London, June 24 (IANS) Contradicting previous results, a study from the University of Exeter in Britain has found that racehorses are getting quicker.
It had appeared that racehorses’ speeds were not improving and previous studies concluded that thoroughbred racehorses may have reached the limits of their abilities.
“There has been a general consensus over the last 30 years that horse speeds appeared to be stagnating,” said Patrick Sharman from University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.
“Our study shows that this is not the case and by using a much larger data set than previously analysed, we have revealed that horses have been getting faster,” Sharman said.
The researchers analysed a large data set of racing records that gave a detailed overview of thoroughbred performance at the elite level since the mid-1800s and at both the elite level and in the racehorses as a whole since 1997.
The full data set of 616,084 race times run by 70,388 horses showed that race winning speeds have improved greatly since 1850, and increases in speed have been greatest in shorter distance races.
“Interestingly, both the historical and current rate of improvement is greatest over sprint distances. The challenge now is to find out whether this pattern of improvement has a genetic basis,” Sharman said.
The study was published in the journal Biology Letters.