A question for Walt: So how come horses aren’t getting faster?

Cannonade charging home, 1974

Because I have fond memories of how I spent the afternoon of the Kentucky Derby in 1974 (not necessarily much of the race itself, as I was visiting a girlfriend at Skidmore and, while the race was playing in the background …), I thought to look up who won that year. Turns out it was Cannonade, Angel Codero on top (don’t know how that phrase just popped up).

But I digress. Point is, while Cannonade’s winning time was a slow 2:04, and the fastest time was Secretariat’s 1: 59 the year before, this chart shows that this race is consistently won by horses running it in 2:01 to 2:03. Since track conditions can vary each year, it seems to me that unlike human runners, these guys aren’t getting any faster – remember the “four-minute-mile” and the assumption that no one could ever accomplish it?

Why is that? Just wondering. Walt, as the father of four (five?) fillies, I’m sure you have the answer.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “A question for Walt: So how come horses aren’t getting faster?

  1. anon

    the deeper question is how long did it take you to finish in 1974…. and now??

  2. Cobra

    Were Catherine the Great a Derby entry’s trainer, a record time would certainly be set.

  3. Walt

    Dude –
    That is an excellent question, and I am pleased to see you pondering something besides the price of dirt. First off, Males – that would be the boy horses, Dude, are faster that the Filly’s, who are the girl horses. I am not being sexist, it is just a fact. It would be sexist if I said men are funnier than woman. Even though they are. I know, it makes no sense to me either why people have a problem with facts.
    Anyhows, my five filly’s were never “fast” I am proud to say. Even though I had a line of 14 year old teen boys chasing them around the yard!!
    So the answer to your question is horses have been bred for speed for quite a long time. Hence they have achieved peak speed a while ago. Plus when they race, they usually just race to beat whoever they are running against, and are not out to set records. Now Secretariat. He was different. A once in a lifetime horse. He was different. Like you, but in a good way!!
    Put your money an “I’ll Have Another”. Because that is what I am going to do!!
    Your Pal,
    Walt

  4. anon

    it’s all about breeding:
    “racehorses are bred from only six percent of the total stock, so the small gene pool, developed over the course of many generations, doesn’t lend itself to significant further change. As Stanford biologist Mark Denny writes in his superb 2008 study on the subject, “Despite intensive programs to breed faster thoroughbreds … despite increasing populations from which to choose exceptional individuals, and despite the use of any undetected performance-enhancing drugs, race speeds in these animals have not increased in the last 40–60 years”.

  5. Walt

    Dude –
    So “I’ll Have Another” won. Did you listen to me you frigging loser?
    Of course not. When are you going to learn Uncle Walt is always right?
    You load.
    Your Pal,
    Walt

  6. I know you don’t Tweet but there’s a fun hashtag game going on now #ObamaDerbyNames: here are a few:
    No Child Left a Dime
    Executive Disorder
    57 States
    Dreams of My failure
    On Your Marx
    No Winner Is fair. Everyone Gets Roses
    When I Killed Osama
    Going Nowhere fast

    It’s a good laugh.

  7. More:
    Proletariat
    Julia’s Promise
    Empty Dream
    Dependent Julia
    Gone in November
    If I had A Son, He’s Look Just Like Bodemeister