Debate on present-day racehorses: Leimbach vs. Morris

3 thoughts on “Debate on present-day racehorses: Leimbach vs. Morris”

  1. Jay and Tony are largely correct with their perspective – although I’d place the peaking of the breed a bit later. I’d also say the key difference with the U.S. invaders into Europe (most grandchildren of European horses), is that they had a touch more tactical speed.

    However……the bit that generally gets missed is while we’d all agree that the best horses have reached the peak of development (nothing surprising in that – with humans the same thing is starting to happen, as only one person has run faster over 800m. – by a fraction – than Sebastian Coe about 25 years ago), the ordinary or average horse has carried on improving.

    For example I’ve got a riding horse who ran seven furlongs in 1:22. and change, which would have put a scare into virtually anything 30 or 40 years ago, but now sufficed to make him a $50,000 claiming/NY 1x horse.

    The result of the diminished gap between the best and the rest is an increased intensity of competition. It may have less impact on turf or all-weather, where cruise and kick is the rule, but as far as the U.S. dirt horse is concerned, it means that any given race is much harder than 40 or 50 years ago. Believe me, if Bold Ruler had to run through a modern classic preparation, he would not want to tune up with a race between the classics. Any good allowance horse would push him hard enough that he wouldn’t want to repeat the effort a week later.

    For the same reason, you don’t see world-class athletes knock themselves out against each other in the lead up to the Olympics or World Championships.

    A very good old time horseman – who I expected to say “the don’t make them like they used to” – said that even Dr. Fager (my all time favourite U.S. horse) would not be able to run the opposition into the ground these days, in the way he did back in the 60’s.

    This compression of the breed was always going to come about, it’s just that we are “privileged” to witness the watershed.

    Believe me, had Bold Ruler had to run against modern horses in classic trials, he wouldn’t be wanting to repeat the effort a week later either

  2. I posted a similar response on Frank’s site earlier today:

    sidfernando // June 10, 2009 at 3:00 pm | Reply

    the record times that Leimbach refers to — at distances of a mile and up — are not going to be affected as much, because we’ve bred “shorter” horses over the last 30 years. this weekend, fabulous strike ran 6 furlongs in 1:07 4/5 and munnings, a 3-year-old, ran 7 furlongs in 1:20.63. in general, i believe horses as a group are faster than they were as a group during the periods leimbach writes about — only at shorter distances. because they compete against faster horses on a more regular basis, they don’t have the ability to recover as quickly and make as many starts. also, as in baseball, the obvious use of drugs — steroids and broncho dialators and blood thickeners (for better oxygen in transmission) in racing — plus breeding for the commercial markets — meaning speed and early maturity — have created horses that in general are not as suited for the classics; therefore, when leimbach compares recent classic winners to past classic winners, the recent horses may not measure up. however, were he to compare sub-milers of today to the past, he’d probably find that the recent group is better and faster.

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