Tuesday, February 12, 2008

'Averageness' key to great racehorses

'Averageness' key to great racehorses
By Helen Briggs
BBC News science reporter

Science is cracking some of the secrets of equine success.

The 18th Century horse Eclipse was a legendary figure in horse racing, contributing to the
bloodlines of 80% of modern thoroughbreds.
Yet, despite his unbeaten record, Eclipse, the "father of modern racehorses" was perfectly average in the leg department.
That is the verdict of scientists at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), who have reconstructed one of the horse's legs to look at what made him a winner.
It appears that Eclipse's body shape and movement were in the middle of the normal range, giving him the perfect conformation for running.
"To be average is good from the point of view of a racehorse," Dr Alan Wilson of the RVC told the BBC News website.
"From the point of view of his bones, he's right in the middle of what would prove typical for a racehorse."

Winning recipe
Eclipse was born in 1764, the year of a solar eclipse. He easily outclassed other racehorses, winning 18 races before being retired to stud, chiefly because nobody wanted to pit their horses against him.
He sired three Derby winners and found his way into the bloodlines of a great many modern thoroughbreds.
The horse was dissected after his death and his skeleton has been on show for many years at the National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket.
Dr Wilson and graduate student Renate Weller used the skeleton to try to work out the secret of his success.
Using portraits of Eclipse and contemporary accounts of the horse running, they reconstructed one of his legs and compared it with the shape and structure of modern horses.
They then analysed his skeleton and developed computer models of horse movement.
They found that Eclipse was perfectly average when it came to the shape and morphology of his leg bones.
It appears that hundreds of years of modern breeding have hardly changed the "recipe" for a winning racehorse.

Portrait legacy
Dr Wilson said it was fascinating to use old skeletons as a reservoir of information to see how perceptions have changed over the years for how people think a racehorse should look.
"If you look at a Stubbs painting, it doesn't look much like a modern racehorse," he said. "But it's our perception that's changed and not the horses."
Old paintings might not provide an accurate record, he said, because they were painted to impress the owner and probably exaggerated certain features of the horse.
So, if Eclipse's bone structure was not exceptional, what made him the winner he was?
His large heart and powerful lungs - seen at dissection - would have played a role. Another attribute that gave certain horses an edge over the opposition was their "spirit" or "will to win", said Dr Wilson.
Further answers may lie with planned DNA studies of Eclipse. Scientists hope to extract DNA from the animal's bones, hooves and teeth to look at his genetic recipe.
Until then, racing enthusiasts may have to rely on the old skills of weighing up a horse's form and fitness.
But this latest study does show, perhaps, that there is an element of truth to the old adage that some punters can pick a winner simply by looking at a horse.

Published: 2006/03/17 09:58:35


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Kentucky Colonel Christopher Crocker

We are pleased to announce that in 2007, Christopher Crocker has been commissioned a Kentucky Colonel by the Great State of Kentucky and Governor Ernie Fletcher. Congratulations Colonel Christopher Crocker! Christopher is the Trainer of Crocker Racing Stable.

Crocker is also known for developing the only comprehensive thoroughbred horse racing partnership that focuses on maximizing profits and minimizing risk. The program implements strategy and cost effective racing practices with no monthly training and maintenance fees. Nowhere else will you find a client friendly program that requires a minimal investment so that everyone has the opportunity to own race horses. Nowhere will you know exactly what you have invested in. All other programs hide cost and generate huge profits by requiring ridiculous maintenance fees or large upfront resales of cheep horses, for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to the unsuspecting buyers. Crocker Racing Stable has the only partnership program that will refund, yes that's right, refund money not spent. With Crocker Racing Stable's Thoroughbred Horse Racing Partnership, you will known exactly where every dime of your investment goes.

Learn how you can get in on this unique program with little investment. No other program offers such a low risk, honest program to the public. We challenge you to find one.

- Crocker Racing Stable Inc. and Thoroughbred Horse Racing Partnerships.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Basic Training Principals of Thoroughbred Sprints and Routes.

Sprinting and distances of 6 furlongs or more, require completely different training methods. A sprinter relies less on oxygen, where as a distance horse relies greatly on oxygen. You must understand how basic physiology and biochemistry work in race horses. I'll explain topics such as ADP, ATP resynthesis, anaerobic metabolism and aerobic metabolism in further detail in future articles.

