Early Days

Is your OTTB papered?

Many years ago I had a friend who had purchased (adopted) a horse for $1, only to be later sued by the horse’s former owner trying to get the horse back. Both parties spent hundreds of dollars on legal fees and local media campaigns (small town = big news), not to mention hours and hours worrying and stressing.  In the end it all got worked out, but it taught me a valuable lesson: make sure your paperwork is in order, just in case. 
This friend had to pay over a hundred dollars in horse association registration fees on the advice of his lawyer, to help bolster his case of his ownership of the horse. So, its worth asking yourself: if some crazy person tries to take your horse – do you have paperwork showing he or she is yours?? This would be a Purchase and Sale Agreement, Adoption Agreement, Transfer of Ownership, etc. And secondly, do you have paperwork clearly indicating that the horse listed on those documents is the horse you are in possession of?? This would be registration documents with coloring, age, and markings, or a detailed horse description on your PSA, etc. All horse people should make sure they have their documents in order, to be prepared should some weird situation occur. Additionally, having your horse registered may one day help in an emergency situation if your horse gets lost, stolen, or set free in some sort of disaster. 
For those who have OTTBs who raced in the USA, allow me to present an outline on how to research your horse, update your information with the Jockey Club, and discover interesting information about their racing history. To have complete documentation on your OTTB, you will ultimately want to have:
  • Description and photos of coloring and markings
  • Tattoo number and photos
  • Registration number
  • Registered name
  • Pedigree
  • Racing history
  • Jockey Club Transfer of Ownership Form

Description and photos of coloring and markings
This is an easy yet surprisingly overlooked step of having paperwork in order. Write down a comprehensive description of your horse, and also take photos, so that you can clearly identify coloring, markings, scars, brands, tattoos, body condition, etc.  This is needed in many circumstances, but most importantly in an emergency when you are parted with your horse. You may also need it when researching your OTTB.


Horses that compete in sanctioned races in the USA must have tattoos on their inside upper lip. This is true of Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Arabians, though they do not use the same number-letter system. For TBs, the tattoo will start with one letter, then have five numbers. The letter represents the year of birth. Let’s take Bohemian as an example. Here is his tattoo:

His tattoo is I35913. As you can see, the 9 actually looks like a 0, which gave me lots of difficulty when trying to verify his information online. When I typed in I35013, a different horse’s name came up, who also happened to be a Bay gelding! I was very worried about possibly having the “wrong” horse in terms of my paperwork and legal claim to him. Ultimately I had to call the Jockey Club to get this sorted out.

To get your horse’s tattoo number, you will need have your camera ready to take some photos, and you may want to have a handler there to help you. Take a number of photos – some with flash and without, towards the sun and away, and have a washcloth to wipe the saliva to remove shine. You may have to adjust the contrast in order to make out hard-to-read tattoos. Even if it looks pretty darn clear (as Hemie’s does) you will want photos as part of your paperwork collection, and you may need to refer back to it when doing online research. Most OTTBs are fine with letting you lift their lip and hold it up for a bit, but of course be gentle and don’t hold it up for too long at one time.

Registration Number
A TB’s tattoo number is almost, but not quite, the same thing as the horse’s registration number. The registration number does not have a letter – instead, it has the last two digits of the year of birth at the front of the number, followed by the same 5 number digits as the tattoo. Hemie’s registration number is 0535913. Bohemian was born in 2005, hence the I in the tattoo and the “05” at the beginning of his registration number. So, if you have the tattoo, you can deduce the registration number, and visa versa. However, this is not widely publicized online because these two numbers are issued by two different organizations: the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau issues tattoo numbers, while the Jockey Club issues registration numbers. Neither can take responsibility for what the other does, so if you ask them they will say that tattoo numbers and registration numbers are different.

