Identify Thoroughbred Race Horses by Lip Tattoos Thanks to The Jockey Club

The Jockey Club got it right.

The organization has announced that tattoo research is now free for former racehorses. It will now be much easier to identify off-track Thoroughbreds even when they've become separated from their registration papers. 

All North American runners receive a tattoo inside the upper lip before their first start.  This tattoo is a series of numbers and letters that are codes for the year of birth and a unique registration number. Racetrack stewards use the tattoos as a means of identification on-track (to help ensure the correct horse, rather than a ringer, is sent to the post). 

Rescue and re-homing groups are especially excited by the policy change because it means that they no longer have to pay for a simple ID.  And they'll be able to more quickly identify Thoroughbreds that find themselves in upsetting circumstances (mistreated, abandoned, stolen, or for sale at a low-end auction).

This move makes it easier for breeders or former owners to be notified if one of their horses is in dire straits.

For the good of the industry, the American Stud Book should be an open source.  I'm not expecing The Jockey Club to make the full database available to the world anytime soon, but this is a terrific step in the right direction.

Recent Posts


  • Pedigree Newsletter:
    The Five-Cross Files will be featured in a new Pedigree Analysis newsletter from To sign up for this free weekly email -- or any other newsletters from The Blood-Horse -- just click here.

Recommended Reading

More Blogs