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How Fast Can a Horse Run? Incredible Horse Racing Records!

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Ever found yourself at the edge of a racetrack, heart racing almost as fast as the thoroughbreds charging past? The sheer speed of these equine athletes is amazing. But what numbers are we talking about? How do they stack up in the record books?

Join me on a journey into the fast-paced world of horse racing, where we’ll uncover the most astounding speeds ever achieved. From the swift bursts of sprinters to the relentless pace of distance runners, we’re delving deep into the limits of horsepower.

Picture of racehorses competing in a race at the New Orleans Fairgrounds.

How Fast Can a Horse Run? Racing Records by Distance.

HorseDistanceFastest TimeYear
Hawkster1½ miles2:22.81989
Spectacular Bid1¼ miles1:57.81980
Simply Majestic11/8 miles1:451988
Schedule and With Probability1 mile 70 yards1:37.902004-05
Dr. Fager1 mile (dirt)1:32 1/5 1968
Mandurah1 mile (turf)1:31.232010
Oklahoma Natural1/2 mile43.202012
Winning Brew1/4 mile20.572008

How fast can a horse run? It’s hard to believe, but some racehorses have reached speeds of 55 mp/h. These incredible animals are capable of reaching extreme speeds on the track and excel at long-distance events like 100-mile endurance races.

Because horses compete at many distances, I thought it would be interesting to have a list that answers how fast a horse can run various distances. The fastest times for all the significant distances horses race are listed below:

Here’s a YouTube video of Secretariat running the fastest Belmont Stakes of all time.

How Fast Can a Horse Run a Mile? 1:32 1/5

A horse can run a mile as fast as 1:32 1/5. This record was set in 1968 by the thoroughbred Dr. Fager during the Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park, marking it as the fastest mile run on a dirt track in American history.

Racing a mile is a real test of a horse’s talents, challenging both quickness and endurance. Dr. Fager shattered the record carrying 134 lbs and won the race by ten lengths. Dr. Fager’s record mile was set over 50 years ago and has only been tied once by Najran in 2003. However, Najran was carrying 21 pounds less than Dr. Fager (134 to 113), so pound for pound, Dr. Fager still has the fastest mile ever on dirt.

How fast can a horse run one mile on turf?

The world record for the fastest time on turf to run a mile is 1:31.23. This record is held by Mandurah, who set the record in a handicap race at Monmouth Park on June 6, 2010. Although horses typically run faster on dirt, the record for the fastest mile was set on turf.

How Fast Can a Horse Run 1 1/2 Miles?

The mile-and-a-half race is one of the most challenging and prestigious racing distances; it tests a horse’s heart and endurance. It is the longest-distance run in the Triple Crown series.

The record for 1½ miles is, which converts to 37.82 mph. This feat was accomplished by a 3-year-old Thoroughbred named Hawkster at Santa Anita Park in California in 1989 at 2min 22.8sec.

Secretariat set the 1 1/2 mile record as a three-year-old in the Belmont Stakes Triple Crown race. His time for the race was 2:24 shattering the old record by more than two seconds.

Secretariat won the race by over 30 lengths, and the competition is recognized as the most significant performance of the twentieth century by a North American racehorse.

How Fast Can a Racehorse Run?

The legendary racehorse Spectacular Bid won the Grade I Strub Stakes, running the fastest 1¼ miles on a dirt track, 1:57.8. He broke a 30-year-old record of 1:58.2 set by Hall of Famer Noor carrying under 130 pounds in 1950. Spectacular Bid’s time still stands.

What is the fastest Kentucky Derby horse?

The Kentucky Derby race is a 1 1/4 mile race that is restricted to qualifying three-year-old horses. Spectacular Bid has the world record for the fastest 1 1/4 mile race at 1:57.8, but how much quicker is he than the fastest Kentucky Derby winner?

Spectacular Bid’s time in the mile and a quarter is almost two seconds faster than the fastest time ever run in the Kentucky Derby. Secretariat set the Derby record in 1973 at 1:59.4 minutes. Secretariat broke Northern Dancer’s record set in 1964.

Picture of racehorses running a race on the turf.  Course surfaces often play a role in how fast can a horse run.

