You Get What You Train For

It may seem obvious, but it’s amazing how often this simple tenet is overlooked. If you’re training a staying horse to run distance races, fast work should tend to focus on longer gallops. The fast work of a sprinter should be shorter, faster works.

The problem with this approach is that you literally get what you train for. By concentrating too much on longer, slower gallops, you tend to end up with a slow horse. Too much focus on half mile breezes will result in a horse that goes fast for a while, but that may not be able to finish off it’s races.

The answer is a combination of the two. Author Tom Ivers used to talk about a “tapered series” of gallops, whereby, targeting a 1200m race, you might first work over a mile, then three days later work a good strong 1200m, then three days after that work a “fluffy” 5/8 – not too hard – then go racing. With this sort of work, you develop the ability of the horse to stay, without compromising too much on speed.

I can’t recommend Tom Ivers’ books strongly enough – particularly The Fit Racehorse II (see my review here), and The Complete Guide To Claiming Thoroughbreds. The Complete Guide focuses on claiming races in America, but the training principles can be applied anywhere.

RSPCA On The Wrong Track

In Australia, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been making a fuss about jockeys over-using the whip during races.

To call jockeys who are upset about the new whip rules “rednecks” reflects the ignorance of the RSPCA in relation to this issue.

The new padded whips have been compared with “feather dusters”; they clearly do not hurt a horse, and yet the RSPCA maintains that the animal suffers unnecessarily.  The integrity of racing is at stake here.  Owners and trainers need to be sure that their horse has every opportunity to win the race, and the use of the whip helps to ensure this.

More importantly, punters need to be certain that every horse is racing on its merits.  Gallops racing is preferred over greyhound racing because there is a human influence during the running of the race; whilst a greyhound may opt for a lazy day, a jockey can maintain a horse’s focus with the gentle encouragement of a cushioned whip.

The RSPCA would do well to mobilise its energy and resources towards addressing real issues of concern, cases in which animals are truly suffering unnecessarily.  The organisation is on the wrong track completely in its arguments against the use of the whip in racing.