The effect of age on the racing speed of Thoroughbred racehorses

J Equine Sci. 2015;26(2):43-8. doi: 10.1294/jes.26.43. Epub 2015 Jul 2.

Abstract

The running performance of Thoroughbred racehorses has been reported to peak when they are between 4 and 5 years old. However, changes in their racing speed by month or season have not been reported. The purposes of this study were to reveal the average racing speed of Thoroughbreds, and observe changes in their average speed with age. The surveyed races were flat races on turf and dirt tracks with firm or standard track conditions held by the Japan Racing Association from January 1st, 2002 to December 31st, 2010. The racing speed of each horse was calculated by dividing the race distance (m) by the horse's final time (sec). Average speeds per month for each age and distance condition were calculated for each gender group when there were 30 or more starters per month for each age and distance condition for each gender group. The common characteristic change for all conditions was an average speed increase up until the first half of the age of 4 years old. The effect of increased carry weight on average speed was small, and average speed increased with the growth of the horse. After the latter half of the age of 4 years old, the horses' average speed remained almost constant, with little variation. It is speculated that decreases in the weight carried; and the retirement of less well performing horses; are responsible for the maintenance of average speed.

Keywords: Thoroughbred; age; growth; race; speed.