Who Was Your OTTB in a Past Life?

Heather Benson points us in the direction of some useful resources on the web for researching your ex-racer’s background.

Top photo: Wikimedia Commons

I think it can be safely said that OTTBs (off-track Thoroughbreds for the uninitiated) are one of the hottest horse trends for 2014. They are popping everywhere–on TV, with Olympic superstars, painting pictures and generally showing off how fantastic they are. I, for one, am thrilled at their renewed popularity. This is, after all, the ultimate horse that we have had several hundred years to make into the most athletic, courageous, outstanding mount in the world. (OK, I might be a bit biased, but ride a Thoroughbred once and you will agree!)

The mighty Nearco-if you can find a Thoroughbred pedigree WITHOUT him in it, I will give you a dollar!

The mighty Nearco-if you can find a Thoroughbred pedigree WITHOUT him in it, I will give you a dollar!

As a pedigree and racing buff, I love nothing more than to spend an afternoon researching the race record and lineage of my horse, my friends’ horses, my neighbor’s horses and heck, sometimes just random horses I see on OTTB Connect. But I realize that not everyone wrote their 7th grade term paper on the prevalance of Nearco in today’s modern Thoroughbred bloodlines, so I thought I might point folks in the right direction to do some fun “background checks” of their own. For most people, the two most interesting things they want more information on are the race record and pedigree of their horse.


So you have a racehorse, why not find out more about its racing life? A horse’s race record can be a window into their minds. By reading a race chart (quick synopsis of how the race was run) or watching race video, you can get a glimpse as to how they acted and reacted on the track. This can sometimes be a preview of things to come… it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a secure seat if your horse’s race record is peppered with comments like “rank into first turn” or “veered sharply coming into stretch” or, as I saw on one horse’s past performances, “bucked length of stretch.”


As the saying goes, blood will tell. Whether or not you ever intend to do more with your ex-racehorse than just amble around the pasture, it is a lot of fun to know what his ancestors did. And many times, you can unearth prize tidbits that increase its value off the track. For example, when I did the research on this horse, Drake’s Dancer, we found that he was linebred to the full brothers General Assembly and Seclusive, both sons of Secretariat. Seclusive raced just 12 times but was exported to Europe where he become a dominant influence as a showjumping sire. Having knowledge like that can put perspective on your horse’s career path or future value.

The Thoroughbred, Seclusive.  A little author research revealed that he was exported t o Europe and became a top showjumping sire.

Secretariat’s son Seclusive: A little author research revealed that he was exported to Europe and became a top showjumping sire.



The Jockey Club: Have a racehorse but don’t know its registered name? No problem. The Jockey Club is the governing body for all registered Thoroughbreds. Through their newly revamped website, they offer a FREE service that helps identify your OTTB using the lip tattoo they were given for racing purposes. The site also provides a host of other services including a sign up form for the Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Incentive Program which offers awards and recognition for OTTBs competing in second careers.

Flip a lip, find a life history with the help of the Jockey Club.

Flip a lip, find a life history with the help of the Jockey Club.


Equibase.com: Fast, easy and for an initial search, FREE. Just type your horse’s Jockey Club registered name into the search engine at the top right. Equibase will provide you with the horse’s last known racing connections (owner/trainer/jockey), a synopsis of his race record and his 5-generation pedigree. If you click on the “Results” tab, you can see each of your horse’s races in detail. The “Chart” icons (they look like tiny papers) will lead you to a race chart and the quick details of that race.

Another service of Equibase to look into is their Virtual Stable. Through this FREE service, you can type in the name of any active racehorse and get email notifications when they race or have a workout. It is a great way to keep track of a horse that you see at the track and fall in love with. It’s always worth a phone call to the horse’s owners when it reaches the end of its career to see if it can come home with you!


Equineline.com: This is a paid service that offers just about EVERYTHING you can imagine on any Thoroughbred. You can bring up a detailed Past Performance (full race record), a catalog-style pedigree (these have the full details of the female side of your horse’s family–in Thoroughbreds, the damside often matter much more than the sire) and even the details of every offspring your horse’s sire or dam ever produced (for those of you who would like to own brothers or sisters of a horse you love).


