Monthly Archives: November 2012

Thoroughbred Conditioning and the Bathtub Analogy

Think of your thoroughbred as having millions of tiny bathtubs in each of his muscles. Inside this bathtub is where lactic acid accumulates during exercise. The floor outside of the bathtub can serve as the muscles themselves. Analogy-time:

When you begin exercise, the faucet is turned on and the tub begins to fill with lactic acid. The drain in the bottom is open – constantly removing lactic acid from the tub – some is being neutralized, and some is being recycled to provide energy. Both good things, as science is finally starting to recognize that lactic acid by itself is not all bad.

If the intensity of exercise is kept low, the drain is able to remove most of the lactic acid filling the tub, as the faucet itself is not turned on full blast just yet, but more of a dripping is taking place. Think a jog or slow canter for most sound horses. But that is not interesting, what takes place as exercise intensity increases is where the magic happens.

Let’s pick up the pace for our fictional racehorse, who we’ll anoint a stakes quality athlete, not graded stakes, but a step above the allowance level. As he approaches the 2:00 minute lick/15sec to the furlong speed barrier, that faucet starts to increase its flow rate – filling up the tub quicker than the drain can reduce the rising level of lactic acid. As he rounds the final turn and is allowed to pick up the speed a bit down the stretch this morning, he approaches the 12-13sec/furlong barrier, and the lactic acid level soon overwhelms the tub and spills onto the floor of the bathroom, bathing the muscles in a highly acidic environment. Depending upon his anaerobic fitness, fatigue sets in soon thereafter – and the stride becomes shortened.

The bigger the bathtub, the bigger the drain – the longer our horse can stave off fatigue due to lactic acid accumulation and protect the muscles from the flood of hydrogen ions that interfere with muscular contraction and athletic performance.

So how do you turn a tiny apartment bathtub into a big 8 person jacuzzi?

Simple. You exercise at the intensity that keeps that tub nearly full of lactic acid, but not so fast that the spillover occurs. The body’s natural response in this scenario is to increase the size of the bathtub in question, as well as increasing the size of the drain to neutralize/remove lactate. This takes place just before OBLA – or the onset of blood lactate accumulation. For most horses, this takes place around 85% of the maximal heart rate, or 85% of the aerobic capacity. It is this intensity of effort that generally leads to a blood lactate level of 4mmol in the bloodstream – any greater metabolic effort and lactic acid begins to accumulate exponentially.

So, what a trainer does is find out the pace his horse can hold with a working heart rate at 85% of max, or 85% of the highest HR during a 4F breeze. Most horses will max, on average, at 230bpm – making that 85% number a nice even 200 beats per minute. But the work is not done. Then one must deduce the speed/pace that elicits that intensity, which I term V200 – or velocity at 200bpm.

For our stakes level theoretical horse above, that pace will be close to 2:00 min/mile, or 15sec/furlong.

A young 2yo months away from seeing the races?
2:45 to the mile, or 20-21sec per furlong.

A $25k claimer?
Typically closer to 2:20 to the mile, or 17.5sec/furlong.

A Grade 1 superstar?
Experience tells me he can do a mile in 1:45 or so, roughly 13sec/furlong, keeping his HR at 85% of max, and his blood lactate just under 4mmol.

This V200 pace gives you the most bang for your buck on the so-called ‘slow’ or ‘off’ days, generally the 3-4 days a week an actively campaigning horse sees the track outside of speedwork/breezes. Please note above, this pace increases with physiological ability, but it is the horseman’s job to determine psychological capacity – a precocious 2yo may have G1 ability at a very early age, but is not yet mentally mature enough to push the 2min/mile pace just yet, for instance.


I am Thankful for Donnaguska and the Hong Kong Racing Form

Donnaguska, one of the first horses I ever attached to a HR/GPS device back in late 2008, with one of the greatest stretch runs in thoroughbred history, garnering nearly 200,000 Youtube hits for an otherwise pedestrian-paced Maiden victory at Hawthorne Park outside of Chicago. Dead last at the eighth pole, but wins by 3 after a mad dash lasting all of 8 seconds.

