Female Race Horse

Last Updated on June 28, 2020 by Allison Price

What Is A Female Race Horse?

It is either called a Mare or Filly. A mare is an adult female horse OVER the age of 3yrs old. A filly is a female horse aged 3 and BELOW. In thoroughbred horse racing, a female horse that is over four years old is called “Mare”. The word may also be used for other female equine animals, particularly mules and zebras. On the other hand, a female donkey is called a “jenny.”

Mares are considered easier to handle than stallions. Geldings have no hormone-driven behavior patterns thus sometimes they are preferred to both. Mares have a notorious, if generally undeserved, image as “marish”. This mean they can be cranky or reluctant when they come in season. Mares and fillies have their own races in horse racing and only a small number of them compete against male. There are also instances when fillies and mares have won classic horse races against colts. This include the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes, the Melbourne Cup and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Surprisingly, because of that, questions arises whether a female horses have been equal to their male counterparts all the time.

It may be their owners and trainers are too timid to run them in the biggest races, or if fillies and mares are just beginning to take things to the next level for some reason. All this and that, one thing’s sure, male and female horses can compete against each other, the same way jockeys and trainers do in racing

Female Horses Used In Race

They might call it the sport of Kings, but horse racing can be royally confusing if you don’t understand how it works.

Racehorses are undoubtedly one of the most pampered animals in the world. They are bred to race while trainers seek to maximize their ability on the track. Part of the process is to provide 24-hour nutrition, exercise, care, and attention. These animals are assisted by superb stable staff for each role.

Racehorses can be either male or female yet male horses are found to be more common than females. But both genders can participate in most races, specifically female horses such as:


A broodmare is a female horse kept at stud for breeding purposes. They will usually have raced when they were younger. If won, they will be taken into account when assessing the quality of their offspring.


A female horse aged four years or younger is known as a filly. There are many flat races that are open only to fillies, as they would often be at a disadvantage if asked to run against colts.

There are multiple examples of great female racehorses as well, and they’re popular. Here are the most famous filly and mare racehorses of all time:

  1. Makybe Diva– In 2003 she becoming the first winner of a Melbourne Cup treble by winning three consecutive victories in the race. She also captured another seven Group 1 wins, ending her career as one of Australian racing’s all-time greats.
  2. Goldikova– Irish racehorse that is widely considered to the finest mare to have graced the racecourses of Europe. She achieved a ground-breaking treble in a major race by becoming the first horse to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile three years in a row. Goldikova defeated the finest colt and gelding milers in the world. She also claimed France’s Prix Rothschild four times in a row and the Prix d’Ispahan twice.
  3. Zenyatta– is easily the finest mare produced by the American thoroughbred racing establishment. She is a contender for the greatest racehorse of all time. Her most astonishing career feat was stringing together a series of 19 consecutive wins, including 17 wins in Grade 1 races. During this period she managed a treble of victories in three different Grade 1 races. Her fame and popularity were based partly on her heart-stopping racing style. She’d achieve her wins by letting the frontrunner create a large lead before taking victory with a big surge in the final stretch.
  4. Dawn Run– In 1984 she became only the second mare to win National Hunt racing’s premier 2-mile hurdles race, the Champion Hurdle. Despite this historic feat, few expected her to become a serious contender over fences as her career progressed. In the wake of her Champion Hurdle victory, Dawn Run won two more Grade 1 hurdles, before switching to fences in 1985. It didn’t take her long to make her presence felt at the top level, as she claimed her first Grade 1 chase, the Durkan Brothers Chase, at Punchestown.
  5. Kincsem– While few racing enthusiasts have ever heard of Kincsem, she holds a record that is likely to stand the test of time. Foaled in 1874 and raced 54 times over four seasons, she ended her career without suffering a single defeat.

And the list goes on.

Which Is Better For Race, Female Horse Or Male Horse?

The idea that female horses are inferior to their male counterparts has always been strong as long as horse racing is around. The vast majority of races are sex divided, composed either entirely of fillies and mares, or male horses. Nowadays, many equine owners believe that a female horse can actually beat a male of its kind. But all the horses in races are trained exceptionally well so it’s the thin little lines that make the difference sometimes.

The difference between male and female horses from the same breed is the size. A male horse tends to be taller than the female horse. They’re built a little stronger than their female colleagues. Females generally carry less weigh compared to male horses of the same group, except in true handicap races when weight is based on performance. These tiny differences can make a huge changes in the race. Under saddle, female horses are usually a bit slower than male horses of the same age and class.

Fact: But going through history, based on accomplishments, it could be argued that the greatest thoroughbred of all time was the Hungarian Race Mare Kincsem (foaled 1874), who won 54 races from 54 starts in a career that took her all over Europe.

Why Don’t Female Challenge Male Horses More Often?

It really depends on their master because there’s not a lot of financial incentive. Race cards are specifically divided into competitions for fillies and mares, and for horses of both genders. A female horse is more likely to take home whatever prize money is at stake if its challenger are on the same page, a mare or fillies.

It is also a typical practice in thoroughbred racing that when you have a winner horse with very good genes and strong genetics you typically want to breed on it. It takes about a year, as you might know, for a female horse to be pregnant. This makes it hard to keep up with the training. Obviously, the female horse is not able to compete on the same level during the pregnancy. Indeed the real money is in breeding.

Type Of Races A Female Horse Can Enter

  • Flat Racing – One of the two main varieties of horse racing. It does not feature any obstacles and races can be run on turf, dirt, or all-weather surfaces.
  • 1,000 Guineas – Run on Newmarket racecourse in May. A one-mile race for 3-y-o fillies.
  • Oaks – Run at Epsom racecourse in June. One mile four-furlong race for 3-y-o fillies.
  • Derby – Run at Epsom racecourse in June. One mile four-furlong race for 3-y-o colts and fillies.
  • St Leger – Run at Doncaster racecourse in September. One mile six furlongs race for 3-y-o colts and fillies.
  • Group/Graded Races – The highest quality flat races are known as group races and the highest quality national hunt contests are called graded races. Both group and graded races are split into three levels, with group one and grade one races being the most prestigious contests in each code.
  • Handicaps – A race where each horse taking part is individually allocated a different weight to carry through the race. The weight each horse has to carry is determined by a rating given to the horse by the official handicappers. The idea behind handicaps is to give horses of different abilities a more equal chance of winning a race.
Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!