Influence of juvenile osteochondral conditions on racing performance in Thoroughbreds born in Normandy

Céline Robert, Jean-Paul Valette, Sandrine Jacquet, Jean-Marie Denoix
July 2013
The Veterinary Journal

The relationship between osteoarticular status and future athletic capacity is commonly accepted in equine practice, but there is little to support this belief in Thoroughbreds. The objective of this study was to assess the prevalence of juvenile osteochondral conditions (JOCC) in Thoroughbred yearlings and to investigate the significance of these with regard to subsequent racing performance. The radiographic files from 328 Thoroughbred yearlings born in Normandy were assessed in a consistent manner and entered into a database together with racing records. Logistic regression models were used to quantify the association between each radiographic parameter and racing performance (raced/not raced, placed/not placed, performer/not performer) at 2, 3, 4 and 5 years of age.

The front fetlock (30.2% of horses), the dorsal aspect of the hind fetlock (18%), the carpus (15.9%) and the distal part of the hock (15.5%) were the most commonly affected joints. Most horses (87.5%) raced either in turf flat races or in hurdle races. Starting a race at 2 years old was more frequent for yearlings without radiographic findings (RF) on the carpus or with less than one RF of moderate severity. The proportions of horses placed at 3 years old decreased with increasing number or severity of RF. In racing horses, there was no association between the presence of RF and earnings. The radiographic score, calculated as the sum of all the severity indices found on the radiographic file of the horse appeared well correlated with performance. Using this synthetic index might help veterinarians to evaluate radiographs of Thoroughbred yearlings for potential buyers.