Keeneland Sales: One way I sometimes look  up catalog pedigrees (which are pricey through equineline) is to see if the horse or any of its maternal siblings ever went thorough the Keeneland auction ring in Lexington.  As they sell thousands of the best in Thoroughbred breeding and racing stock each year, the odds are pretty good someone related to your horse went through there. The “Catalog Search” option on their website lets you search all sales by horse name, dam or second dam. It’s a handy tool to find free pedigree info in a pinch.


PedigreeQuery.com: This handy website is user-driven, meaning that all of the entries on the site have been added by crazy pedigree buffs like myself. For the most part, it is fairly accurate with hiccup here and there. But the best part are the ancestor photos. By typing your horse’s registered name and then clicking on the “Reports” tab on their pedigree page, you can find an option called “Photos.” This will give you every user-uploaded photo of your horse’s ancestors, many times going back several generations. Here is an example, for the OTTB Drake’s Dancer.


RRTP’s Bloodline Brag: This FREE service from the Retired Racehorse Training Project allows OTTB owners to enter information about their OTTBs performance, physical and temperment attributes. This growing database then allows the public to search by certain bloodlines and gain valuable inside information on what horses in those pedigrees have been doing in their second careers.


The Bloodhorse Stallion Directory: Many of the premier stallions in the US are listed in this outstanding FREE resource, complete with detailed pedigree, racing and progeny information. And let’s not forget, lovely photos. You can search by the stallion itself or members of its immediate family. And don’t forget to go to The Bloodhorse’s webpage and do a quick search as well… many times you can bring up articles, photos or video of your horse or its immediate family members.

Race Video Replay: There are a number of sources to watch your horse’s old race videos. One is through Equibase, above, but many other options exist. First you will need your horse’s full race record so you know the track, date and race number. From there, always try a YouTube search first as many tracks have taken to posting their replays on that platform.

Should that fail, I personally just keep an account with the online wagering company run by Churchill Downs, Twinspires. They offer Twinspires TV and race replays going back many years.  You can search by date or by horse. In addition, I can watch live races all over the world from my computer or iPad. It does require you to set up an account and yes, they would like you to wager periodically but I don’t mind placing a $2 bet on “Granny McKitten” every once and awhile if I can watch all the racing I want, when I want to. Alternative sites include most other wagering sites as well as dedicated race replay sites like racereplays.com.

Win Photos: If you are lucky enough to own a racehorse that won a lot of races, what could be better than displaying his win photos on your walls? The first task is finding out what tracks your horse won at. Each track has a designated “Track Photographer.” Often, the easiest way to get an old win photo is to simply make contact with the photographer directly. The track photographer’s phone number can usually be found through the track racing office. For a list of web links to most major racetracks in the US, click here.

Some track photographers have joined us in the internet age and created searchable websites. One of the best is Coady Photography, which takes the photos for such tracks as Oaklawn, Mountaineer, Calder and Charles Town. By simply typing in your horse’s registered name, you can see if Coady happens to have any of its win photos on file.

Ordering a win photo from Coady Photography.

Ordering a win photo from Coady Photography.

Google: And last, but not least, do a Google search using your horse’s name and the word “Thoroughbred” or “racing.” You might be surprised at what you find. Handicapper notes, fan photos, news articles… racehorses tend to be some of the best documented horses of any breed. I have found random, trackside fan photos of several horses owned by friends and clients. These are priceless treasures that document your horse’s first career and a delightful momento as you take them into their second.

A trackside fan photo of the OTTB Quinton's Flash, found via a simple Google search.

A trackside fan photo of the OTTB Quinton’s Flash, found via a simple Google search.

In a future post, I will touch base on the myriad of racing and breeding terms that can make all of the above seem like jargon-central to outsiders but for now, Happy hunting!


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