daly | July 30, 2017 | Reply

  4. You might be able to answer another question for me. I am researching racing in colonial New Zealand and the races featured “Forced Handicaps”. Any idea what these might have been?

    Comment by Laraine Sole | February 1, 2019 | Reply

  5. Sorry! No idea!

    Comment by AnonW | February 1, 2019 | Reply

  6. This article is really a good one it helps new net visitors, who
    are wishing for blogging.

    Comment by anti 3 stars | August 27, 2019 | Reply

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