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Thoroughbred – the most well-known racing horse

Published: 2023-02-14 13:15:26 Categories: Guides Rss feed


Thoroughbred horses (otherwise known asthoroughbreds) are one of the oldest and most well-known breeds in the world. They are recognized for their high performance and endurance, which predestines them for participation in horse racing and high-class equestrian sports - dressage, jumping and eventing (All-Around Horse Competition). It is one of the primary breeds of hot-blooded horses and one of the most famous breeds of sport horses.

Thoroughbred – breed history

The modern breed originated from Oriental horses brought by the Romans to ancient Britain as racehorses first. During the reign of the Plantagenets beginning around the 12th century, the sport flourished, prompting an increase in the import of horses from the Middle East and the development of local breeding. Thus, the English thoroughbred horse also has Turkic ancestry in its family tree.

The development of the breed, focused mainly on obtaining the characteristics of a racehorse (fast and sturdy), gained importance during the reign of the Tudor dynasty and the first period of the Stuart rule in England. The English thoroughbred horse was bred at four major royal studs. The so-called Royal Mares were associated with horses from Italy, Spain and the Orient.

The term Thoroughbred (folblut) - a thoroughbred English horse - describes a breed of horse whose ancestors derive from three founding sires - Darley Arabian, Godolphin Arabian and Byerly Turk. Named after their owners Thomas Darley, Lord Godolphin and Captain Robert Byerly, these three stallions were brought to Britain from the Middle East in the late 17th and first half of the 19th century. They were mated with local horses. The result was a thoroughbred English horse that could support speed and any load over longer distances.


Thus began a process of selective breeding that has continued for more than 300 years, building the backbone of the breed. The thoroughbred's bravery and stamina proves to be effective in so-called flat horse races. The key to this selective breeding process is the integrity of the breed's records. In the early days, breeding records of English thoroughbreds were sparse and often incomplete as it was customary – among other things – not to name a horse until it had proven its outstanding ability. It wasn't until 1973 that James Weatherby, through his own research and the consolidation of many privately kept pedigree records, decided to publish the first volume of the General Stud Book, which made the development the breed possible. Today thanks to him, there is a breeding purity of thoroughbred horses.

The thoroughbred quickly became popular in Britain and around the world, having a powerful influence on all modern breeds of sport horses. Today, the main breeding is, of course, carried out in England, where you will find horses of the highest pedigree. These horses are also bred in Ireland, the USA, France and Japan - that is, where the culture of the aristocracy's participation in horse racing has had a significant influence.

Thoroughbreds are also raised in Poland. Among the most famous thoroughbreds successfully competing in jumping competitions are those bred at Polish studs. These include, among others: Blekot, Bremen, Norton, Brzask, Czubczyk, Skarbiec and Via Vitae. Horses participating in eventing, such as Nieważa, Hangar, and Gniew, also found significant success.


Thoroughbred - physique and characteristics

Thoroughbreds had their physical attributes shaped over the centuries for speed and bravery, so that they could cover long distances. They are the fastest race horses with a light body structure, whose physical characteristics make the thoroughbred appear elegant.

A distinctive feature of these horses is their head which has a straight profile, is dry, striking, small or medium in size, and set on a long neck. The thoroughbred has a short back with highly set withers. A slanted shoulder is also typical, allowing for greater speed. These sport horses are also distinguished by a very well-muscled croup and a rather narrow, but very long and deep chest. Particularly noteworthy are the long legs of the thoroughbred, which are dry and lean, with equally long and flexible pasterns. The breed has a short hair coat. They benefit from good health, although the small stomach of these horses should be well cared for. Like any other horse, they feel best in open spaces.

Of particular note in this breed frequent postural defects in the limbs. This is due to the focus on obtaining a brave horse, not necessarily with ideal body features,

Height at the withers: 150-170 cm

Coat: basic - mainly bay and chestnut, less often gray and black


Which horse is the fastest in the world?

