JC / Railbird

Speed Notes

Crouching Jockeys, Faster Horses

According to research published in Science, the now-standard “monkey crouch,” popularized by jockey Tod Sloan in the late 1890s when he moved from the US to Britain, revolutionized racing by making horses run faster:

By, in effect, floating above his mount, the jockey saves the energy the horse would otherwise expend…. average times — almost 109 seconds per mile in the 1890s — fell dramatically and settled at less than 103 seconds for most of the 20th century.

The findings suggest an intriguing possibility:

Some researchers have hypothesized that a jockey could in effect “drive” the horse faster than it could go on its own. Pfau believes this might be possible if the jockey is moving the right way at precisely the right time. “But we haven’t cracked that yet,” he says.

Unproven, but such a conclusion seems intuitively correct. “A good jockey can improve a horse if he is a good fit for him,” trainer Bob Baffert tells Joe Drape. “That’s why we have speed riders and come-from-behind jockeys. The best stay cool and calm, and horses can feel it.”

Always More

From The Rail (NYT), 6/4/2009:

… thoroughbreds put out bigger efforts these days than their muscles, ligaments, suspension systems and bones can easily sustain. Their physical structure is tested to the utmost to maintain the speed they can now achieve with modern training methods.

From the Thoroughbred Record (HotC, p. 163), 6/3/1911:

Somebody once asked a famous Kentucky turfman what was the chief requisite in the makeup of a great racehorse, and the answer was “speed.”

“And what was after that?” was the next question.

“More speed,” was the reply.