The Horse

The Thoroughbred was developed in the early 18th century from three foundation sires, the Byerly Turk, Darley Arabian and Godolphin Barb crossed to native English mares. Today, all modern day Thoroughbreds can be traced to just three stallions - Eclipse, Matchem and Herod.

Eclipse, a kin of the Darley Arabian, was foaled in 1764, the year of the great eclipse of the sun. He was a champion who won all his races without ever being whipped, spurred or headed and today has exerted far more influence in thoroughbred breeding than has Matchem or Herod. Incidentally, all gray thoroughbreds trace to Herod.

Perhaps the greatest breeder ever of thoroughbreds was Federico Tesio, the "Wizard of Dormello" in Northern Italy. "My aim is always to breed and raise a race horse which, over any distance, can carry the heaviest weight in the shortest time," Tesio would say.

Thoroughbreds, like people, come in many sizes. Forego, three times Horse-of-the-Year, was an immense 17 hands high. Northern Dancer, Gallant Man, War Admiral, Seabiscuit, Black Gold, Sword Dancer and Round Table were all less than 15.3 hands.

Their talents vary. There are sprinters, milers, routers and classic distance running horses. The most frequently run distance in North America is six furlongs, or three quarters of a mile. "I look for balance when I buy a young horse," Henry Forrest, who won frequent training titles at Oaklawn, would say. "I want a horse that is obviously an athlete."

Bay is a prominent color among Thoroughbreds, but one sees many chestnuts. There are roans and various shades of brown. It is very difficult to get a horse registered as black with the Jockey Club.

No thoroughbred can start at a recognized pari-mutuel track unless it is registered with the Jockey Club.

Before a Thoroughbred foal is approved, the registry requires that the color and all markings be clearly set forth in the application. Among markings are star, blaze, stripe, snip and stocking. A lip tattoo is further necessary.

There are Thoroughbreds to fit most pocket books. Seattle Dancer brought $13.1 million as a yearling and never distinguished himself as a runner. Conversely, Ron McAnally and Angelo Costanzo bought Silver Ending at a yearling auction for $1,500 and subsequently won the Arkansas Derby with him. "Owning thoroughbreds is very speculative," avows Eugene Cashman, whose Elocutionist won the 1976 Arkansas Derby and Preakness Stakes. Cashman bought Elocutionist for $15,000. "But, I bought 25 or 30 yearlings that year," remembers Cashman. During the 1970's, the Chicagoan invested a fortune in horses. "Elocutionist happened to be the best of them all. He was one of those horses than comes along once in an owner's lifetime, mused Cashman. "In the thoroughbred business, you put up your money and take your chances."

Growing Up

There are many terms that will help you understand the age of the Throroughbreds that you see at the track.

North of the equator, a Thoroughbred's first birthday is universally established as January 1. Before the first birthday, a Thoroughbred is known as a foal. In the fall of his first year, a foal is separated from his mother and becomes a weanling. After his first New Year's Day birthday, he becomes a yearling. On the following January 1, he becomes a 2-year-old and is eligible to race.

A male Thoroughbred is called a horse once he is five years old or more. Throughout his third and fourth years he is called a colt. A female Thoroughbred is called a mare once she is five years old. Before that time, she is a filly. Once a mare becomes a mother, she becomes a broodmare.

In speaking of a Thoroughbred's parents his father is the sire and his mother the dam. A dam's offspring is referred to collectively as her produce. The offspring of a stallion are known as his get. A mare is called a producer when one of her sons or daughters has won a race. A stallion is not officially a sire until one of his get has won. The female side of a Thoroughbred pedigree is known as the family. Horses traceable to a common paternal ancestor are said to be from a particular line.

Coat of many Colors


The entire coat includes only white hairs.

The first registered white Thorougbred in the United States was a filly, foaled in 1963 and named White Beauty. She won 2 races, with one third out of 16 starts to earn $5,561. In 1975 White Beauty foaled a filly which was named Beauty 'N Motion -- she never raced.

Another white horse foaled in 1977 by the name Clarence Stewart was also the sire of a white colt in 1987 named White Flight.

The last registered white Thoroughbred on record was foaled in 1995 and could give us all something to look forward to!


The entire coat of the horse may vary from a yellow-tan to a bright auburn. The mane, tail and lower portion of the legs are always black, unless white markings are present. 


The entire coat of the horse may vary from a red-yellow to a golden-yellow. The mane, tail and legs are usually variations of coat color, unless white markings are present. 

Dark Bay/Brown

The entire coat of the horse will vary from a brown, with areas of tan on the shoulders, head and flanks, to a dark brown, with tan areas seen only in the flanks and/or muzzle. The mane, tail and lower portion of the legs are always black, unless white markings are present. 


The majority of the coat of the horse is a mixture of black and white hairs. The mane, tail and legs may be either black or gray, unless white markings are present. 


The majority of the coat of the horse is a mixture of red and white hairs or brown and white hairs. The mane, tail and legs may be black, chestnut or roan, unless white markings are present. 


The entire coat of the horse is black, including the muzzle, the flanks, the mane, tail and legs, unless white markings are present. It is very rare to register a black Thoroughbred.