A bit of a maths lesson (of sorts) today, dear reader, as we look at the times for three of Europeâ€™s premier middle distance contests. My good racing buddy, Rob Pacitto, who has stirred debate on these pages previously with his calls for an end to the weight for age allowance scale. And heâ€™s up to his old tricks again, this time considering race timesâ€¦
Rob is a bit of a statto, which is one of the main reasons I enjoy his company so much! In a few idle moments (!), he decided to chart the respective winning times for the Derby, King George and Prix de lâ€™Arc de Triomphe since 1951.
His findings are as interesting as they are inconclusive, but I felt they might at least stimulate some debateâ€¦ So without further ado, Iâ€™ll hand over to Rob:
I just compiled the attachedÂ chart showingÂ the winning times of the Derby, King George and Arc during the last 59 years,Â that is since the most recently established race, the King George, was first run in 1951. The vertical axis shows time in seconds.
As you will see the trend isÂ downward in all three, which is as you would expect, i.e. horses are gettingÂ faster. However, it is interesting how the downward trend for the Derby is so gentle compared to the all aged contests, where the trends are near-identical and much more significant. The reason for this difference is not immediately obvious to me...I don't know if you have a view...
Now off to do something useful with my life!!
My reply was as follows:
Thatâ€™s very interesting Rob, and Iâ€™d like to offer a couple of suggestions, none of which are based on scienceâ€¦ 😉
- The Derby may have seen the smallest deviation, due to the obvious improvement in speed of horses over time (training methods, nutrition, veterinary care, etc. improving) being counterbalanced by a trend in Britain to breed horses for speed over stamina.
- Copare that with the increasingly cosmopolitan Arc, where horses bred more stoutly (especially from Italy and Germany, as well as formerly from Ireland) have also benefited from the improvements mentioned in point 1. These two elements in combination may have conspired to reduce times over the period in question.
- The competitiveness of the latter two races (King George is 3yoâ€™s versus older horses meaning competition should be stronger; Arc is THE championship event, and therefore the most competitive) has led to times getting quicker. It may be possible to measure this by aggregating winning distances and calculating an average (the smaller the winning distance, the more competitive the race â€“ in theory at least)
- The state of the ground and track management generally. I can imagine that Longchamp may have been a good bit boggier come October in the 50â€™s than itâ€™s well drained, well groomed 2009 incarnation, meaning that the times would improve commensurately.
Like I say, theyâ€™re only theories and thereâ€™s no science behind them, but heyâ€¦ makes for interesting enough conjectureâ€¦!
So that's as far as we got (not very!), and maybe you have a view on this interesting (if ultimately somewhat pointless!) academic debate...
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment, and let us all know...