20 Best Horse Racing Breeds (Updated Rankings)

If there’s one trait which sets a beautiful horse aside – it’s their speed. It’s majestic to see a racehorse run on a track, with their bodies in perfect locomotion. If you’ve ever wondered over the best horse racing breeds or plan on owning one, you’ve come to the right place.

Not all horse breeds are natural racers, and that’s understandable. Horse racing breeds express a certain level of agility, stamina, energy, and overall flair which makes them excellent choices. In a series of short sections, we’ll help you choose a horse from some of the best breeds for horse racing.

After that, we’ve got an extensive list of horses which are some of the fastest in the world. Let’s start with how you can choose a racehorse and what characteristics should you look for in such horses!

PS this is an article on the best racehorse breeds. However, if you’re interested in knowing the best racehorses of all time, then head over to this article.

How to Choose the Best Horse Racing Breed?

Racehorses aren’t just one breed of horses. Actually, any horse can be a ‘racehorse’ – but some breeds have unique characteristics which help them stand out in certain types of racing. And often, racehorse breeds are quite expensive. Compare Arabians and Thoroughbreds in a 1-mile range race; without a second thought, it’s Thoroughbreds for the win!

Now, whichever horse breed you prefer – you’ll need a few things to choose the best breed out there. Here’s a list of a few traits you should give a look at while you assess a horse for racing:

1. Physique

Just as us humans – each horse is quite different from the other, in terms of physique and body structure. Some are leaner and taller, while others have a much larger boned body. Equestrians should have “plenty of bone” which is a term used to define a healthy horse i.e. their bones are adequate for their size.

Typically, when we consider body types for horses, they’re classified into:

  1. Ectomorphs
  2. Mesomorphs
  3. Endomorphs

Ectomorphs have a much leaner and taller body type. They’re generally equipped for all types of racing – but excel in endurance and long-duration races. Mesomorphs have a much larger bone structure and a decent amount of muscle. Their bodies are capable of thriving in several racing types – point being that their athletic nature is adaptable. Endomorphs have a much shorter body type with a short stature but generally predisposed to a higher body fat percentage. They’re great at low intensity areas like hunt racing or jump racing.

2. Strength

The strength of a horse comes mainly from their muscles, tendons, ligaments, and overall body build. Most racing horse breeds have a distinguishing physical structure. For example, the Arabian has a much greater bone density as compared to other horses. Their sound feet, and broad but short back, gives them much of their physical strength.

Most racing horse breeds undergo training exercises and conditioning over time to avoid muscle strains and build stronger muscles. Muscular horses with large bodies like Quarter Horses have much stronger hindquarters, which adds to much of their speed. So, when you’re assessing breeds for horse racing – make sure to look for horses with stronger muscles and flexibility. Veterinarians also complete a soundness exam in order to assess strength in horses and to see if they’re able to compete in events.

3. Agility

Horse racing breeds must be agile; boasting good stamina and high energy. Most hot-blooded horses showcase agility during racing competitions. If the horse isn’t agile enough for the racing competition you’re after, there’s going to be lesser chances of winning.

Some of the best racing horse breeds including Arabians and Thoroughbreds are well-known for their agility and superior stamina. Others might not compete with the same – for example horses like the Belgian Draft are bulkier and hence won’t be as agile. It’s better to pick a certain racing competition and then test your horse’s agility against it.

4. Upbringing

Most racing breeds of horses are descendants of horses which were known for their agility and spirit. It’s why these horses undergo selective breeding, so distinguishing features can be shared in breeds. While you’re choosing a breed, also make sure to see if the horse has a previous racing record and a trainer.

Trainers help race horses undergo special treatment so they’re ready to perform in such events. So, while you’re selecting a horse, make sure to also check if the trainer followed best practices. It’s crucial to check if no malpractice was at play, as your racehorse might be prone to injuries during races.

Now, let’s head on over to the list. Just by the way, we also have an article on the best horse breeds in the world that you may want to check out.

20 Best Horse Racing Breeds

We’re on our way – now that you’ve seen what to look for in racehorses, let’s have a look at some of the best horse racing breeds. Without further ado, here’s our list of the top 20 horse racing breeds:

1. Arabian

Aren’t the Arabians majestic in their looks? Originating from the Arabian Peninsula, they are one of the smartest and most versatile breeds. Easy to recognize from a mile away, this breed has several distinguishing features and excels at several racing disciplines like western, saddle seat, and dressage. Due to their rich history and livelihood in harsh desert conditions, they’ve adapted to long-distance travels at tremendous speeds and stamina.