With young horses, six furlongs can be considered a distance whereas the 1/2 mile to 4 1/2 furlong races would be a sprint. An older horse should be able to sprint 5 furlongs without tiring. Depending on the class of the horse, 5 1/2 furlongs may just be what does him in if he has run at his top speed. Top speed typically can only be maintained for 3-4 furlongs. You must find your horse's optimum cruising speed to fight high lactate levels, which results in muscular fatigue.

In a distance race where class is a big factor and a good, smart rider is a must, the horse most likely will never run at his maximum speed potential, and if he does, he is sure to tire before 5 furlongs. Gradually increase your young horse's race distances until you can evaluate his 6 furlong racing performance. I like to use this distance as an indication of potential and future performance. If he finishes strong on a fast pace, consider his stamina and stride efficiency and stretch him out longer distances in upcoming races. Of course you may find that 6f is his optimum performing distance.

"Slow and steady" wins the race in a 7 or more furlong race. By "slow", I mean relative to that horse's top speed. Although on today's faster tracks, such as the Tapeta track developed by Michael Dickinson, horses can maintain higher speeds for longer distances. A horse that needs to run up front must make sure he has the field slowed down to his pace in hopes that at the top of the stretch, the others just couldn't keep up or that your pace setter has a move left for the final stretch run. Much energy is wasted in a horse that fights the jockey and runs too fast, too early.

You may notice a lot of horses with respiratory problems end up sprinting great early in their race and hitting a wall around a half mile. Horses do not need oxygen to sprint top speed, but they do need O2 to maintain sub maximal speed. The distance at this point he can run without requiring oxygen during the race depends on his conformation and genetics.

A distance horse is trained aerobically to optimize the maximum oxygen uptake rate for an effective cruising speed. When aerobic resources are depleted, anaerobic metabolism takes over to fuel the oxygen depleted muscles. As humans need to learn breathing properly when swimming, running, or biking, horses must efficiently breath as well for distances. A well trained, calm horse will run effortlessly and without anxiety. This is a huge factor in pacing a race and finishing strong at the wire. Some horses will run 70% pace and 30% max, 80%/20% or some may even run 50%/50%. This depends on the distance and class of the race and a range of other factors.

Muscle type is a factor as well. You have three types of muscle tissue in a race horse. Fast Twitch Type 1, Fast Twitch Type 2 and Slow Twitch muscles make up your equine athlete. FT1 uses oxygen very fast and does not respond well to high lactate levels. FT2 is the most efficient fast twitch muscle and can sustain speeds longer because of better lactate buffering properties. Slow twitch muscle tissue uses oxygen most efficiently and readily uses glucose from resynthesized lactate from it's own liver as a sustaining fuel source. Train your horse's muscles specifically to the distances they are running. The shorter the race distances, the more you work on 3-4f sprints to maximize the fast twitch muscles. You should sprint your horse more than once a week at 3-4f. The longer the race, the more 2 minute miles and cardiovascular fitness should be practiced. Weekly workouts of 5-6 furlongs are usually best mixed with long slow gallops and jogging. Older, running and fit horses do not need to work on a weekly basis once they are finishing well in their class. Distance horses of a mile or more, do not need to focus on running high speed sprints because at this point, FT1 muscle tissues do not play a role and tuning this muscle fiber may be counter productive. You will not see a 1 1/4 mile horse win if he has run at his top speed in any point of the race. Bullet speed in the morning only proves efficiency of stride, great confirmation and breeding. Your job with this horse is to tap into this talent by focusing on endurance at sub maximal speeds to create a long lasting healthy career in route races.

After finding your horse's own style, limitations and class of competition, you need to train accordingly. All horses need to be trained as individual athletes and should not be stress by making them do more than they are physically capable of. The principles I have discussed are a general guideline and should be further studied to ensure effectiveness and safety in your training regiment. By no means this is the rule for every horse, but these basic principles can be applied to all classes of horses. You must tailor a program for each individual horse.

- Christopher Crocker

Learn more about Thoroughbred Horse Racing Partnerships

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Go Cali!

Once again, I feel I must express my thoughts regarding drug test in the sport of Thoroughbred Horse Racing.

