Identifying Thoroughbreds

Do you own an off-track-Thoroughbred who’s lost his papers and name? Here are tips on finding out his identity and racing history.
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Identifying Thoroughbreds
Sarah VandenBerghe researched the tattoo of an OTTB she bought at a sale (shown here after rehab/retraining); he was Notaquitter, a Michigan-bred that has gone on to be a dressage and pleasure mount. | Photo: Courtesy Sarah VandenBerghe

I’ve been lucky when it comes to knowing the identities and histories of off-track-thoroughbreds (OTTBs) I’ve owned. I’m aware that Icy Edge, my eventer through high school and college, won just $1,410 in 12 starts over six months in 1984. He rose to intermediate-level eventing in the decade before he came to me, clearly preferring undulating cross-country courses to dirt track. And my current OTTB, It Happened Again, is a graded-stakes winner whose success can be tracked easily via the BloodHorse archives and Equibase. I was able to discuss his history in-depth with his racing owner, learning about her and her trainers’ philosophies on work, time off and sound retirement.

But not everyone has these luxuries, and it’s unsurprising that with as many racehorses that walk the earth, owners sometimes find themselves with a mystery to solve — a horse that’s obviously a Thoroughbred, due to the telltale tattoo beneath his or her upper lip, or a horse that’s probably one, due to location (in racing country, perhaps) and/or vague history.

Fortunately, there are ways to identify some of those OTTB John and Jane Does to find out what paths they’ve taken to our possession

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Written by:

Stephanie L. Church, Editorial Director, grew up riding and caring for her family’s horses in Central Virginia and received a B.A. in journalism and equestrian studies from Averett University. She joined The Horse in 1999 and has led the editorial team since 2010. A 4-H and Pony Club graduate, she enjoys dressage, eventing, and trail riding with her former graded-stakes-winning Thoroughbred gelding, It Happened Again (“Happy”). Stephanie and Happy are based in Lexington, Kentucky.

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