Endoscopic assessment of airway function as a predictor of racing performance in Thoroughbred yearlings: 427 cases (1997-2000)

J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2001 Oct 1;219(7):962-7. doi: 10.2460/javma.2001.219.962.


Objective: To compare endoscopic findings of the upper portion of the respiratory tract in Thoroughbred yearlings with their subsequent race records to determine whether subjective assessment of airway function may be used as a predictor of future racing performance.

Design: Retrospective study.

Animals: 427 Thoroughbred yearlings.

Procedures: Endoscopic examination findings were obtained from the medical records and the videoendoscopic repository of the Keeneland 1996 September yearling sales. Racing records were requested for the yearlings through the end of their 4-year-old racing season (1997-2000). Twenty-nine measures of racing performance were correlated with endoscopic findings. Subjective arytenoid cartilage movement grades were determined, using a 4-point grading scale (grade 1 = symmetrical synchronous abduction of the arytenoid cartilages; grade 4 = no substantial movement of the left arytenoid cartilage).

Results: Of the 427 Thoroughbred yearlings included in this study, 364 established race records, and 63 did not. Opinions regarding suitability for purchase, meeting conditions of the sale, and the presence of epiglottic abnormalities had no significant association with racing performance. Arytenoid cartilage movement grades were significantly associated with many of the dependent variables. However, palatine abnormalities were not predictive of inferior racing performance.

Conclusions and clinical relevance: Thoroughbred yearlings with grade-1 and -2 arytenoid cartilage movements had significantly better racing performance as adults, compared with yearlings with grade-3 arytenoid cartilage movements. In contrast, epiglottic and palatine abnormalities were not predictive of inferior racing performance. Therefore, evaluation of laryngeal function, but not epiglottic or palatine abnormalities, using the 4-point grading system, should be the major factor in developing recommendations for prospective buyers.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arytenoid Cartilage / physiology*
  • Arytenoid Cartilage / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Horses / physiology*
  • Laryngoscopy / veterinary
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Running / physiology
  • Sports
  • Videotape Recording