I am all for California race tracks to start drug testing in the barns during training hours. This will certainly bring the playing field closer to even. This means that random drug testing can be administered to see if a trainer is using performance enhancing drugs to train his horses. The benefit of training these horses on medication, allows them work harder, longer, faster, in the morning and will condition the horse faster and stronger so when it is time to race, he has an advantage whether using these drugs on race day or not.

The argument against this practice is that... "What if a horse is in need of antibiotics or has a sprain, disease, or other health disorder that needs legitimate treatment?" Navicular disease, where isoxsuprine (a common treatment) is used to treat the horses, is a valid use. The use of isoxsuprine for performance enhancement is common and we know that the number of horses that are on it do not have navicular disease.

All this said, I hope a system can be implemented for random substance testing in the morning. I will be more than happy to help create this program. I feel if the vets are on board and the administration of drugs are logged and reported to the racing commission, then that would be a great start. The D.V.M. should have to write an actual prescription as the M.D. does for us human kind. This would make the veterinarian responsible for the health of the animal and his own reputation. Trainers are not allowed to have needles in the barn and have to pay serious consequences if they are caught. This rule needs to be enforced more often and barn checks with stiff penalties will help stop this practice.

Thoroughbred horse racing is the only professional sport that allows anabolic steroids. Just an observation. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Lets be kinder to our horse athletes and let them run how they were intended by nature. Maybe the real trainers will shine through. After all, one horse must win.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Barbaro loses the battle.

Barbaro loses the battle for life. Barbaro was euthenized in January of 2007 after an eight month long battle to survive the complication related to his shattered ankle. We will never know if he was truly the best three year old of 2006. What we do know is that he will be one of the most remembered horses of this decade. Not necessarily because he was a Kentucky Derby winner, but also because of the public, tragic end of a champion thoroughbred race horse. He will be remembered in the history books as the Kentucky Derby winner of 2006, that is for sure. After all, "The Derby" is the most prestigious, sought out race in the United States.

Does this hurt the sport of horse racing, does it help or does it change anything? Well that depends on who you talk to and everyone has there own perspective. My thoughts as a thoroughbred trainer, nothing has changed. In my profession, Barbaro touch our hearts. We all want a Barbaro in our barn. If a trainer in this business is not in awe of such a great athletic display by this horse, then he doesn't love the sport. You have to respect the horses power and show of class, whether you trained him or not. Sure, the best horse does not always win the Kentucky Derby, but he was the best that day and that's what counts. But we see racing everyday and horses break down on occasion. Unfortunately it is part of the sport, as injuries occur in human sports as well. It hurts to see an animal end his career whether a stakes winner or a cheap claimer.

As for the average spectator, who is far removed from the backside of the race track, opinions may differ. Some will say horse racing is cruel, period. Some say it was inhumane to keep the horse alive to suffer for eight months for a chance at a breeding syndication. Some will just understand that it was a just an unfortunate tragedy. As far as cruel goes, these equine athletes are of the best taken care of of any pet or sport animal. They are groomed daily and kept under a blanket when necessary. They are fed very nutritious diets. They are exercised. Their legs are massaged and rubbed down with liniment oils. Their feet are cleaned daily. Basically all trainers know, a happy, fit, sound, nourished horse will perform at their best. Much money is invested in these horses, so why would they not be cared for and protected so well? As far as keeping him alive, the owners have respect for their champion thoroughbred and I am sure they feel like he is part of the family. The vets are in practice because they love animals. Everything was done to keep this horse comfortable and pain free through the whole ordeal. They were just simply trying to save this beautiful animal's life. After all, he earned more than 2.2 million dollars and won 4 out of his 5 starts. He deserved every chance he could get at saving his life. Most who know about horse racing, understand this was an unforeseen injury that just happened to occur to the most famous horse, at the time, in front of millions of spectators.

So will this change the industry of thoroughbred horse racing? In my professional opinion, probably not. As soon as another Triple Crown winner comes around, Barbaro will fade as a tragedy and primarily be remembered as the Kentucky Derby winner of 2006.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Owning a horse is serious business, Don't gamble him away.

