A novice in horse racing is an inexperienced racehorse which has not run in a certain number of races of a particular type, or not won in such races. The definition of a novice is determined by the horse racing authority in a particular country or area.
In British Flat racing novice races are generally restricted to horses which have not won more than twice, have not won a race of a particular status or have not run more than twice. Specific conditions apply to auction races restricted to horses sold at public auctions.
A novice in National Hunt horse racing is a horse which has not won in a particular type of race prior to the start of the current season. A novice hurdler has not won a hurdle race before the start of the current season, while a novice chaser has not won a steeplechase before the start of the current season.
A novice remains a novice until the end of the season in which it gains its first win in that particular category, no matter how many wins it achieves. Generally novices race against other novices although there is no restriction preventing novices competing against more experienced rivals. Occasionally a novice wins a major race outside novice company – Captain Christy and Coneygree both won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1974 and 2015 respectively as novices, as did Make A Stand in the 1997 Champion Hurdle.
A modern development has seen a concession whereby horses that record their first win in a given sphere in March or April may contest novice events up to 31 October of that year.
The most important races run for novices in Great Britain are all run as Grade 1 events at the Cheltenham Festival