The Thoroughbred is one of the most brilliant and versatile horses bred in the world today. It is mostly noted for its speed on the race track, but also has great ability in hunting, polog, eventing, and jumping. The Thoroughbred has been used to create new breeds of horses and to up-grade others. The key to the Thoroughbred’s greatness is its great speed and endurance, for which it has been bred for nearly 300 years. The Throughbred orginated in Great Britain, and its ancestors were Arabians who were imported and bred to native sprinting mares. The breed is traditionally traced to three “foundation” stallions: the Byerly Turk, the Godolphin Arabian, and the Darley Arabian.
The appearance of the Thoroughbred reveals its Arabian ancestry. It has a refined head, with widely-spaced, intelligent eyes, a long, arched neck and prominent withers. The shoulder is extremely sloped. The heart girth is deep and relatively narrow. The croup is high and the quarters are substantial. The legs are clean and long with pronounced tendons. It has a long, low stride, giving it incomparable speed as a race horse. The Thoroughbred is predominately bay in color, but gray, black, brown, and chestnut are also found. It stands between 15 and 17 hands, the Thoroughbreds best suited for sprinting have shorter backs, more substantial quarters and less height.
The Thoroughbred’s genetic origin is Arabian. The Arabian foundation stallions which were brough to Britain in the late 1600s and early 1700s were bred to domestic mares – very probably Scottish Galloways – although they may have been bred to Arabian mares, too. A substantial number of early Thoroughbreds were bred in the vale of Bedale in the County of Yorkshire in Northern England.
The foundation stallions of the Thoroughbred breed and years in which they arrived in England were: the Byerly Turk (1689), the Darley Arabian (1705), and he Godolphin Arabian (1728). Their progeny were first Thoroughbreds, per se, and although the foundation stallions had many off-spring, three of their descendants stand out as supreme: Herod, Eclipse, and Matchem. In the lines of these horses were some outstanding Thoroughbreds: for instance, Princequillo and Round Table descend from Eclipse; and Man O’ War from Matchem.
The first Thoroughbrd to arrive in America was a stallion named Bulle Rock, by the Darley Arabian. He was improted to Virginia in 1730 by Samuel Gist. In 1757, Janus, a grandson of Godolphin Arabian, was imported and became the found of the Quarter Horse breed. Diomed, who was imported in 1800 was the most important Thoroughbred imported to America in its early ears. Lexington, by Boston, was foaled in 1850 and was the greatest sire of the 1800s.
Some famous modern Thoroughbreds are:
Synsonby — bred by Foxhall Keene, 1902, lost only two raced in his career to Artful and Race King.
Colin — unbeaten in his brief career in 1907 and 1908, won the English Epsom Derby in 1908.
Exterminator — born in 1915, purchased in 1918 as a work horse for Sun Beau, the Derby favorite. When Sun Beau broke down before the race, Exterminator, raced in thirty to one odds, was the surprise winner.
Man O’War — born in 1917, bough as a yearling by Samuel Riddle for $5,000, trained by Louis Feustel, his only loss was to Upset, as a two-year-old when he was Horse of the Year. Won 20 of 21 races. One of the greatest Thoroughbred sires of all times.
Equipose – won the 1931 Preakness and the National Stallion Stakes at Belmont, known as the “Chocolate Soldier.” In 1942, the year’s leading sire posthumously, when his colt, Shut Out, won the Derby and was the top money winner.
Citation — The first Thoroughbred millionaire in history and a Triple Crown Winner. A versatile runner, by Bull Lea was born at Calumet Farm, Lexington, in 1945. He died there in 1970 at age 25, after a long and successful career as a sire.
Tom Fool — born in 1949, purchased by Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney, Greentree Stable. Trained by John M. Gaver, second horse in history to win the Handicap Triple Crown. Horse of the Year and Handicap Horse of 1953.
Native Dancer — this silver gray horse won 21 of 22 races in his career. Owned by Alfred G. Vanderbilt, best two-year-old of 1952 and champion three-year-old in 1953, retired in 1954. Sired Raise a Native, Majestic Prince, and Kauai King.
Kelso — Horse of the Year 1960-1964. Won the Handicappers’ Triple Crown in 1961 followed by nearly every important American Handicap Race. Owned by Mrs. Richard C. Dupont, trained by Carl Hanford. The gelding earned $1,977,896 after 8 seasons of 39 wins in 63 races.
Secretariat — In 1973, the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Citation in 1948, won 16 of 21 starts, fourth all-time money winner. Tied or broke 5 track records. Secretariat sold for an all-time of $6,080,000.
For more information, contact:
The Jockey Club
821 Corporate Drive
Lexington KY 40503