Emma Berry, the bloodstock editor at Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder in the UK, tweeted a link yesterday to a very interesting online piece dated August 31, 2011, by James Willoughby, titled, “The breed stays further, faster.” (Her husband, John Berry, published an equally interesting piece yesterday on Thoroughbred Internet on the specialist sprint sire Paris House that relates to James’ piece.)
James addresses the time-honored lament in the UK–and it’s uttered here, too–that the breed is losing stamina to the detriment of speed, but he’ll have nothing of it, as the title to his piece suggests. Indeed, he examines the times for the 12-furlong Derby from 1950 to the present and finds that the breed is faster now than before in the UK.
His argument may hold water on his side of the pond, but here things are a little different. When Graded races first started in the US in the early 1970s, two races were given Grade 1 status at 1 3/4 miles or beyond: the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at two miles on dirt and the Grade 1 San Juan Capistrano at one and three-quarter miles on turf. At around the same time—and can you believe this?!—there were no Grade 1 races at six furlongs, and only one at seven furlongs—the Vosburgh, later in early 1980s. Now, however, there are no Grade 1 races at those extreme distances, but there are several at six furlongs, with most on dirt in the eight-to-nine furlong range. That’s a cultural shift in the sport from before and quite different to the UK racing scheme that features Group 1 races for older horses from five furlongs to the two and a half miles of the Ascot Gold Cup—fixtures that haven’t changed in distances in decades or more.
Below are comments by me to Emma about James’ piece on Twitter yesterday. Mine are addressed to @OwnerBreeder, the Twitter handle for the magazine (I have combined some tweets together as Twitter only allows 140-character blasts at a time; also,I left them with the original punctuation and spelling errors.). Likewise, comments to me are addressed at @sidfernando: