Saturday, March 21, 2009

How FIT is your horse?

Sorry for the lack of recent posts, things have been hectic here since the weather has started to cooperate.

V200 is the speed, or velocity, that your horse is travelling when his/her heart rate hits 200 beats per minute. Many studies worldwide have correlated this number with racing performance and earning potential. It's amazing that studies in Japan, Australia, Europe, and the US all exhibit similar findings.

Now a disclaimer, horses are skittish and their heart rates are not always indicative of their level of conditioning. Some horses heart rates settle to an accurate number within seconds, others take a few minutes. So, it's not as simple as checking your GPS for speed when you see the heart rate hit 200. To be accurate, it takes some collecting of data and graphing tools. 

I think we can all agree that faster is better. If we can pinpoint an intensity level of exercise, let's say 85% of maximum, then the faster a horse can travel, the fitter he is. V200 is based on a maximum heart rate of 230 - but your horse may differ and need adjustments - it's a bit of work to find this out. 

Anyway, to the meat of the post:

V200(mph) class

under 20 not fit enough to compete safely
20-22 struggling to break maiden
22-24 $10k claimer
24-25 $25k claimer
26-27 allowance level
28-30 stakes level
30+ graded stakes performer

Some notes to add here: 
These figures are from dirt tracks and collected during gallops slower than 2 minute licks.
The longer the race, the more these numbers mean. A true sprinter at 5.5F can outperform his V200 easier than a miler, for instance. 
While comparing V200 across different horses is certainly valid, the real benefit is comparing V200 numbers over time in each individual. If V200 is moving up, that is good - moving backwards is bad. 
You can see from the above, that very small changes in V200 can mean the difference between a money losing horse and a big time earner.

Perhaps most importantly, when you know V200 - you can determine Ideal Gallop Paces that elicit the best conditoning effects, more on that next post. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Trakus technology in horse racing

Check out the above image from a company called Trakus. They place a small transmitter inside of the saddle cloth prior to the race, then track the horse around the track in real time. Very cool. I've also seen them include speeds in mph during the race as well. 

Using heart rate as a measure of exercise intensity, imagine how including that data could be helpful to the handicapper:

How intense is the warm up? Is the splenic contraction elicited?
How quickly can a horse reach his/her maximum HR leaving the gate?
During the gallop out, who recovers the fastest to below 100bpm?
What is the maximum speed? How long is it held?

If you could add this physiological data to other past performance info and note trends over time, you could pinpoint quite a bit about each individual's actual athletic ability - and note when a peak, or a bounce, is likely to happen.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Dirt vs Synthetic surfaces and training intensity

Sorry for the lack of posting recently, but still fighting off the effects of the flu.

I have to preface what follows by stating I only have limited data on polytrack training sessions at Keeneland, but the findings seem to be startling.

Concerning horses yet to break their maidens, I've charted many half mile breezes on dirt during training and heart rate recoveries are typically around 80%. Heart rate recovery is defined as how closely the profile hits 120bpm and 80bpm and 2 and 5 min post breeze. 

However, I see the same HR recovery profile for maidens on polytrack at 6 furlongs! What that tells me is horses going over the polytrack are stressed as much as 50% less than going on dirt.

Anecdotally, it seems west coast based trainers do more 6F and longer breezes compared to east coast trainers. But with the intro of more polytrack training tracks to the KY area, local trainers might need to consider lengthening their breeze sesssions in order to get the same conditioning effect.