2. Quarter Horse

Quarter Horses are one of the most popular horse racing breeds in the US. They are named as such because they are the fastest horse breed at short and straightaway courses, which are specifically a quarter of a mile. They’re quick sprinters and can cover short distances very quickly which is why they have their own racing competitions. Though quarter-mile races aren’t all – they’re excellent at many western disciplines like roping, cutting, and many others.

3. Thoroughbred

Thoroughbreds are born to race – this is due to their extremely fast speeds, agile nature, and high spirits. They’re a warm-blooded horse type with strong builds, which is also why they’re great at running long distances. Thoroughbreds are also good at hunting, jumping, or mounting disciplines. Mostly, once they’re finished with their racing careers, they can make an excellent companion and are also good at horseback riding.

4. Tennessee Walker

Tennessee’s very own – Tennessee Walker is a beautiful horse, well-known for its smooth gait. Although they were bred to be used at farms and plantations, their smooth gaited nature makes them comfortable to ride for other purposes as well. The four-beat “running walk” is what makes this breed unique, and also makes them ideal for trail and pleasure riding.

5. Morgan

Morgan’s are an excellent companion when it comes to riding and equestrian competitions. Don’t judge these beautiful yet versatile breeds by their short stature – as their performance places them amongst some of the best horse racing breeds. They’re one of the oldest horse breeds from the US, and are traced back to the sire, Figure – a small bay stallion. Nonetheless, Morgan’s are great at western and saddle seat competitions but can compete in several other sports.

6. American Paint Horse

American Paint Horses display characteristics which resemble that of a western stock horse and a pinto – with spotting patterns on their coats. Paint horses were developed by breeding spotted horses with the Quarter Horse or Thoroughbreds. It’s one of the reasons why this exquisite breed is great in several equestrian disciplines like western pleasure, reining, show jumping, and others.

7. Appaloosa

The Appaloosa – known for their colourful spotted coats – is yet another versatile breed with a rich history. They were bred by the Nez Perce Native-American tribe, and are found in multiple body types – mainly due to the influence of several breeds in their upbringing. Appaloosa’s are great at western riding disciplines, but can adapt to other fields – making them the best all-around horse breed.

8. Miniature Horse

Originating from Europe, Miniature horses are best known for their short stature. Although their height (34-38 inches) categorizes them to be a “pony”, they retain several horse characteristics and are thus, called horses. Due to their short heights, they are better at showing events and slow racing competitions, or as driving horses.

9. Warmblood


Unlike the Quarter Horse or any other horse – the term “Warmblood” refers to several breeds of horses with a particular personality. They possess features resembling both hot-blooded and cold-blooded horses. Although their bodies are a bit bulkier in nature, their prowess and sprinting nature makes them stand out as sport horses.

10. Andalusian

Andalusians are one of the best horse breeds to date, and most popular for their prowess as a war horse in the past. They’re selected all over the world for their display of stamina and athleticism. As such, they are great at riding and driving both. Andalusians showcase excellent performance in long-distance running events or in dressage or showing events.

11. Hackney

Hackneys are one of the best horse breeds when it comes to carriage driving – though that’s not all. They’re best known for their refined bodies, high-stepping gait, adequate stamina, and overall high speed. This ultimately makes them great for harness events and long-distance runs.

12. Black Forest Horse

Black Forest horses are small yet bulky horses – and fit the draft horse category. Nonetheless, their gentle temperament and versatile nature makes them excellent companions and racers. Don’t take their short stature to being inadequate for racing – as they’re a favourite for many in betting and riding competitions.

13. Shetland Pony

Shetland Ponies are a little over 9.3 hands high and considered one of the most intelligent horse racing breeds. Although they are small in stature, Shetland Pony racing is one of the best equestrian sports. Though there’s a catch – this cute horse breed is capable of being ridden by children under 16 years of age. Other than that, they’re commonly kept as pets and for driving purposes.

14. Akhal Teke

Distinguishing an Akhal Teke is easy from miles away. Their unique coat colour has a metallic shine to it, which when coupled with their refined conformation makes them spectacular in looks. As far as racing is concerned, their endurance is just as extraordinary as their appearance. Not only are they great for long-distance running, they’re also good at show jumping and dressage events.

