Bred at the Rothschild's Haras de Meautry in Touques, Calvados, through his sire's line Exbury is a descendant of Haras de Meautry's great champion Brantome and on his mare's side, the extremely important Italian sire, Nearco. Trained at Chantilly by the Englishman, Geoffroy Watson, a son of trainer John Watson who for forty years was the private trainer for the successful racing stable of Leopold de Rothschild.
At age two, Exbury started four times, winning once and finishing second three times. As a three-year-old, in a year where Val de Loir and Match II were prominent, Exbury began to show some of his ability, winning two conditions races and finishing second to Match II in the important Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.
At age four Exbury came into his own, winning all five of his 1963 starts, beating many of the best in France and in England. The National Horseracing Museum called Exbury "the best middle distance horse in Europe in 1963." That year, Exbury won the Prix Boïard, then beat Val de Loir by four lengths in winning the Prix Ganay. In England he won the Coronation Cup by six lengths then back in France beat Val de Loir again in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and capped off the year with a victory in France's most prestigious horse race, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. He was retired to stud duty at the end of the 1963 campaign.