How fast can a racehorse run a mile 1 1/8?

The fastest mile and an eighth is 1:45, set by Simply Majestic in 1988 at the Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Handicap. In 1972 at the Marlboro Cup, Secretariat set the world record for running a mile and an eighth in 1:45 2/5. This world record lasted 15 years until Simply Majestic beat the time by two-fifths of a second.

How fast can a horse run 1 1/16?

A mile and a sixteenth race is a typical distance at many racetracks. In 1983 Hoedown’s Day, a five-year-old thoroughbred set a world record running the mile and sixteenth in 1:38 2/5’s at Bay Meadows.

How fast can a horse run 1 mile 70 yards?

Specific track configurations are set up for racing one mile seventy yards instead of one-mile races. Two horses have recorded the fastest times at this distance. The record-setting horses are Schedule and With Probability. Their times are 1:37.90; Schedule hit its mark in 2004, and With Probability followed in 2005.

Picture of our two year old running

How fast can a horse run a 1/2 mile?

On July 28, 2012, a grey roan gelding thoroughbred named Oklahoma Natural ran a blistering four furlongs (1/2 mile) in 43.20. This feat occurred at the Fair Meadows race track. It’s the fastest recorded time of a horse that has run one-half of a mile.

How fast can a horse run a 1/4 mile?

The fastest quarter-mile that’s ever been run was 20.57 by a two-year-old thoroughbred filly named Winning Brew. She reached a speed of 43.97 mph, causing the Guinness World Records to list this feat as the fastest ever clocked on a racetrack.

The record occurred on May 14, 2008, at Penn National. The fastest quarter-mile by a Quarter horse is 20.686. The record was set in 2005 by a quarter horse named A Long Goodbye. The previous record was held by Truckle Feature for 30 years, from 1973 to 2003. Since 2003 the record has been surpassed five times. A Long Goodbye broke the record at the MBNA America New Mexico Challenge Championship.

How Fast Can a Horse Run a Marathon? 1 hour 20 minutes

The fastest a horse has run a marathon is 1 hour and 20 minutes. Horses and humans compete annually in a 22-mile race called Man vs. Horse. Although officially not a marathon distance, it is close enough for our purposes.

The competition takes place in the Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells every June. The race began in 1980 as a friendly wager over who could cover 22 miles faster, a human or a horse?

Apparently, the competition hasn’t provided a clear winner because the race continues to this date. William Jones riding his horse Solitaire recorded the fastest marathon time, finishing the course in one hour and twenty minutes in 1984.

The first time a man won the Man vs. Horse race was in 2004 by Huw Lobb in 2 hours, 5 minutes, and 19 seconds. Humans were victorious again in 2007 and beat the first equine competitor by more than 10 minutes.

So, How Fast Can Horses Run? Average 25 -30 MPH

After exploring the records, let’s shift our focus to the typical speeds of horses. Keep in mind, however, that a horse’s speed can be influenced significantly by factors such as its breed, age, fitness, training, and the distance it covers. Here’s a general breakdown:

  1. Average Speed: Most horses gallop at an average speed of 25 to 30 mph.
  2. Sprint: In short bursts, some horses can reach speeds of up to 40-50 mph, especially over short distances like a quarter mile. Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses are particularly known for their speed in these short races.
  3. Extended Distances: Over longer distances, such as the Kentucky Derby’s 1.25 miles, winning horses average speeds closer to 37-38 mph.
  4. Trotting and Pacing: These are two-beat gaited speeds for horses, common in certain types of racing. Standardbred horses, for instance, compete in harness racing either at a trot or a pace and can reach speeds of around 30 mph.
  5. Walking: A horse’s walking speed is around 3-4 mph.
  6. Records: The record for the fastest speed by a racehorse was set by Winning Brew, a two-year-old Thoroughbred filly, who covered a two-furlong distance (1/4 mile) in 20.57 seconds, translating to a speed of 43.97 mph. However, it’s essential to note that this was a peak speed over a very short distance.

In general, how fast a horse can run depends on various factors, but Thoroughbreds are among the fastest breeds, especially over middle distances.

Factors That Affect a Horse’s Speed?

