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Got a Zebra with questionable parentage? Who you gonna call? Weatherbys

Racing's secretariat is much more than just entries and declarations

Johnny Weatherby: Chairman of Weatherbys
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1 Every racehorse born in Britain and Ireland must be registered with Weatherbys, the central administration arm of the racing industry, within 12 months of birth. The BHA has a contract with the company that then undertakes the arduous task – distributing prize-money, taking entries, declarations and jockey bookings are just some of the other vital roles played by Weatherbys to ensure the cogs keep on turning.

2 Weatherbys was founded in 1770 by James Weatherby. A Northumbrian lawyer, he realised the growing nature of the sport among the wealthy meant it needed organising. He moved to Newmarket and began the process – taking on the roles of secretary to the Jockey Club and keeper of the match book, later publishing the first volume of the General Stud Book in 1791.

3 The English Thoroughbred can be traced back to three stallions imported into England in the late 17th and early 18th centuries – the Byerley Turk, the Darley Arabian and the Godolphin Arabian. Every registered thoroughbred can be traced back to at least one of the these foundation stallions. A new volume of the Stud Book is brought out every four years, with Volume 48 due for publication in 2017.

4 Every horse registered in the Stud Book has their parentage verified using DNA sampling. Weatherbys Ireland boasts its own laboratory that not only analyses equine DNA, but also cows, dogs, cats, sheep – and zebras.

Who's the daddy? Weatherbys Ireland can find out

5 Remarkably, the Weatherby family remains at the top of the business, with Johnny and Roger Weatherby sitting on the board as chairman and a director respectively. Both have numerous high-profile roles outside the Weatherbys family of companies. Johnny is the Queen’s representative at Ascot, of which he is also chairman, while Roger is the Jockey Club’s senior steward.

6 Naming a horse is an enjoyable part of the owner experience, but requests must pass through a stringent process. Weatherbys oversees this procedure and works to ensure nothing slips through the net, with additional checks and a final decision made by the BHA. The name can be up to 18 characters, with no punctuation and no more than seven syllables. There are also numerous rules regarding the duplication of names – the most successful racehorses, stallions and broodmares may have their names added to the domestic or international lists of protected names.

7 The majority of racecards available on racetracks are also produced by Weatherbys. This includes all details in the programmes, from previews to headgear. In the last 12 months, Weatherbys has produced more than 60,000 pages for 1,438 race meetings.

8 Banking is something many may not naturally associate with Weatherbys, yet it is an important arm of the business. The private bank boasts a select clientele, including the Queen and Sheikh Mohammed. There is also a racing bank that trainers, owners and jockeys can use to transfer training fees, prize-money and entry costs – the alternative is a BHA credit account, but all owners, trainers and jockeys must have one or the other.

9 The silks worn by jockeys up and down Britain are also registered through Weatherbys. It is a privilege given to owners, and no matter the size of your operation, the colours must be unique and within the BHA guidelines. All registrations must conform to these guidelines by offering a unique body and sleeve combination. In recent years the BHA has hosted an auction offering some colours considered ‘slightly out there’, including a rainbow pattern and multi-coloured spots.

Spotted silks - a break from tradition for the BHA and Weatherbys

10 Point-to-point is another area Weatherbys plays a crucial behind-the-scenes role in. Horses who run in point-to-points must be registered in the usual way – with the exception of those running in members races – and just as for racing under rules, Weatherbys processes the entries and publishes the results, as well as producing racecards for many meetings.


If you are interested in this, you might like:

Racing Revealed: How much do jockeys really earn?

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Naming a horse is an enjoyable part of the owner experience, but there is a stringent and detailed process requests must pass through
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