What happens to racehorses when they retire from racing in the UK

Horses competing in a race (Image: Getty)

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Horse racing only has football in front of it in the league table for popular spectator sports in the UK.

Around six million people attend race meetings each year, scheduled at the country's 60 tracks.

There are approximately 14,000 horses in training, being prepared to compete on the Flat or over jumps.

Feature events of the year include the Cheltenham Festival, the Grand National and Royal Ascot.

As a sport, British Horseracing Authority figures suggest it generates £3.39 billion total direct and indirect expenditure in the economy.

The industry says that racing is now safer than ever, that the number of deaths on the track is falling and that the animals are looked after in retirement.

This is disputed by an edition of Panorama, which airs on July 19.

Horses on the gallops in Newmarket
(Image: PA)

Here we take a look at what happens when they retire from racing in the UK:

Breeding

The thoroughbred programme is an essential part of the industry.

There are over 3,000 breeders in Britain, who helped contribute £427m to the UK economy in 2017, supporting over 19,000 jobs.

Top racehorses are born here each year and major sires have included Galileo, who won races like the 2001 Derby, Irish Derby and King George.

At stud however, his progeny were so successful with 91 Group 1 winners, that breeders would have to pay £600,000 to bring their mare to him.

As a result of his incredible track record, he had an estimated worth of £180m.

Like him, successful colts from Flat racing become stallions, while mares produce one foal a year.

Breeders often look for the best bloodlines, but it is not always a path to success, especially over jumps.

A lower-rated mare can still produce a top racehorse.

Sales

Both young horses and those with experience go through the ring to find new owners.

At Goffs UK, its headline National Hunt Sales are the Aintree Sale at the Grand National Festival and the Spring Sale while the flagship Flat sales are the Breeze Up and Premier Yearling Sales.

Funstar, the winner of more than $1.1m throughout her career, is one recent example of a mare being sold for breeding.

(Image: PA)

The Group 1-winning performer was bought by Katsumi Yoshida’s Northern Farm for approximately £1.5m, a new world record for an online thoroughbred sale

She is heading to Japan to join her high-class sibling Youngstar and it is hoped their progenies will win for the team in Japan.

Retraining

The BHA’s official charity is Retraining of Racehorses (RoR).

Working closely with organisations such as the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare, it promotes and facilitates the retraining of thoroughbreds into other disciplines.

The list includes showing, eventing, dressage and showjumping.

High profile individuals such as Clare Balding OBE and Sir Anthony McCoy, who are both patrons of the charity, which runs various competitions for ex-racehorses.

The charity says its ultimate goal is to maintain a balance between the number of horses leaving racing and the number of enthusiastic and suitable new homes.