Understanding the Differences Between Thoroughbred Racing and Quarter Horse Racing

Understanding the Differences Between Thoroughbred Racing and Quarter Horse Racing


A couple weeks ago I wrote a blog on understanding the differences between Thoroughbred racing and Harness racing. I felt like it is only fair that I compare Thoroughbred racing to Quarter Horse racing as well.


Horse racing has been around since the twelfth century, but in regards to organized horse racing in the United States we did not start to see that until the late seventeenth century. The first Quarter Horse races were held in Enrico County, Virginia in 1674. The first organized Thoroughbred race occurred in 1745 in Annapolis, Maryland.


When looking at the races themselves, the biggest difference between these two breed specific races is in the distances that they run. In the horse racing world, Quarter Horses are known as the true sprinters of the sport, and Thoroughbreds are seen as more of a middle distance and speed type runner, while breeds like Arabians are considered more of the endurance type due to the long distances and slower speed that they race.  During a race, Quarter Horses run about 55miles per hour on average and Thoroughbreds run just over 40 miles an hour. Quarter Horse races are measured in yards and they typically run races between 220 yards (One furlong or .125 miles) to 770 yards (~ three and a half furlongs or .44 miles). However, as their name indicates, the classic distance for Quarter Horse races is 440 yards, which is equivalent to a quarter of a mile. Due to these sprint races, Quarter Horse races last anywhere from about twenty seconds to forty-five seconds, which is much quicker than Thoroughbred races that are typically anywhere from one to two minutes long. As mentioned in my last blog, Thoroughbreds typically run between just under half a mile (four furlongs) to a mile and a half (twelve furlongs).


Another area that these two types of races differ is in regards to when their race clock starts. For Quarter Horse racing, the clock begins as soon as the starter pushes the button and the gate opens. In contrast, Thoroughbreds are given a running start before their clock starts. This “run-up” distance will vary depending on the track and the length of the race. Once the first horse passes the sensor that is located at the run-up distance, the clock begins, if needed the clock can be started manually. From there, the race proceeds. 


Although Quarter Horse races are much quicker, they will still get your adrenaline going and make for an exciting experience just like their Thoroughbred counterpart.