For those who are impatient like myself, here is a viewer’s guide:

2:16 – enters frame for the first time, dead dog last by 20+ lengths coming off the final turn
2:32 – still last midway down stretch, swerves out and begins move
2:40 – has passed all 7 horses to take lead, wins by a few lengths
2:48 – moves 8 lengths clear during gallop out

At the time she was training outside of Louisville at High Pointe Training Center,, a beautiful facility in the middle of what had been planned as a collection of world-class Arabian farms. Prior to building their own training center at the farm in Versailles, WinStar kept all their upcoming 2yo here amongst the turnout paddocks, 1 mile dirt training track, and Polytrack coated uphill gallops.

(Funny aside: once we had a crippling ice storm that felled thousands of trees and killed the electricity to the area for a few days. The training surfaces were good to go, but no one could train because the electric walking wheels were not operational and, relying on these for years, no trainers had any hot walkers in their employ, only grooms.)

If I remember correctly, just a few days before shipping to HAW, Donnaguska broke loose from her handler and galloped full speed for about a mile amongst the barns and open fields – scaring everyone nearly half to death. Talk about a spleen dumping workout! After checking out OK, she threw the above effort a short while later.

Since then she became a typical hard knocker for trainer Joe Woodard, making a few dozen starts and garnering nearly $100k in lifetime earnings. Owner Billy Hays retires all of his horses to a local farm near Shelbyville, KY – where Donnaguska can soon look forward to a long, pleasant retirement (and hopefully a few babies).


On to the BRILLIANT daily racing form from the Hong Kong Jockey Club (click to enlarge):

Amazing. Unbelievable. Check out the current version here:

Now I don’t know what everything means, but I have circled in red the areas I’d like to address. First off, I understand the entire racing structure in HK is quite different than the rest of the world, with a single governing body in charge of nearly everyone – from the grooms to the trainers to the owners. Of course, this is a no raceday medication district as well. What I want to focus on is their version of the DRF and the ample information it provides about the horse’s current level of fitness.

Let’s start with the single piece of bad news: it seems you only get past performance data on the last 6 runs of a horse’s career. You must click on the FORM LINE REPORT tab in order to access the specific race details such as weight carried, post position, time, lengths ahead/behind, and off odds. All else besides this aspect is truly revolutionary compared to the info offered here in the US.


Right there on the main page you can get an up-to-date measure of the horse’s weight. Compare/contrast prior to the last 6 runs to determine if a horse is rounding into shape, or perhaps a bit past his prime. Many trainers around the world weigh horses daily and use the data to influence training/feeding patterns. Here in HK the bettors get the same access. Every individual horse has his/her ideal racing weight that leads to a superior power to weight ratio. Each trainer SHOULD know this number, but 90% of US trainers have never used a scale. Here’s a hint: most horses are too heavy a great amount of the time.

Speaking of bodyweight, here is a great study from KER showing how smaller horses start earlier, remain sounder, and generally earn more than heavier ones:


Click this tab and you are taken to a report much like this one:

5 SECRET OF WINNING 03/06/2010 Lame right fore: stress fracture of third carpal bone.
    15/09/2010 Substantial mucopus in the trachea after racing.  
    19/10/2010 Sore and lame right fore capped elbow.
    19/03/2011 Fever.
    15/06/2011 Substantial mucopus in the trachea after racing.

Helpful info for a handicapper, no?

TRACKWORK (click to enlarge)

Ah, the best part of all – click this tab and you get the above screen with conditioning details for not only breezes (gallops), but also for sub-maximal trotting days as well as visits to the swimming pool. A few things I’ve noticed perusing a week’s worth of this data:

-Nearly all HK runners work fast every 3 days, with distances ranging from 3F-6F mostly.
-Many have their last work just 2-3 days prior to the race.
-Most swim every day, even on the same days as they race for enhanced recovery and/or warmup.
-Would be nice to have time/distance data on ‘off/slow’ days, how many hit V200?

I have two resources with ties to the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Since they seem so enamored of data, and are centrally managed, I am going to try like hell in 2013 to get them to include HR/GPS data on all gallop and trotting days. At the very least, no longer will a clocker have to guesstimate or watch a video monitor for split/sectional times, as the Etrakka blanket records them automatically. In addition to bodyweight, it would be nice to handicap (as a bettor or trainer) based on the HR recovery after speedwork, or the working HR during a 2min mile pace.

Wish me luck – do I have the best job or what?

I did most of this post work on Thanksgiving Day waiting for family to come over as the turkey cooked in the oven behind me. That is how you know you have made the right career choice, when work feels like play-

One Million Dollars! Yeah, baby!

