kottke.org posts about horse racing

Zenyatta's last raceNov 09 2010

With a record of 19-0, Zenyatta was a favorite to win the Breeders' Cup Classic. As her jockey eased her into the top of the stretch, she was dead last. Right where she wanted to be.

Her owners, Jerry and Ann Moss; her trainer, John Shirreffs; and for that matter anyone who had watched and loved the great racemare Zenyatta knew that the real running -- the edge-of-the-seat-drama -- really didn't start until she turned for home. Nineteen times before, Zenyatta had looked desperate and in trouble at the top of the stretch. Nineteen times before, she had found a gear to rocket past her rivals in the final strides.

So when jockey Mike Smith cornered the big girl and squared her shoulders toward the finish line in dead last, the more than 72,000 people here at Churchill Downs rose to their feet and held their breath. Zenyatta not only had 11 horses to pass, she also had a dozen or so lengths to make up.

And here's video of the race, just in case you thought that story was too good to be true.

(via big picture)

Secretariat: a tremendous machineOct 08 2010

The movie Secretariat opens today, but I think you'll agree that however good the movie is, Secretariat the horse was far better. Here's his famous Usain Bolt-like victory in the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths.

It's unbelievable how far ahead he is at the end of the race.

Horse names from The WireMay 05 2010

Some of my favorites are Prezbo, My Name is My Name, Hamsterdam, Always Boris, Fuzzy Dunlop, and Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeit. Glaring omissions? Hit Me on My Burner, Snot Boogie, and Pack o' Newports. The full list. (thx, tash & nathan)

Nurture is really kicking ass these days....Dec 20 2007

Nurture is really kicking ass these days....first the IQ thing and now this.

The offspring of expensive stallions owe their success more to how they are reared, trained and ridden than good genes, a study has found. Only 10% of a horse's lifetime winnings can be attributed to their bloodline, research in Biology Letters shows.

That suggests, a la Moneyball, that buying horses with so-so lineages and training them really well could make for a better return on investment.

The top 100 greatest beatdowns in history, mostSep 13 2007

The top 100 greatest beatdowns in history, most of them related to sports. #1 is Secretariat's 31-length victory at Belmont, the footage of which is well worth a look if you haven't seen it. That horse so totally pours it on down the stretch that it gives me goosebumps every time I watch it. (thx, david)

Do racehorses really pee like a racehorse? Yep.Jun 08 2007

Do racehorses really pee like a racehorse? Yep.

A remote-controlled mechanism to launch tiny, liquid-filledMar 27 2007

A remote-controlled mechanism to launch tiny, liquid-filled darts into the bellies of horses was found buried under the starting gate of a Hong Kong race track. "It was a device worthy of Rube Goldberg, or perhaps Wile E. Coyote."

All Thoroughbred horses born in the NorthernJan 02 2007

All Thoroughbred horses born in the Northern Hemisphere technically share the same birthday: January 1. Happy birthday, horsies!

Discussion of various animals' athletic abilities. CheetahsMay 08 2006

Discussion of various animals' athletic abilities. Cheetahs can reach a speed of 45 mph in 2 seconds (3-4 strides)! Still no convincing answer for the man vs. horse question though.

Horse versus human, who would win?May 08 2006

Saturday was a sports viewing doubleheader in our household: the Kentucky Derby followed by a lackluster Lakers vs. Suns game 7. During the basketball game, the commentators referred to the speed of the Suns' Leandro Barbosa and that plus the similarity of his name to Derby winner Barbaro's led to a discussion about which of the two would win in a race the length of the basketball court. Three of us argued that the horse would win and one argued for the human winning.

So, how fast are horses and humans? In winning the Belmont Stakes in 1973, Secretariat averaged 37.5 miles/hr over a mile and a half. World record holder Asafa Powell averaged 22.9 miles/hr in the 100 meter dash. Jesse Owens raced horses over a 100 yard distance and beat them, but only because the horses reared at the sound of the starter's pistol, giving him a sizable head-start. In 2004, in an annual race held in Wales, a chap named Huw Lobb beat a field of horses and other humans over a distance of 22-miles.

But that doesn't do much in answering the question of which would win over the short distance of a basketball court (94 feet or 28.7 meters). I searched high and low online and found little about the acceleration of either horses or humans. No doubt horses are much faster than humans, but a man is probably quicker off the line. So I put the question to you in hopes that you can answer it:

In a 94-foot race between a human sprinter and a thoroughbred race horse, who would win? Assume a standing start for both, the horse races on dirt, the man runs on the court, and both horse and man are among the fastest at their respective distances.

The Kentucky Derby is "the weirdest twoMay 05 2006

The Kentucky Derby is "the weirdest two minutes in sports". "What we get, then, is a not-very-representative sample of thoroughbreds running a far-from-typical race under far-from-typical circumstances."

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