What is a novice?

What is a novice? Of course, the term ‘novice’ is often used in the sense of a beginner, to describe a horse that is unfamiliar or inexperienced in a particular discipline, or racing in general but, under the Rules of Racing, has specific meanings.

In National Hunt racing, a ‘novice’ is defined as a horse that has not won a race in its selected discipline, regardless of how many attempts it has made, before the start of the current season.

Obviously, in Britain, National Hunt racing takes place all year ’round so, for the purposes of determining novice status, the current season starts the day after the end of the previous season in late April. Thus, a horse that has yet to win a race over hurdles before late April remains a ‘novice hurdler’ and, likewise, a horse that has yet to win over fences remains a ‘novice chaser’.

On the Flat, a ‘novice’ is defined in the race categories with ‘novice’ in the title, namely novice, novice auction or median auction novice races. Essentially, to qualify as a novice, a horse must not have won more than two Flat races, of any kind, or more than one ‘Class 2’ race, or a ‘Class 1’ race. For 3-year-olds and upwards, a horse becomes ineligible for novice races as soon as it has run at least three times and won a race, of any kind.