Heritability of Racing Durability Traits Research

Research out of Australia promotes the use of genetic selection for improving the health and longevity of racing Thoroughbreds. The paper “Heritability of racing durability traits in the Australian and Hong Kong Thoroughbred racing populations” was published in Equine Veterinary Journal and is available for rent or purchase on Wiley.com.

Reasons for Performing Study

Many attempts have been made to improve the well-being of racing Thoroughbreds through improvements in management and veterinary care. However, these attempts are often limited by the industry’s ability to regulate a large number of environmental variables and as a result, have arguably had limited success in providing long-lasting change for the breed.


To identify heritable durability traits for Thoroughbred horses racing in Australia and Hong Kong.

Study Design

Heritability analysis of a longitudinal dataset.


Performance data on the Thoroughbred populations racing in Australia and Hong Kong between 2000 and 2011 (n = 168,993) were used to estimate the heritabilities and probability values of fixed effects and covariates for a range of racing durability traits. Heritabilities for all durability traits were estimated using a single trait animal model. Each model included, as a minimum, the effects of sex and trainer.


Racing longevity (0.12 ± 0.01), racing persistence (0.10 ± 0.01), racing frequency (0.03 ± 0.01), spells (a time period between consecutive races, official trials, and/or jump-outs greater than 90 days in length) per year (0.05 ± 0.01), spells per 10 starts (0.03 ± 0.01), and variation of days between races (0.08 ± 0.03) were all significantly heritable for horses racing in Australia. Racing longevity (0.08 ± 0.02), racing persistence (0.04 ± 0.02), spells per year (0.06 ± 0.02), and spells per 10 starts (0.11 ± 0.04) were significantly heritable for horses racing in Hong Kong.


The heritabilities estimated for durability traits in this study provide support for the successful and practical application of genetic selection methodologies to improving the well-being of racing Thoroughbreds.


B.D. Veilie, N.A. Hamilton and C.M. Wade, University of Sydney, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

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