Genetics of Thoroughbred Racehorse Performance

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Thoroughbred horses have been selected for racing performance for more than 400 years. Despite continued selection, race times have not improved significantly during the past 60 years, raising the question of whether genetic variation for racing performance still exists. Studies using phenotypes such as race time, money earned, and handicapping, however, demonstrate that there is extensive variation within these traits and that they are heritable. Even so, these are poor measures of racing success since Thoroughbreds race at different ages and distances and on different types of tracks, and some may not race at all. With the advent of genomic tools, DNA variants are being identified that contribute to racing success. Aside from strong associations for myostatin variants with best racing distance, weak to modest associations with racing phenotypes are reported for other genomic regions. These data suggest that diverse genetic strategies have contributed to producing a successful racehorse, and genetic variation contributing to athleticism remains important.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-150
Number of pages20
JournalAnnual Review of Animal Biosciences
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Annual Reviews Inc.. All rights reserved.


  • GWAS
  • artificial selection
  • athlete
  • equine
  • genome-wide association study
  • genomic
  • heritability
  • racing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics
  • General Veterinary


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