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.
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.
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)
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.
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.