How Fast Can a Thoroughbred Run? Amazing Racehorse Facts!

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Last Updated on April 21, 2023

Race horses can achieve incredible speeds at a gallop, but just how fast can a Thoroughbred run? Are they the fastest breed of horse in the world, or is there another type of horse out there that is even faster?

The Thoroughbred is certainly one of the fastest horses on the planet. However, over a short distance, it is easily overtaken by another breed! And, in terms of stamina, there is a very famous type of horse that could beat a Thoroughbred over a long distance.

How Fast Can the Average Horse Run?

It will come as no surprise that the average horse is far slower than a Thoroughbred – every type and breed of horse is bred to excel in a certain equestrian discipline, and speed is not always a desirable trait in a horse! Many riders want a mount with high levels of endurance, jumping ability, a calm demeanor, or the ability to make fast turns. It is only when it comes to head-to-head racing that the speed of a horse matters.

Most horses can reach speeds of between 25 – 30 miles per hour, but only at peak levels of fitness or over a short distance. These speeds can be achieved at a gallop, but most everyday riders tend to stick to a more comfortable canter pace instead.

How Fast Can a Thoroughbred Run?

The top speed ever recorded by a Thoroughbred is 43.496 mph (70.76km/h). The Thoroughbred racehorse, Winning Brew, set this speed record in 2008 at the Penn National Race Course. However, this achievement doesn’t necessarily mean Winning Brew is the fastest-ever Thoroughbred.

This title goes to the great Secretariat. No horse is yet to beat Secretariat’s times over a dirt track. In 1973, Secretariat took the Triple Crown after a 25-year drought. Man O’War, Sea Biscuit, Black Caviar, and Valiant Peter also take top honors as the fastest-ever Thoroughbreds.

The average thoroughbred speed is somewhat slower than these legendary racehorses, and this figure tends to reduce as the distance of the race is increased. This means that the average speed of a sprint race tends to be faster than the speed of a distance race such as the Kentucky Derby.

A good example of this is a legendary racehorse called Frankel, who was renowned for his stamina over distances of a mile or more. At one of his best performances in the 2000 Guineas, he clocked up an average speed of 36.99 mph over one mile, leaving the remainder of the field trailing in his wake. This is far slower than the speeds achieved by the fastest-ever racehorses, but to maintain this pace over such a long distance takes considerable levels of stamina and fitness.

Why are thoroughbreds so fast?

Every aspect of the physique of a Thoroughbred means they are adapted for speed. Their lean, muscular bodies are carried on strong, powerful legs, and their deep chest cavity means their lung and heart capacity is maximized.

Genetics is not the only factor that affects how fast Thoroughbreds run. The individual horse’s stride length is one of the biggest influences on its speed. The make-up of the horse’s muscles also impacts how quickly it can move through its stride.

How Fast Do Thoroughbreds Run

Man O’War’s stride was an unbelievable 28 feet compared to the average racehorse’s 20 feet. Secretariat’s stride reached 24 feet. It is interesting to wonder which of these two horses would win in a match race. 

The average racehorse covers 130 to 140 strides per minute, but stride length and speed do not necessarily correspond with the speed of the fastest Thoroughbreds. While Secretariat and Man O’War were big horses, Seabiscuit stood smaller than average at just 15 hands and had a much shorter stride.

Fastest Horse in the World

When asked what the fastest horse in the world is, it would be easy to assume that it is the Thoroughbred. However, the distance the horse is required to run will affect this answer. Over a short distance, the fastest horse in the world is the American Quarter Horse.

Most modern Quarter Horses work on ranches and compete in a variety of Western riding events. As working horses, they are required to sprint over short distances to chase cattle and make fast turns and stops. Quarter horse riders soon realized that their mounts were incredibly fast, and started racing them against each other. Quarter Horses run sprint races over the shorter distance of a quarter mile, hence their name.

The American Quarter Horse: An Introduction to Selection, Care, and Enjoyment

Over this quarter-mile distance, the Quarter Horse is faster than any other breed. It can accelerate to its top speed incredibly quickly, much more rapidly than a Thoroughbred. Their compact, muscular body shape is different than a Thoroughbred, which gives them this incredible sprinting ability.

The fastest times produced by Quarter Horses have reached an incredible 55 mph, but they cannot maintain this speed over longer distances. Both the Quarter Horse and the Thoroughbred gallop at least twice as fast as the average horse. The average horse gallops at a speed of 27 mph

Why Can Horses Gallop So Fast?