Registered Name
The registered name is needed in order to look up pedigree and racing history, and also to update ownership contact information with Jockey Club.  Bohemian’s registered name with the Jockey Club is “Bohemian Spirit.”  I was very lucky to be provided this name when I adopted him, and very glad to have it listed on the adoption paperwork.

Researching Name, Registration Number, and Tattoo
If you have your horse’s registration number but not registered name, you will need to contact the Jockey Club. They are readily available by phone or email. Or you can deduce his tattoo number and use the tattoo look-up database with markings and coloring description to match to your horse. See below.

If you have your horse’s tattoo or partial tattoo but not registered name, you can do an online look-up at: www.registry.jockeyclub.com. Log in or create an account (it’s free), then on the far left of the screen click the link that says “Tattoo Identification Services.” From there you can search by a full or partial tattoo. If you have a partial tattoo, you will also need to enter the horse’s sex, coloring, and markings.

Pedigree & Racing History
Once you have your horse’s registered name, you’ll be able to get started on researching his or her pedigree, racing history, auction (sale) history, and other interesting information. Here’s a list of resources where you can start getting great info.

www.CalRacing.com – Primarily serving the California racing industry, this site has archived videos of past horse races. Click “Race Replays” at the top of the screen, then it will ask you to log in or create an account (it’s free). Then at the box in center, click the tab labeled “Horse” to search for races by your horse’s registered name. Even though its California Racing, it has info from other states. For example it has 7 videos of Bohemian racing at Emerald Downs in Washington.

Equibase.com – An excellent resource! At the top of the screen on the right you can type in the horse’s name and it will provide lots of details including state of birth, breeder’s names, trainer’s name, owner’s name, jockey’s name, racing statistics, total earnings, etc. Click the green band that says “All Years” to get a year-by-year breakdown of starts and placings. Click thh green band that says “Results” to get a list of the races, including location, type of race, placing, etc. There are small green camera icons to the far right of races they have video footage of – unfortunately you will need a membership (free to sign up), but also have to *pay* to watch the videos. Its done on a subscription basis, with one day subscription at about $6.

http://www.brisnet.com – Bloodstock Research Information Services has pedigree and racing starts information. No registration required. Simply click “Pedigree and Lifetime Starts” at the top of the page. You will need to enter the horses’ registered name and year of birth.

Equineline.com  – Log in or register (it’s free), then click on “Free Services” at the top of the page. From there you can look up pedigree, racing recap, and auction results (if your horse was ever sold at an entered auction).

Thoroughbredtimes.com/racing/video.aspx – The Thoroughbred Times is a news service for the racing industry, but does have race videos that you can search. Click the link, scroll down, and enter the horse’s name to see if they have videos of your horse.

http://www.trpb.com/idres.htm – The Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau is responsible for tattooing thoroughbreds. They offer Horse Identity Research for free, but you will need the horse’s sex, coloring, approximate age, and tattoo (or partial, with photos). Call, email, or download and mail a form to get your horse’s registered name and pedigree (free) and racing history ($10 fee).

http://www.pedigreequery.com – This has horse pedigrees for all breeds. No registration required – just type in your horse’s registered name at the top of the page. Some racing information may also be available at the top of the pedigree chart. Generally not viewed as 100% correct as the website’s information can be edited by anyone (think Wikipedia).

Jockey Club Transfer of Ownership Form
Last but not least, you may want to update the Jockey Club’s records with your information for your OTTB. To be honest, the Jockey Club doesn’t really promote this because it takes up their valuable employee time and database storage on horses that (most likely) are not going to be breeding. Above all else, TJC tracks breeding and names.To update Jockey Club’s records, you can do it online at www.registry.jockeyclub.com (again, free to create an account). Click “Transfer Ownership” towards the bottom of the page in the center. Or you can email or call them and they’ll send you a written form to fill out and fax or mail in.

Another great resource for researching your OTTB is CanterUSA.org’s guide to researching your OTTB. As of today it’s a tad outdated, but it will still get you to the right places.

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