Thoroedge finally broke the landmark earnings barrier over the weekend, with 3 weeks to spare before the close of the meet at our most profitable track. To date:

182 starts: 37 wins, 43 seconds, 36 thirds
Graded stakes: 9 starts: 1 win, 1 place
$1,081,646 in purses
20% win percentage
64% in the money

Not bad at all, and next year we hope to double this number, but if things go right in Dubai we may hit that 2013 goal before the end of March.

The easiest product/service to track performance on is the STORM product. I have spent quite a bit of time collecting the data, and I hope to have a professional handicapper complete a report next month to determine if adding STORM to a racehorse’s diet impacts performance in a statistically significant manner. Here’s a snapshot of some data from one trainer who has ALL his stock on the product throughout 2012:

Performance at one highly competitive track:

2012: 20% wins, 56% in the money – $6,099 per start
2011: 10% wins, 44% in the money – $5,191 per start

Analysis not yet complete, but roughly 75% of the same horses were included in this sample from the past 2 years. The top performer is a $12,500 claimer with 2 allowance wins and $144,083 in earnings thus far, with hopefully one more run in him before the end of the year. Starts per horse has also risen considerably – data to follow. Should the data pass the muster statistically, I am going to knock on the doors of every top notch owner/trainer in Kentucky before the end of January 2013.

I had but one harness horse on the product, an oft-injured 9yo pacer, here is his 2012 tally:

18 starts: 2 wins, 4 places, 8 shows – $142,580 in purses earned

14/18 in the money sounds pretty good to me in the pacer/trotter world – additional analysis to follow as more data is gathered. I don’t believe he was able to make more than a few starts in 2011 due to injury. Anyone know where I can access US/Canadian harness statistics online, for free? I get the TB stuff at Equibase, but cannot find a similar resource for trotters and pacers. A couple of Arabians were also on STORM this season.

I don’t believe there is a single product on the market that tracks winners and losers like I do with STORM. Everyone has something to sell that comes with testimonials claiming its golden for race performance, but that is one small piece of the puzzle. One has to include the legions of losers in order to complete the picture.

I am not a supplement salesman. I don’t have to sell anything as I earn a nice living providing HR/GPS services. But if I find a product that unequivocally improves thoroughbred performance, I am going to tell the world about it in hopes of gaining some new clients. I have a new product in the works for 2013 that should jibe nicely with the STORM, but testing is still ongoing. Stay tuned!

See Racing Around the World

GG Racing Tours out of Australia is scheduling 3 horsemen’s tours in 2013: here at the Kentucky Derby in April/May, Europe in June/July, and Paris for the Arc in October.
Please see the following link if you are interested in more details:

I understand the tours are to leave from Australia; but judging from the above chart of Thoroedge web visitors from October 2012; there are readers in many countries who may like to meet up with the group and show them around locally – as I will do here in Louisville/Lexington next April. Below Jamaica on the chart there are another 103 countries that I couldn’t fit on the image, ending with a single visitor from Botswana that makes 131 countries in all visiting the blog in the last 30 days, out of a generally accepted number of 196 countries in the world. Amazing thing, this internet.

A celebrity member of the tour group coming here to Kentucky will be Joe Janiak, the famous Aussie taxi driver who purchased this gelding for the princely sum of $1375, and proceeded to earn over $6 million worldwide. Does anyone know where I can get this book,other than for $123 on Amazon?

On a side note, the journey of Takeover Target and Mr. Janiak fascinates me due to the quantification of the horse’s world-class athleticism by an early version of the Etrakka HR/GPS application developed by Mr. Andrew Stuart:

I am finally doing some nice work with this device here in the US and abroad, so watch this space for developments over the next several months. As a matter of fact, here’s one to watch racing at Woodbine in 5 hours – a former $12,500 claim winning at the $60k allowance level and finishing up a brilliant 2012 season with 8 starts: 3 wins, 1 place, 2 shows and $106,767 in earnings. STORM home Gentleman Jackson!-

Lastly (but certainly not least), my wife is a wonderful fiction author and I must congratulate her on recently signing with a top NYC literary agency! If romance, mystery, and a touch of the paranormal is your thing – you can buy or sample any of her 11 novels here:

In the real world, I am the proverbial cheap claimer who was lucky enough to marry a graded stakes winner-

Tuesday – The Race that Stops a Nation (not the US election)

Actually run at approximately 11pm here in Kentucky (Eastern time in the US) – the Melbourne Cup takes place Down Under on a Tuesday, where businesses and schools are closed for this grand spectacle. Coming so close on the heels of the Breeders Cup, and during the work week no less, many Americans will be unaware of this $6 million dollar race until after the prize money has been awarded.

