Friday, March 26, 2010

Ahmed Zayat: behind the scenes of a world class operation

From a magnificent piece in today's DRF:

"Zayat loves to gamble. But in selecting and preparing his Thoroughbreds, he tries to hedge his bets by using as much science as he can in identifying runners. A hands-on owner, he applies analytical technology to his horses' early training, calling it "an added tool and an edge in a guessing game."

"We film every breeze, even on the farm, and try to analyze nanoseconds," he said. "Some people say it's corny, wacky-wacky stuff, but, for example, we do heart measurements, too. It's all about the amount of oxygen you're pumping out, and if you have a better heart function, you're better able to carry speed at a higher distance and get a classic horse."


Wonderful to hear a top performing owner willing to do whatever it takes (legally) to get an edge on the competiton. One point of clarity however; it's not ALL about the oxygen capacity or VO2 max, but it's a huge factor.

One human study looked at VO2max: and was suprised to find out the athlete with the highest scores didn't always win. That's when the concept of Running Efficiency came out. Namely, the largest oxygen capacity is nice, but only if you move in a way to maximize that fuel. So these large heart sizes touted at sales won't always predict racing performance, but it's a start.

Lance Armstrong didn't miraculously improve his VO2 max after cancer, but he did increase his power/efficiency by a whopping 8%. He did this by increasing pedalling cadence - what we would call foot turnover in a horse. Stride length is meaningless if turnover is low. You can't teach a horse to have faster turnover, but you can count strides in a furlong to see who has higher values and act accordingly.

Anyway, you can collect some HR data without any equipment.
Just head to the barn, stand with your horse for a few minutes until he is calm, place your hand on his heart (behind the left front leg) and count beats for 15 seconds. Multiply by 4 and you have bpm.

Resting HR should be from 25-40bpm. Do this for 5 days and find out what is normal, or baseline, for your horse. Then check every morning, if that number is ever 10% higher - that can be a very early sign of illness, injury, or infection.

P.S. Thanks to the folks at Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance,, for accepting me as a new member this week - I am truly honored to be associated with such a great group.


  1. How often and how is temperature taken on a thoroughbred racehorse? Do you monitor this variable? Elevated temperature can also be a indication that something is amiss health-wise.

    Have you heard anything about PRESVIS getting an extended vet check-up in Dubai this week?

  2. Temp is usually taken every day also. I don't take much resting HR values myself, because I take walking and trotting values - which are higher and easier to spot irregularities. But without a monitor, resting HR i easy to take.

    I heard Vision D Etat has some extra vet attention this week....

  3. Bill,

    Welcome to the TBA. I find your subject very interesting and a nice compliment to the Alliance's other writers.

    The Turk