I was watching a horse racing meeting on BBC tv recently - while pedalling away on my exercise bike, and I got to thinking about the validity of the sport. The first thing that bothered me was the fact that a race - which didn't involve the top flight horses - took up 20 mins of tv time. That's like spending 20mins covering the 800m athletic's race at a regional final in the UK. Also, can anyone tell me what percentage of horse races are handicapped? I assume handicapping is all to do with betting. Finally, how fit are horses? I looked up the records for some of the top races, and some of the best times were done over 40 years ago? And, how hard do horses train? I remember reading - 20 odd year's ago - that a top British running coach ( I think it was either Brendan Foster or Steve Cram's) was invited to watch some horses train to see if he could suggest some way of improving their performance. The coach watched the training for a while, and then one of the horse racing people asked what he thought. The coach asked what the horse were going to do next". He was informed that that was it! The coach said that what the horse had done was only equivalent to his athletes' warm -up!
In horse racing, the public favorite wins about a third of the time. Top trainers wil about a fifth of the time.
In track and field, favorites win more often.
That is one major difference.
The reasons there are about 20-25 minutes between races are as follows:
1. Jockeys need time to return to the jockeys' room to change their silks.
2. Horses for the next race need to walk from their stable to the saddling enclosure.
3. Horses need to be saddled.
4. Trainers and jockeys discuss strategy in the paddock about 12 minutes before a race.
5. Then comes the post parade, when horseplayers have a change to see the horses.
6. Horses need to warm up.
7. Then they race.
Horse racing is a leisurely pastime, in which those who go to the races need the time between races to handicap.
It is entirely possible to spend as long as 2 1/2 to 3 hours handicapping a race. There are many variable, including the impact of weight and the shifts of weight in a handicap.
Among the considerations are as follows:
1. Weight to be carried, weight being conceded to competitors, weight being received from rivals.
2. Weight of the animal, as compare to how much it weighs when it performs well and vice versa.
3. Post position.
4. Pace factors.
6. State of the ground.
7. Peaking (whether the animal is progressing, is statis or is regressing.
8. Jockey suitability.
9. Trainer and whether his stable is in form.
10 Betting action: is there live money coming in on the horse you like, or is it "cold" on the board.
These are but a fraction of the considerations.
Successfully betting and winning on racehorses is one of the most challenging of pursuits.
As regards training, horses are "born" athletes. They are bred to do one thing and that is to run. They don't require the same type of exercise as humans. They do not have to go to the weight room because they are born with their muscles naturally.
Horses have a completely different digestive and cardio-vascular system than humans.
Humans need to do a lot to train. Horses don't have to do as much.
In the U. S., typically a horse will jog or gallop about 1 3/4 miles per day. They do this 4 or 5 days a week. About every 5, 6 or 7 days they will have a workout, in which they usually run at about 85 percent of full speed for about 5/8ths of a mile.
You ask: is horse racing a joke?
No, it is not a joke.
World wide, the amount of money bet on races, spent breeding horses, spent buying horses, spent training horses makes track and field look like a Lionel train set in your basement compared with the airline industry.
Decades ago, I came across something that indicated that horses know that they are in a race. Of course, we see this all the times in animals, and the animals must know which is faster just as they know which is stronger, etc.
However, it would be interesting to learn to what extent humans have figured out that horses know that they are racing and whether they know that they are racing a certain distance.
BTW, I think that humans are naturally long-distance runners and that horses are too. The natural life style of a free horse on the plain and a human foraging and hunting may be consistent with long-term activity.
For a horse to race a mile or a mile and a half may be like sprinting.
As far as I can tell, sprinters (human in this case) don't work out like long-distance runners either. Cram or Foster were not the best human coaches to judge how horses should train.
Here is what my dad (an equine surgeon) always says:
In the wild, one or a few horses are usually in the front - the alpha males. Even after 100's - even 1000's of year of domestication this is still in the genes. You usually have two types of race horses; those that are physically gifted but not alpha male (jockey has to do a lot of work here to urge the horse on), and those that are not physically gifted but want to be in front. Seabiscuit and Affirmed come to mind as horses who "knew" where the finish line was and insisted on getting there first. (recall they both had physically stronger rivals, Alydar and War Admiral).
And then, you have the horses who have both. Ladies and gentlemen, presenting Secretariat, still the record holder for 1.5 miles (2:24) by over 2 seconds - an eternity in horse racing.
The problem, of course, is that while Secretariat could psych out his competitors in the starting gate with hormones and then run them into the ground, humans can block out the mental portion to some degree.
