Lord of the racecourse, this breed originated in 18th-century England from the crossing of Arabian and Turkmen stallions with light indigenous workhorses. Thanks to its aptitude for high-speed events, the English thoroughbred is now an international breed. These horses have distinctive physical characteristics: narrow heads, neat ears that are neither too small nor too large, long limbs and a bone structure which fits into a rectangular frame. They amount to a marvellous alliance of beauty and sporting performance. In order to be authorised to run, they must be registered in the stud book (breed registry) of English thoroughbreds. Unlike non-thoroughbreds, the first letter of whose name must correspond to their year of birth, English thoroughbreds are not obliged to be “named by the letter”. Their names are put forward by the breeder or owner for approval by France Galop.
This term refers to horses which are authorised to run in races despite their lack of thoroughbred status. On 11th February 2005, the creation of the non-thoroughbred stud book was adopted and its management entrusted to France Galop. Non-thoroughbreds comprise two categories of horse: descendants of the Selles Français breed, and Arabian horses that have been used in racing for many years. It is unusual to see trotters in top-level races, but during the 1980s, Novgorod TF triumphed over the jumps at Enghien. Generally though, non-thoroughbreds are less precocious and slower than English thoroughbreds. In the flat racing discipline, they cannot compete with thoroughbreds, but in jumps racing their staying power can make them formidable opponents. The best example is Al Capone II, a non-thoroughbred who defeated the top English thoroughbreds during the course of his career, winning once in the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris and seven times in its winter equivalent, the Prix La Haye Jousselin. In 2000, a statue was erected in his honour at Auteuil Racecourse.
The stud book (breed registry) officially lists and traces the genealogy of each breed of race horse in each country. All the great racing nations possess one and in France it is meticulously maintained. Kept at Pompadour, it lists all the colts and fillies born and bred on our soil. In order to be authorised to compete in a public race, a horse has to be registered in a stud book.
This amounts to the family tree of each horse. There are more or less prestigious pedigrees. When a colt or filly that has not yet earned his spurs in competition is sold, his purchase price is established on the basis of his model (physical qualities) and pedigree. If his mother was herself a racing champion and/or has already foaled a high-level horse, there is a good chance he will be sold dear. This is because a good brood mare is often coupled with a stallion of international renown, as in the world of the thoroughbred there is practically no “misalliance”. But a filly that has never raced can still prove to be an excellent mother, so the study of pedigrees is a specialist profession. Pre-potent stallions tend to have several blood lines, like Northern Dancer or Mr Prospector. In the pedigrees of the best English thoroughbreds, a great amount of inbreeding takes place.