Over thousands of years, horses have evolved to develop a body shape that allows them to run at high speeds for long distances. Horses are prey animals that live in herds, and they need this speed to allow them to escape from predators.

Many natural predators of the horse also possess the ability to run quickly, so the chances of survival depend on the horse being even faster. If a horse can outrun a predator, it is safe and much more likely to live to see another day. Therefore, the fastest horses were more likely to live longer lives and breed more offspring.

After domestication, humans greatly prized the horse’s ability to run at great speed. They harnessed the speed to use for sports, such as racing. With careful selection, the quickest horses were used for breeding to produce specialized racehorses. The result is the Thoroughbred and the Quarter Horse, amongst other breeds. 

How Fast Are Arabian Horses?

In addition to the Thoroughbred and the Quarter Horse, the Arabian is also one of the fastest horses in the world. Despite its lightweight appearance and fine features, the Arabian is a very hardy horse with high levels of endurance. This breed can withstand traveling long distances at a good pace in a harsh environment.

It is the Arabian horse that is the foundation bloodstock of the Thoroughbred. All modern racehorses descend from one of three Arabian stallions, particularly the Darley Arabian. Arabian horses also race, although this is less common than Thoroughbred racing.

Arabian horses race over a distance of 6 furlongs in most cases. However, distances range from 4 ½ furlongs to 1 ¾ miles. The fastest speed run by an Arabian is 40.39 mph, with an average of 34.2 mph.

The Arabian Horse Speed

Because of their high levels of stamina, Arabian horses are also hugely popular for endurance races. These are long-distance races of 50 miles or more, run over a day. Arabian horses can maintain a fast trot or steady canter for hours at a time, beating any other breed of the horse easily over a long distance.

Summary – How Fast Can a Thoroughbred Run?

All horses run faster than humans by a significant amount. Over a sprint distance, the Quarter Horse reaches top speed and beats the Thoroughbred. However, the Thoroughbred has more ability to keep a high speed over a longer distance.

While faster than most horse breeds, the Arabian cannot outrun the Thoroughbred or Quarter Horse on the racetrack over a short distance. However, over a long-distance endurance race, the Arabian has the most stamina.

If you have any questions about how fast can a Thoroughbred run, put them in the comments below!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Thoroughbred faster than Arabian?

Horses have been bred for speed and stamina for thousands of years. Among the various breeds of horses, the Thoroughbred is considered the fastest horse breed over a moderate distance. The Quarter Horse is the fastest breed over a short sprint, and the Arabian horse is the fastest breed over a long distance.
So, in a standard horse race, the Thoroughbred would most likely be faster than the Arabian. However, over a longer distance, the high levels of endurance of the Arabian mean they stand a good chance of winning.

Can a Quarter Horse beat a Thoroughbred?

Quarter Horses are bred to be extremely fast and agile, and can achieve the fastest speed of any horse breed over a short distance. Their name comes from the fact that they are traditionally raced over a quarter of a mile, which is far shorter than the distances raced by most Thoroughbreds.
According to a recent study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), Quarter Horses can actually beat Thoroughbreds when they are timed from a standing start. They can accelerate so rapidly over a short distance that it gives them a huge advantage at the start of a race. However, over longer distances, the Thoroughbred would regain ground and most likely beat a Quarter Horse.

How much is a Thoroughbred horse worth?

The price of a Thoroughbred horse depends on several factors, such as its age, pedigree, and racing history. The average sales price of a racehorse is about $77,000, and the average price for a two-year-old thoroughbred in training is $94,000. Yearlings typically cost a bit less, on average around $85,000.

How can you tell if a horse is a Thoroughbred?

Thoroughbred horses are one of the most famous types of horses in the world, and, for equestrian fanatics, they are instantly recognizable. The Thoroughbred is the equine equivalent of a greyhound – they have a lithe, muscular physique and strong, athletic limbs. Good quality thoroughbreds have well-defined heads, high withers, deep chests, short backs, lean bodies, and long legs.
An easy way to guess if a horse is a Thoroughbred is by looking at its coat markings and colors. The color of the coat is the first thing you will notice – most often they are bay, black, brown, chestnut, or grey. Very rarely, roan or palomino Thoroughbreds can be found. Thoroughbreds may also have white markings on their faces and legs, but never on their body.
The coat of a Thoroughbred should be sleek and short in the summer, and slightly thicker in the winter. Their manes and tails tend to be thin and sparse, and they do not have any feathering on their legs.

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