How to Research Your Off the Track Thoroughbred's Pedigree

What an OTTB is and How to Find It's Pedigree

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. Image Credit:Mark Dadswell / Staff /Getty Images


Definition: The initials OTTB stand for 'off the track Thoroughbred'. Off the track Thoroughbreds are ex-race horses. When a Thoroughbred's racing career is over, they often find second careers as pleasure horses, polo ponies, dressage horses, hunters and jumpers.

OTTBs might not be the best choice for a first horse. Many have soundness issues that may take months to sort out, and their training will be basic. Many will be relatively young.


Also Known As: ex-race horse

It is possible to research the pedigree of  off the track Thoroughbreds. Thoroughbreds that are truly purebreds will have well documented pedigrees. Often, you will buy horses that do not have their registration papers with them. When you search an OTTB’s ancestors, you'll need three things  if they don't have their registration papers with them when you buy them. You'll need the lip tattoo number, the horse's registered name and date of birth (year). If your horse hasn't been tattooed, you'll need to be sure of that name!  Make sure it is spelled correctly .

The first website it try is Thoroughbred Horse Pedigree. This 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'll receive a five generation pedigree. There are paid subscriptions to this site, but you'll 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.

You can also try researching at Most of the services here are provided for a small fee and most are aimed at breeders and bettors. But you can purchase a pedigree with race record for a few dollars. This is an essential resource for those researching 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.

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 the 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. This is a database maintained by the Jockey Club. It will list all Thoroughbreds that have ever raced. If your horse hasn’t raced, and has no lip tattoo, it will not be listed here.

If you don't find your horse's pedigree online it is possible to contact the breeder's associations. In the USA, 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 finding the information.

Thanks to Allison Parks of the Thoroughbred Owners And Breeders Association for the Jockey Club research information.

As for the reader who asked how to find her horse's pedigree, she should be pleased with her gelding's prestigious ancestry that includes Nijinsky, Princequillo and Northern Dancer, all well known Thoroughbreds that contributed to the genetics of many of today’s OTTBs. Having famous ancestors doesn’t mean that you have a good horse however. Some race horses were known for bad temperaments and being difficult to handle. So don’t despair if your horse is a ‘ no body’. It may be the best riding or driving horse you’ve ever head, pedigree aside.