Behind the Scenes: The Unique Conditioning of a Top Turf Sprinter
Australian sprinters currently hold 2 of the top spots in the Timeform Overall Top Ten horses in the world rankings with Black Caviar at 1 and Hay List at 6.
The rest of the list is dominated by European middle distance wonders such as So You Think (NZ), Frankel (GB), and Workforce (GB). This blog has pontificated on what the Euros do conditioning-wise to put such remarkable stamina into their charges: spending 1+ hour per horse per morning, lots of long slow distance hacking, speedwork 2x per week in interval fashion uphill on the grounds at Newmarket, etc.
But now, we also have a rare look at a specific conditioning session for a top Australian sprinter of yesteryear: Scenic Blast. (click to enlarge)
Thanks to our colleagues at www.etrakka.com we enjoy the above HR/GPS chart visualizing an exercise bout from Scenic Blast at the tail end of 2008, roughly 80 days before his triumph in the 6F Newmarket Handicap that earned well-deserved worldwide accolades.
This is not a stamina builder, this is not a typical American 5F in :58 move, this is a workout designed to maximize one aspect of equine performance: neuromuscular coordination at higher than race speeds. As a horse, or human for that matter, gets experience at faster-than-competition paces, it makes those race speeds easier to achieve and maintain. Simply put, you get faster by training faster. Leave the endurance sessions for another day. This workout trains one thing: foot/eye/brain coordination and the resulting firing/relaxing of locomotor muscles to produce blazing speed. Contrary to popular belief, if done correctly a workout such as this maximizes soundness, but please note that ‘done correctly’ involves more monitoring than via mere stopwatch, you need an Etrakka like device to gauge physiological responses to the overall conditioning program – precisely what this blog/site is dedicated towards integrating into equine conditioning regimens worldwide.
A 10sec furlong in the middle of a racing campaign, are you insane? Many of our American 2yo in training do this at the breeze-up sales (most often over dirt) only once in their lifetimes in order to draw top hammer prices; and many believe that this demanding practice often leads to a lifetime of soundness issues and/or less than peak performances. You can rest assured Scenic Blast did not do this in his formative juvenile years – he was 5 at the time of this chart.
So, surely running at 45mph on a regular basis leads to breakdowns, right? Not so in Australia: https://thoroedge.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/its-not-the-surface-stupid-us-turf-runners-300-more-likely-to-breakdown/ Australian turf runners are 3x sounder than their American turf counterparts, and also faster according to Timeform. Of course, we blow their doors off on dirt – our home court advantage.
Sadly enough we know how this story ends. Scenic Blast eventually came to California, never trained like this again, and flamed out rather quickly versus less than stellar competition.
In conclusion: has implementing regular ‘leg speed’ workouts of 10sec eighths in Australia contributed to the Aussie dominance of the turf sprinter ranks worldwide? Or, is it just a coincidence? Maybe Scenic Blast is the only one to ever do this type of work in the middle of a championship campaign – or perhaps all Australian conditioners adopt a ‘me too’ approach after seeing success, just as many American trainers mimic the 4F works every 7 days of our big name trainers. Either way, it seems like ultra fast speedwork leads to ultra fast horses who tend to be quite sound when compared to others in the world who fail to practice this method. At the very least, American synthetic sprinters would do well to knock off some 10 sec furlongs over that forgiving surface, maybe then we’d crack some of the world rankings.
A few simple rules before a ‘leg speed’ workout of this type is to be attempted:
- Horse must be sound
- Workout is only focused on short duration/high speed. This ensures no fatigue at the end of the workout which ensures there is enough energy to get there (top speed). And a good warm up.
- A light well balanced rider that ensures perfect balance and acceleration.
- A graduated exposure to high speed. Once per fortnight is all that is needed and after about 5 goes top speed will increase by about 1.5ks (my gut feel if nothing else interrupts training along the way)
- A perfect surface
- That the horse goes into the workout after all previous stress workouts are fully recovered from. You don’t do this 2 days after a 1000 in 58.