The reasons there are about
>20-25 minutes between races are as follows:
1. Jockeys need time to return
>to the jockeys' room to change their silks.
2. Horses for the next race need
>to walk from their stable to the saddling enclosure.
3. Horses need to be
4. Trainers and jockeys discuss strategy in the paddock about 12
>minutes before a race.
5. Then comes the post parade, when horseplayers have
>a change to see the horses.
6. Horses need to warm up.
7. Then they
Even if none of the above reasons mattered, thee would still be at least 20 minutes between races.
the betters have to have time to bet.
It is remarkable that even though breeders make a big deal out of blood lines, etc. Times have hardly improved in the last century.
Training techniques are antiquated, but there is an important limitation. Humans could not hold up under heavy training schedules until running shoes were improved in the 1950s.
Horses' weak spot (achilles heel) is their ankles. Training has to be limited by what their ankles can handle.
Even so, this year's Preakness, Belmont winner (name escapes me at the moment) was following a "radical" training regimin that included many more miles than standard training included.
>>Of course horse racing is a sport. Don't be ridiculous.
Top of the heap:
World Class Alpinists/ High Altitude Mountaineers. (Not sherpa abusing wannabes..) Super strong, fit, tough. After hideously hard days out climb into a cold tent, make their own food and water, try to recover. And the penalty for failure is death.
Next: Tour de France / Grand Tour cyclists. Many athletes are tough for one day, a few days, maybe a week. Very few can handle serious physical and mental pressure for 3 weeks.
Next: Football (the kind the entire world plays..), Rugby, Triathletes, Nordic Ski Racers, Classics/stage race cyclists. Yes I'm mixing the more purely aerobic with skill sports; this group simply includes people who put in killer efforts over reasonably extended periods of time. Hockey players as well, probably (and yes I did play hockey; not as nearly as tough as cycling as far as I'm concerned.)
Of course I will leave it to the rest of you to figure out where T & F/Athletics types fit in here. Marathoners/Distance/MidDistance plug in somewhere in the above group.
Motorsports: Maybe motocross/ 6 Days Enduro guys. And I count myself a fan of F1, Euro Road Racing, Rally, MX.
Note the theme: Physically hard and uncomfortable, mentally stressful efforts over an extended period of time.
mrbowie - In no way mean to be contentious here, but nowhere in my post do I say that jockeys are not athletes. I also realize it can be a very dangerous activity; however, a little perspective may be in order.
They are riding horses.For around 2 minutes.
Baseball players?? Don't even get me started.
Cheers, YMMV, Just my 02, and all that.
Last edited by XML on Sat Aug 06, 2005 6:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
100 meters lasts roughly 10 seconds. But it is still sport.
2 minutes atop a Thoroughbred racehorse, competing against other racehorsehorses is just as much sport, or maybe more, because it involves much more stragegy, handicap considerations (weight), post positions on turns without staggers, ground (varying underfoot conditions), etc.
Horse racing may not last very long, but there are countless variables, which accounts for its appeal in several countries throughout the world.
>>100 meters lasts roughly 10 seconds. But it is still sport.
Agreed. Especially since the athletes (human!) are running the distance themselves.
At the end of the day, we all may define sport in different ways and that is our prerogative. I mean your chosen interest no disrespect, but I certainly do define it differently than yourself. I may take mine to the extreme a bit... I don't really look at Golf or Baseball as sports, but rather as "Games". I know this will offend a great many, though it is not my intent.
Just a different way to define activities that require (in my opinion) varying amounts of suffering, will, perserverence, etc. My reverence and passion happen to be for those pursuits requiring a great amount of the aforementioned, and I certainly do choose different terminologies to define those pursuits as opposed to golf, auto racing, tennis, etc.
I guess at the end of the day if our definitions 'step on each others toes' then, aside from a couple of posts here on good ol' TFN, I'm not too worked up about it. (And for what it is worth, I will admit to not having much knowledge about horse racing, so am simply going by perception. Full disclosure and all, you know.)
In most individual sports, it's not an individual race, but a season. There are just too many variables involved. Downhill skiing is a good example. Of course, sometimes an individual is just on and can't lose, but I believe that most downhillers are much more accepting of medalling or placing in the top 5 or 10 than are the onlookers, especially U.S. ones.
It is not the viewers fault, really. Broadcasters aren't allowed the time to learn about the sport and the idiots above them don't want them to spend time explaining what's really going on.
In team sports, it's even more difficult. Without taking anything away from the great quarterbacks, it's no accident that they always praise their offensive line -- and they had better!
Like most Americans of a certain age, I know little about soccer, but my impression is that the ability of the midfield players, who seldom score are the key players.