The most important feature back then was speed at the gallop - that's why today these animals are considered the fastest breed in the world. The record holder is a horse named Winning Brew. On May 14, 2008 at the Penn National Race Course in the USA, it set a record of 70.76 km/h!

Thoroughbred in competitions

These horses are hot-blooded and are characterized by slender and agile bodies, long legs and heads with distinct profiles. They are sport horses with strong muscles and excellent coordination, which allows them to achieve high speed and agility when running. English Thoroughbreds are also known for their stamina and endurance, which allows them to take part in demanding competitions at horse races.

Thoroughbreds are also frequently selected for other disciplines, even at the top level, such as show jumping, eventing, and dressage. The breed also excels in polo and hunting competitions. These horses are known for being loyal to their riders.

The most famous thoroughbred horse: Eclipse

One of the great representatives of the breed was the stallion Eclipse, a horse that was born in the spring of 1764 in the stables of the Duke of Cumberland during a solar eclipse, hence his name. He was the offspring of Spiletta and, according to the General Stud Book, Marske, although it is not known which stallion sired Eclipse, as unintentionally the mare was also covered by a stallion named Shakespeare. When Eclipse's breeder died, its new owner, William Wildman, had problems with the unruly stallion. So, Wildman, after selling half of the horse to Colonel O'Kelly, entrusted its training to the well-known Irish trainer Sullivan, who managed to make the horse a racetrack winner. Eclipse, thanks to its amazing racing career, soon became a living legend, leaving behind a brood of champions.

Thoroughbreds: price

The price of a thoroughbred depends on the age of the horse, its pedigree, skills and its past achievements.

On the market, one can find horses of this breed priced from 15 to 100 thousand zlotys (and even more).

Anglo-Arabians vs. Thoroughbreds

Anglo-Arabian horses (xxoo) are a combination of two breeds: Arabian horse (oo) and Thoroughbred (xx). This crossbreeding yielded great sport horses, although with a rather hot temperament - fast, slender, sturdy, jumpy and with efficient gaits.

You can read more about Anglo-Arabians and the Arabian horses here.

Thoroughbreds & horse racing

What began as a pastime and sport for the rich has now become a multimillion-dollar industry whose economic impact is widely felt regionally and nationally.

Racing is no longer a sport associated only with the English aristocracy and the fancy hats in the stands. Today it is also part of the culture of the United States, France and Japan.

Horse racing in England

The most famous event is certainly the Royal Ascot horse race in Berkshire County, England, held since 1711 and lasting 5 days. The highlight of the event is the Gold Cup race over a distance of 4,500 meters. The event was always honored by the presence of Queen Elizabeth with the royal family.

Horse racing in France

France is also a pioneer in the hosting of races - the most famous ones are the annual events such as the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (distance 2,400 m) - a flat race, held on the first Sunday in October, as well as, the steeplechase Grand-Steeple-Chase de Paris (distance 6,000 m), held usually on the last Sunday in May.

Horse racing in the US

In the United States alone, thoroughbred horse racing generates nearly $500 million in government revenue each year through licensing fees and direct wagering taxes. However, this is a relatively small sum compared to the overall urban and rural economic contribution made by the vast and diverse infrastructure of the racing and breeding industry as a whole. According to recent estimates, the industry's contribution to the economy of New York State alone is more than $1.8 billion annually.


The highest prize for winning a race is $2.4 million ($2,400,000), earned by winning the Dubai World Cup. 

Another record related to racing is the race with the largest number of participants. The race involved 4,429 jockeys over a distance of 18 kilometers. The event took place in Mongolia on August 10, 2013, with the oldest rider being 79 years old and the youngest just 7 years old.



Arabian horses are often said to be beautiful and incredibly robust, but it is the English thoroughbreds that deserve to be called the fastest horses in the world. Incredibly, adult horses develop speeds of up to 60 km/h, and at the same time they are sturdy, able to carry the weight of a 50-65kg man maintaining this speed. This breed has definitely made a mark in history, and its influence can be seen in virtually all modern breeds of sport horses.