Reasons for performing study: Although the radiographic examination of yearlings has become commonplace at some large Thoroughbred sales, there are few data to support the decisions facing veterinarians who are asked to evaluate future racing potential.
Objectives: To identify radiographic changes in the fetlocks, proximal sesamoid bones, carpi, tarsi, stifles and fore feet of Thoroughbred yearlings associated with future racing performance during ages 2 and 3 years.
Methods: Radiographs from routine pre- and post sale examinations of 1162 yearlings were used to identify individual radiographic changes in sale yearlings. Starting a race, the percent of starts placed, money earned and earnings per start were used to assess racing performanceand examined for associations with the radiographic changes observed.
Results: Overall 946 (81%) yearlings started at least one race during ages 2 or 3 years. Fourteen of 24 (58%) yearlings with moderate or extreme palmar supracondylar lysis of the third metacarpus, 8 of 14 (57%) of those with enthesophyte formation on the proximal sesamoid bones and 19 of 30 (63%) of those with dorsal medial intercarpal joint disease started a race. The odds of starting a race when age 2 or 3 years were 3 times lower for yearlings with these changes (P < 0.01) compared with yearlings that did not have these changes. Twenty-five of 36 (69%) yearlings with proximal dorsal fragmentation of the first phalanx in the hind fetlock started a race and these yearlings were also less likely (OR = 0.51, P = 0.07) to start a race. Yearlings with enthesophyte formation on hind proximal sesamoid bones placed in a smaller percentage of starts (16%, P = 0.01) earned less money (987 US dollars, P = 0.02) and had lower earnings per start (252 US dollars, P = 0.03) compared to starters without this change.
Conclusions: Although many of the changes observed on radiographs of sale yearlings do not appear to influence future racing performance, some are associated with reduced performance.
Potential relevance: The results of this study are best applied in parallel with the clinical impressions of veterinarians experienced in examining radiographs of sale yearlings. Some findings support those established in the literature as incidental findings and others suggest new areas for concern not previously reported as a problem in Thoroughbred sale yearlings.