How to Research Your Off-the-Track Thoroughbred's Pedigree

What an OTTB is and How to Find the Pedigree Online

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 12: Jockey Michael Rodd riding Triple Asset wins Race One the TBV Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes from Glyn Schofield on Metonymy during Super Saturday at Flemington Racecourse on March 12, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia
OTTBs will have records that can be found through one or more of several resources.

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The life of an ex-racehorse like "Black Beauty" has been glamorized in fiction and movies, but the actual life for an OTTB, or "off-the-track thoroughbred," can lead to a humble retirement like life as a pleasure horse, or something more elaborate: a polo pony, dressage horse, hunter, or jumper. Many of these horses will be relatively young.

OTTB as a First Horse

If this is your first horse, an ex-racing OTTB might not be your best choice. Many have soundness issues that may take months to sort out. Some racehorses are known for having bad temperaments and being difficult to handle. Since birth, a racehorse's behavioral training is very basic since it's been geared toward one thing: winning races.

Having famous ancestors doesn’t mean that you have a good horse. If your horse doesn't have a racing pedigree or come from a famous line, it really doesn't matter. Your horse may be the best riding or driving horse you have ever head, pedigree aside.

How to Research a Pedigree

Often, you will buy horses that do not have their registration papers with them. It is possible to research the pedigree of off-the-track thoroughbreds. Thoroughbreds that are truly purebreds will have well-documented pedigrees.

When you search an OTTB’s ancestors, you'll need three things if they do not have their registration papers upon purchase. You will need the lip tattoo number, the horse's registered name, and the date of birth including the year. If your horse hasn't been tattooed, you'll need to be sure of the name and make sure it is spelled correctly.

There are a few online sources to use for your research.

Pedigree Query

Pedigree Query is an extensive database, and the information is contributed by users. Here you simply enter your horse's name and if the horse is listed in the database, you will receive a five-generation pedigree. There are paid subscriptions to this site, but you will probably only need that kind of detailed information if you are buying a horse for the track or for breeding. If your horse is found in the database, you’ll be able to print out its pedigree. This database is similar to another that covers almost all of the most popular light horse breeds.

The Jockey Club

If you have a lip tattoo number, the Jockey Club free search might provide you with the pedigree you're looking for. Lip tattoos can be hard to read as they tend to fade as the horse ages. It will be easier to read the tattoo on a younger horse. You can also digitally enhance a photograph of the tattoo to make it clearer. The Jockey Club lists all thoroughbreds that have ever raced. If your horse hasn’t raced and has no lip tattoo, it will not be listed here.


Brisnet is primarily used by bettors who are researching handicaps on racehorses. Also, breeders use this resource to look into bloodlines. Most owners don’t really need race records, but breeders will be very interested and it is fun to see where your horse raced and how it performed. The legacy site allows you to do pedigree searches. Most of the services are provided for a small fee; You can purchase a pedigree with a race record for a few dollars.

Breeders Associations

If you don't find your horse's pedigree online it is possible to contact the breeder's associations. In the U.S., you can contact the Jockey Club. In Canada, the Canadian Thoroughbred Society may be able to help you out. There may be a small fee for looking up the information.