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Which Breeds Can Be Racehorses?

Thoroughbreds may be the most popular breed of racehorse, but they are certainly not the only ones. Horse racing has been going on for centuries all around the world. Many different breeds have participated in some sort of horse racing.

Popular Racehorse Breeds


Thoroughbreds are the most popular breed of racehorse. They run in many different countries on dirt, turf, and synthetic. All Thoroughbred racing is run at a gallop. These horses are slender and fast, capable of running at speeds of up to 40 mph. They typically compete in flat or jump racing.

Flat racing is run on dirt, turf, or synthetic. Jump racing is always run on the turf and not run at as high of speeds as flat racing.

Quarter Horse

Quarter Horses are the most popular breed of horse North America. They are typically smaller than Thoroughbreds but have very strong hindquarters. Racing Quarter Horses are more slender than their stock and ranch horse counterparts. They are capable of sprinting at very high speeds over short distances with one Quarter Horses even being clocked in at running 55 mph.

Quarter Horse racing is often referred to as “drag racing” because it is a short, fast, and exciting race!


Standardbreds are the breed of horse most often used for harness racing. This breed of horse is of heavier build than the Thoroughbred with a calmer disposition. They are known for their ability to pace or trot at very high speeds and this is the gait in which harness racing is conducted.

Standardbreds pull sulkies or carts while racing and will be disqualified if they break into a gallop.

[Video: Watch Standardbreds participate in harness racing]


Arabian horse racing has been part of North America since the 1950s, but has been popular elsewhere for some time (especially in endurance race formats). Arabians are one of the most recognizable breeds of horse in the world due to their small frames, dished faces, large nostrils, and high tail carriage.

Arabian racing is conducted much like Thoroughbred racing and is held at distances of 4 ½ furlongs to 1 ¾ miles. 6 furlongs is the most common distance for Arabian horse racing.

[Video: Watch Arabian horse racing]

Other Breeds of Racehorse

Horse racing is one of our favorite ways to appreciate the speed, beauty, and athleticism of horses. Flat racing, jump racing, harness racing, and endurance racing are just a few ways we enjoy horse racing. Not only do the breeds above participate in racing, but so do Paint Horses, Mongolian Horses, French Trotters, and more!

The breeds of horses you'll find racing depends on where you are in the world. The style of racing differs upon location too!

All in all, many different breeds participate in many different types of horse racing. There is something for everyone to enjoy!


Champions of the Track is dedicated to growing the popularity of horse racing by sharing stories, photos, and videos of the sport. We aim for our content to create new fans and kindle the love of horse racing in current fans.

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