Trainers and owners can experience failure resulting from greed like the gambler placing his bets at the window. The owner must approach the racing from a business perspective. The gambler that turns into an owner has a hard time making the transition and will surely lose if he does not realize that a change in strategy must be made. Trainers must know what they have in the barn and what each animal is capable of. If a trainer continues to stretch the horse beyond it's capabilities, then the horse may sour and actually will learn to lose. A horse that continues to pass the wire behind horses without consequence will most likely learn that this is what he is supposed to do. Remember, he does not know what winning is. He does not know the benefits of winning like we do. He knows he will get the same feed and a few days off like after every race before. A horse needs to learn, early in his career, the feeling of victory. He may sense that the attitude around him is different after a win. You will notice sometimes that a stakes horse may have been running in claiming races early on. He may have needed those softer races to learn. Some champions just know to run and enjoy passing his rivals. A good trainer will ensure that the horse is ready for the first race and has been trained to pass or not to be passed. Don't break a horses heart by letting him get passed or trail the field over and over. Give him a shot at victory. It does not matter how much training or experience I put in, I will never beat Carl Lewis in a foot race. So don't expect your race horse to beat Secretariat. The saying, "Champions are born, not made", is not entirely true because you can ruin a naturally born champion. He must be trained as well. Sure, he was born to run, but he has to break out of the gate with a rider and make left turns. He wasn't born knowing that yet. Anyway, it's the trainers job to win races at a competitive level, not to gamble on the horse having the best day of his life while all the others are having the worst. Realize your horse's worth and not what you want him to be worth or you will fail most every time.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Slots in Maryland. Let's get it done!

Why is Maryland dragging on the inevitable by not introducing slots. Delaware, West Virginia and Pennsylvania has made the move to add the one arm bandits to their thoroughbred race tracks. Maryland horse racing is and will continue to suffer while the surrounding states thrive if something is not done soon.

Virginia will not see slots in our lifetime and horse racing will always be a week industry with light interest and cheap racing. When Maryland gets the slot machines, you will see the demise of Colonial Downs. Maybe a Nascar track would better suite New Kent, Virginia. Slots seem to be the answer. You hear the arguments, "not in my backyard", "not an image we want to portray". There is no end to the "why nots". Maybe it has been said already, but I believe it's about the revenue it takes away from the lottery. Ah Ha! I must admit that I am not an expert on state lottery fund allocation, but I am sure the key word there is, "State". I bet if the state got their cut of the action, then the slots would have shown up yesterday. Come on people, for real, what's the hold up?

Do you even know what you are feeding?

Don't throw your money away on feed and supplements without educating yourself on what they do and don't do. People spend millions of dollars on pretty packaging and promises of a more muscular and faster race horse. Just because there is a picture of a horse running fast on the bag, doesn't mean that it's right for your race horse. I have jokingly said, "if there is not a picture of a horse breathing fire on the bag then I don't by it.". That's my big marketing joke. This is why I am a horseman and not a comic.

Read your feed bag, which I bet most of you have no idea how to and what your are looking for, other than protein content. Protein is important, but you need to adjust the levels based on each horse's age, weight, body type, exercise, and metabolism. First of all, if you think that what you are feeding out of the bag is what your horses diet contains, then your are wrong. And yes, protein is the building block for muscles, but your are feeding a race horse not a body builder. And yes, you CAN put too much muscle on a horse unless he is pulling a plow. Bulk muscle is good for slow heavy work, not fast running.

Don't waste your time or money on the latest fad in equine sports nutrition. Stick with what you know and what is backed by some sort of scientific research. Supplements are that for a reason. They are to supplement the diet with what is lacking. Unlike drugs, they do not have extensive controlled studies to back their claims.

Not all supplements are what they seem... For example: Fat Cat is not a fat supplement, it's a protein and Carbohydrate supplement. Who knew? Unless of course you read the label. Fat is actually what the product lacks. If you added Fat Cat to the diet, thinking you were adding fat and reducing protein, then you were doing the opposite.

Most people don't take into consideration that the protein, fat and carbohydrates that the horse gets varies by the type and quantity of hay and other supplements that are fed. Your grain should actually supplement a good quality hay diet. A horse will get most of what he needs from vegetation anyway. Just read your feed label to see what vitamins and minerals are added. You pay a premium price for the added nutrition. Why spend double? So make sure before you add supplements to the grain, it doesn't already consist of it. Selenium and vitamin E are common supplements that I see horsemen add to their feeding regiment. I also see that same horsemen using a premium feed which already contains sufficient amounts of these supplements. Therefore, throwing money away by adding an excess which is just wasted because the body only absorbs a certain level and the rest is wasted. - Christopher Crocker