Many factors play a role in how fast a horse can run. Some of these include the horse’s breed, age, conformation, and weight. Additionally, the terrain on which the horse is running will also impact how fast it moves.

Picture of a dapple gray horse.


Horse conformation is the physical appearance of a horse determined by how its muscles, bones, and body are organized. It includes the shape and size of its limbs, hooves, back, and neck. Horses with good conformation are likely to have longer and more efficient strides. One measure of how well a horse moves is by examining its stride rate; this means how many strides the horse takes per minute.

This is important because if a horse takes too many strides, it will become tired more quickly; likewise, if they take too few strides, it will be less efficient. Good conformation is a must for any performance horse because it ensures the animal has what it takes to run efficiently and fast.


Pedigree is the family lineage of a horse and forms its genetic makeup. The genes they inherit from their parents play an important role in determining conformation, competitive spirit, and temperament, all of which affect a horse’s speed.

Horses are bred for different purposes, which determines how fast they can run. Racing horses, for example, are bred to be lean and muscular so that they can reach high speeds. On the other hand, Draft horses are bred to be larger and have more muscle mass.


Horses between three and nine years old are generally faster than their younger and older counterparts. This is because young horses have not yet reached their full potential. As horses age, they lose muscle mass, and their speed decreases.

Training, diet, and environment

Training, diet, and living environment all play a role. How well your horse performs will depend on how well you train and take care of it. Ensure your horse has plenty of room to run and exercise and feed it well; this includes plenty of water.

And finally, give your horse time to grow and develop; don’t rush it. With proper care and training, you can achieve the speed you are looking for.

The skill of the rider

The movement of a rider’s body impacts how fast horses can run. For example, the unique riding style of jockeys creates which helps move the horse forward and increases speed.

In contrast, a person sitting straight up in a saddle will slow a horse. Horseback riding is an art that relies highly on body position and movement.

Track surfaces affect speed.

The racing surface also plays a role in a horse’s speed. Different surfaces provide different amounts of traction, affecting how fast a horse can run. Horses tend to run faster on dirt tracks than they do on natural turf or synthetic surfaces.

Horse racing records are categorized by distance and surface. It’s necessary to distinguish because distance and surface affect speed. Horses running longer distances will naturally have a slower pace than horses running shorter distances. Likewise, horses running on turf run slower than horses on a dirt track.

There are four major types of horse races, flat racing, steeplechasing, harness racing, and endurance racing. Flat track racing over a dirt track is the fastest of them all.

Below is a YouTube video about the fastest horses in the world.

Male and Female Horses Are Equal.

Some of the fastest and most successful racehorses are females. Black Caviar is a perfect example; she finished her career with a 25-0 record and competed against some of the best racehorses in the world, both male and female.

Thoroughbreds Typically Run Longer Distances Than Quarter Horses.

In Thoroughbred horse racing, the most common distances are One Mile. One mile and 70 yards. 1 1/16 miles. 1 1/8 miles. 1 ¼mile. Race distances are broken into sections called furlongs.

A furlong is one-eighth of a mile and is equivalent to 220 yards. The name originated from Old English and referred to the length of a standard acre. During a race, the speed a horse runs two furlongs is referred to as its splits or fractional times.

Generally, the track caller announces the cumulative splits at each pole, 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, and 3/4 mile if the race is a mile. Four splits are announced if the race is longer than a mile, like the Kentucky Derby, a 10-furlong race.

Quarterhorses are sprinters and run shorter races than thoroughbreds. Their competitions aren’t measured in miles but yards, and the most common quarterhorse races are run at distances from 220 to 870 yards. Besides quarter horses and Thoroughbreds, there are many other fast horse breeds that race.

How fast can a quarter horse run? 55 MPH

The American Quarter Horse, named for its dominance in quarter-mile races, is one of the fastest horse breeds over short distances.

In a quarter-mile race (about 402 meters), a well-bred and trained Quarter Horse can reach speeds up to 55 mph. However, this is the top speed, and not all Quarter Horses will reach this. The breed excels particularly in these short sprints, which is why they are often pitted in races of a quarter mile, giving them their name.

It’s important to note that while they are incredibly fast over short distances, Quarter Horses may not maintain such speeds over longer distances as Thoroughbreds might in middle-distance and longer races.