15. Friesian

The Friesian is one of the most extraordinary breeds out of Netherlands. As mystic and appealing as their name, their visual appearance and shiny black coats are just as stunning. But that’s not all – they’re excellent horses with sound bodies with the capability to participate in shows and competitions of various kinds. They aren’t as fast as an Arabian – but can still run at a good pace to match their body type.

16. Clydesdale (cold)

Clydesdale is one of the coolest horse breeds (cold-blooded) across the United States. They’re tall, bulky, and quite muscular – which makes them great for farming and as draft horses. Some Clydesdales are also good for riding – reaching speeds of up to 20mph – which only goes to show their calm disposition and trainable nature.

17. Standardbred

Next up in our list of breeds for horse racing is the Standardbred. Intrigued with the name? Standardbreds used to trot for a mile in a given period of time, which set a standard for this breed. Standardbreds are one of the fastest horse breeds, reaching a top speed of 30mph and more. Though they’re most commonly known for their excellent performance in harness racing. Once retired, they’re also used as show horses and pleasure riding.

18. Haflinger

Haflinger is a small horse breed that is famous in the equine world for its energetic nature, well-muscled body, and a distinct gait. Today, this small breed has managed to make its way into several equestrian disciplines. Although their muscular bodies help them excel at harness and draft work, they’re great at endurance riding and therapeutic riding as well.

19. Paso Fino

Paso Fino is quickly gaining reputation across America. It’s all due to their quick speeds, athletic nature, and an incredible display of stamina. What uniquely identifies this elegant horse breed is its smooth, four-beat gait. This natural gait when coupled with their trainable nature and versatility makes them great in several competition types. Though the Paso Fino is one of the best horse racing breeds for endurance racing events.

20. Welsh Pony

I2E by colour-science.com

Lastly on our list of breeds for horse racing is the Welsh Pony. Originating from Southern Wales, their friendly, intelligent, and versatile nature is what makes them loveable by many. Although they were historically used at coal mines, today they are used for driving and riding by adults and children, alike. They’re great at endurance riding, jumping, hunting, and other competitions as well.

FAQs About Horse Racing Breeds

That’s a wrap to our list of some of the best racing horse breeds all over the world. But that’s not the end of this article; next, let’s answer some questions related to racing horse breeds. No beating around the bush – here’s it:

What breed of horse is used in racing?

Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, Quarter Horses, and Arabians are the top picks for racehorses. Their agility, stamina, versatility, and overall spirit is what allows them to sprint faster than other horse breeds. The final selection of horses is based on the type of racing event.

As an example, thoroughbreds are amazing races in flat racing competitions. Quarter Horses run at excellent speeds in a quarter of a mile tracks or other short distance racing events. There are several other options like Jump racing, Stakes racing, and others in which other horse breeds perform much better.

What is the best racing horse breed?

Thoroughbreds are one of the fastest horse breeds to date. They dominate several types of racing competitions and their intelligence on racecourses exceeds others. Their vigor to handle such pressure comes from their hot-blooded nature, which allows them to express their energetic nature on the tracks.

Arabians would be right behind Thoroughbreds if we were to talk about other horse breeds. They’re capable of holding on to stable speeds over longer distances without breaking a sweat! That’s not all – their performance has been exceptional at other racing or equestrian competitions as well.

Standardbreds and Quarter Horses are great racers as well. Equine sports lovers all over the world gather around at their events to see them ride at tremendous speeds!

What are the four major horse races?

The four major horse races featuring some of the best horse racing breeds would be:

  1. Kentucky Derby
  2. Dubai World Cup
  3. Breeders’ Cup Classic
  4. Sheema Classic

The competitive aspect of these events is mind-blowing. Some of these races are only open to a specific breed. Though the most common horse breeds you’d see in events would be Thoroughbreds or Arabians, with Quarter Horses gaining popularity in the United States. Stakes are high here as the stadium gather thousands of people from all over the world, with the payouts being in the range of $6,000,000 to $12,000,000 for a single win!

Which horse is the fastest?

Thoroughbreds are the fastest horse breed, all over the world. Their energy, stamina, and overall flair to compete in competitions make them excellent contenders. The Guineas World Record for the highest race speed (over two furlongs) is also by a Thoroughbred from the US!

Thoroughbreds are one of the best racing horse breeds for long distances. Since their low quarters don’t possess many muscles, their tendons and ligaments are efficient helpers in their speeds. It’s why they’re capable of maintaining a steady speed and efficiently manage their stamina over longer courses – approximately 30 miles an hour!

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