The issue of speed is a central issue as the key to win a race lies in the way speed is handled throughout the race. Every race is different and many events can disturb the evolution of speed through it.
DROP SOME CLICHÉS ABOUT SPEED
Speed is a fascinating factor to analyse because it is the subject of many interpretations and feelings. In order to apprehend the different factors influencing it better, it is useful to know the following.
SLOPE DOESN’T INFLUENCE POSITIVELY SPEED
Maximum speeds are reached on neutral ground, and not on downslopes. For detailed explanations.
THE LAST 200M OF THE HORSE DURING THE RACE AREN’T THE FASTEST
On the Chantilly and Deauville racecourses, it is interesting to note that in short distance races (1300m and less) the average speed of the last 200m is the lowest and that the last 600-400m are run faster than the last 400-200m. This clearly underlines the fact that the horses are thrown at a high speed and that in the last 200m they slow down with a clear drop in speed.
THE INFLUENCING FACTORS OF SPEED
The track layout necessarily influences speed so it is a factor you could use to prepare for a targeted race. Understanding how each hippodrome influences the racing speed can help adapting training.
At training, straight line tracks should be favoured to limit mechanical stress. However, training in curves should not be neglected in order to accustom the horse to the sensations and thus improve proprioception in the curves.
Curved racetracks are on average 11% slower than straight line racetracks
It is also important to train on a right-hand rope track and on a left-hand rope track to avoid creating muscular asymmetry and compensatory phenomena of locomotion. As all horses have their preferred hand, it is interesting to draw objective figures from the right-hand and left-hand rope training, always with the mean to prepare for a race.
Even if slopes don’t have an accelerating effect on the horse, understanding the slopes impact on the speed can be an asset. Training horses on all types of grounds is a good strategy in order not to underperform on racing day if they have never been trained on a particular topography.
In an uphill race, horses with a better metabolism will stand out from the others by their ability to compensate for the additional energy cost caused by the slope by better energy mobilization. It will allow them to maintain their constant speed.
Thus, speed works in relation to topography are part of a real strategy to train according to each horse, and adapt to the track and the topography.
QUALITY OF THE GROUND
This is a determining factor in terms of speed: there is a loss of almost 2 km/h on the average speed between good and very soft ground. To measure the quality of the ground, the racecourse stewards use a penetrometer to give an indication of the ground on race days.
Training horses on all types of tracks can help to prepare them for race day. For example, training on heavy track for muscle-building and going on fiber-sand tracks on the next work allows the horse to have a better perception at full speed, and is good for morale since working on heavy grounds is more difficult.
The every day monitoring of horses on the same track but in different conditions is very interesting. Doing so, you can see wich horse performs best on wich type of ground.
It concerns almost exclusively trotters, for which shoeing are a part of the racing strategy, as removing the shoes from 2 y.o. flat horses is forbidden in France.
3 parameters explain why unshoeing makes trotters faster :
- More natural gait
- Irrigation and oxygenation of the foot
The monitoring of speed trainings can be a core asset to be able to compare reference racing times and training times. There are four reasons for which monitoring speed during training can help you.