Picture of a horse winning a race at New Orleans Fairgrounds.

Horse Races Are Typically Run On Dirt or Grass.

Horse speed records are broken down by distance and based on the surface the horses were competing on. There are three primary track surfaces in the United States, dirt, grass, and synthetic surfaces.

Of the three surfaces, dirt is by far the most common. It is affordable, and horses are quickest on natural dirt tracks. However, dirt tracks don’t provide much shock absorption and increase stress on the racehorse’s legs.

Turf tracks are natural grass and the most common surface used in European horse racing. It is second in the states after dirt. Turf surfaces have a couple of advantages over dirt tracks, horses running on turf usually stay healthier, and clods and dust are not thrown on following horses and jockeys as they are on dirt tracks.

Turf races are typically slower than races run on dirt: the grass impedes the horses’ stride and creates friction, and turf courses take more energy to run on than a dirt track does – especially when the turf is wet or soft. Turf surfaces seem to favor horses with stamina and more efficient movement.

Some horse tracks have synthetic surfaces.

Synthetic surfaces have reduced the number of racing fatalities suffered by horses on the track. Polytrack, Tapeta footings, and cushion tracks are the most common artificial track surfaces.

Synthetic track surfaces are similar to playground materials; they are made of rubber, spandex, and sand. Polytrack is the most popular, and all have benefits over natural surfaces. The main disadvantage is they wear down quickly and are expensive to maintain.

Horse speed by type and breed

Thoroughbred43.97 mph*Hot-blooded horses
Arabian35 mphHot-blooded horses
Akhal-Teke30 mphHot-blooded horses
Mustangs30 mphferal, primarily hot-blood
American Paint Horse55 mphHot-blooded horses
Friesian horses30 mphNon Typical warmblood
Belgian25 mphCold-blooded horses
Clydesdale20 mphCold-blooded horses
Shire25 mphCold-blooded horses
Irish Sport Horse35 mphWarm-blooded horses
Andalusians30 mphWarm-blooded horses
Hanoverian30 mphWarm-blooded horses
*The fastest recorded Thoroughbred is Winning Brew at 43.97 mph in 2008

The three types of horses are cold-blooded, warm-blooded, and hot. A strong, calm large-bodied draft breed is considered a “cold” type, while smaller, faster horses with an excitable temperament make up the group known as ‘hot.’ Finally, there are intermediates that can be either type but have qualities from each.

Picture of horses racing at Churchhill Downs race course.

How Fast Does a Horse Travel in Different Gaits?

WalkThe walk is the slowest gait that a horse can perform, and it has a speed of around four miles per hour.
TrotThe trot is a little bit faster, with a speed of around eight miles per hour.
CanterThe canter is next, with a speed of twelve to fifteen miles per hour.
GallopAnd finally, the gallop is the fastest gait, and it has a speed of twenty-five to thirty-five miles per hour.

Do you know how fast a horse can travel in each gait? There are four basic gaits: walk, trot, canter, and gallop. Each of these gaits has a different speed at which the horse travels.

How Fast Can a Horse Run With a Rider?

A horse can run quite fast with a rider, depending on the horse’s breed and conditioning. Some horse breeds are naturally faster than others, and a horse in good shape will be able to run faster than one out of shape.

The racing records above were all accomplished with a rider. So, the fastest horse with a rider was clocked at 55 mph. However, the rider’s weight also plays a role in how fast a horse can run; a lighter rider will put less strain on the horse and allow it to run faster.

Experience also plays a role; some riders know how to position their bodies to increase a horse’s speed when running. This is why horse racing jockeys make a difference in a racehorse’s performance.

Generally speaking, a horse carrying a rider can travel at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.

How long can a horse run

A well-conditioned horse can run two miles before it needs to stop. Popular Thoroughbred races are typically between one and one and a half miles.

What is the normal speed a horse runs?

A typical horse in good shape can run between 20 to 30 mph on average. Thoroughbreds generally run between 35 and 40 miles an hour during races.

How fast can a horse run without a rider?

Horses can run faster carrying less weight, so logically it would follow they can run faster without a rider than with one. However, they typically don’t push themselves and generally run between 25 and 30 without a rider.

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