One trainer has a chance to make history on both continents as Mikel Delzangles will saddle top-weight Dunaden roughly 3 days after his filly Flotilla captured the BC Juvenile Fillies Turf in his first BC start. He later missed another BC triumph as Ridasiyna closed well to finish 4th in the Filly and Mare Turf.

Here’s a pretty cool form guide, and if you click on the horse name you get some past performance info:

Let’s compare the Cups – Melbourne vs Breeders Classic – in terms of how far out the last ‘prep’ was leading up to these top races for 3 year olds and up:

US Breeders Cup entry and days since last race:

63 days
Mucho Macho Man

55 days
Brilliant Speed

42-41 days
Handsome Mike

35 days
Flat Out
Game on Dude
Fort Larned
Richard’s Kid
Ron the Greek
To Honor and Serve

28 days
Pool Play

AU Melbourne Cup entry and days since last race:

114 days
Red Cadeaux

79 days
Mount Athos

51 days

40-31 days

17 days
Voila Ici
Glencadam Gold
My Quest for Peace
Lights of Heaven

13-10 days
Tac de Boistron
Green Moon
Unusual Suspect

4 days

Eyeballing it the US seems to prefer a solid 35 days for the prep, while the Aussies are closer to 14 days.
No comments for once, just interesting to note the different approaches to ‘freshness’.

BC2012 Drives ThoroEdge to Drink

‘Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.’ – extra points to the first commenter who can identify the 1998 movie containing this quote that has developed into a cult classic, with a (now) world famous festival that began in 2002 right here in Louisville. My money is on a US reader, as I can’t imagine this movie is also huge overseas, or is it?

Well, I ate that bear for much of 2012 as my predictions of west coast equine dominance held sway through 4 big instances: the Triple Crown season and the Haskell showing the following results:

-West Coast conditioned horses:              13 starts: 3 wins, 3 places, 1 show for a 54% hit the board percentage
-East Coast conditioned horses:                35 starts: 1 win, 0 places, 3 shows for a 11% hit the board percentage

Surely now that the west coasters were home over the familiar dirt Santa Anita strip the domination would continue, right? Sad to say, this weekend the bear ate me – and I hope he enjoyed the fact I marinated in Sailor Jerry rum for several excruciating hours.

The damage:

-West Coast:      48 starts: 2 wins, 4 places, 7 shows for a 27% in the money mark
-Euros:                 26 starts: 3 wins, 0 places, 2 shows for a 19% in the money mark
-East Coast:        89 starts: 10 wins, 10 places, 11 shows for a 35% in the money mark

In summary, the west coast probably scored a grade of C due to a few key scratches (Super Ninety Nine) and only 1 entry in the Ladies Classic, a nice 3rd for Ellis runner Include Me Out at 12-1. But I give the Eastern invaders the A and the Euros also a C – as no one is talking about Little Mike and his faster-than-Secretariat mark of 2:22.83 over 12F on the grass – a bouncy turf that surely made his wire to wire win a bit easier to accomplish.

Some notes, pics, and a video from the NBC Broadcast-

Let’s go back to the 14F Ladies Marathon on dirt, Race 5 on the Friday program. I had the great fortune of travelling to Argentina on horse business a few years back, and frequented two of the tracks that Calidoscopio has won at over her 9 year career. They are all hard dirt courses in my memory, and EVERY horse I saw in training was bareback: riders simply put a girth strap over a big piece of foam in the mornings, and hit 15sec/furlong paces in routine gallops, stirrup-less. Saddles were only worn on breeze days, and the owners were charged an extra $5 for that privilege. Here are some old blog posts from that visit: and some pics here:

The Argentine triumph in this route confirms what I believe to be an advantage of non-US conditioning, the development of stamina. The US rules the world in speed, especially on dirt, with 4-5F works the norm – but Calidoscopio worked both 7F and 8F since coming to the west coast earlier last month and his shortest race in the past few years was still 10F.

The Ladies Classic: Royal Delta was amazing, leading a quicker pace than I had ever seen her before, and still kicking home. Female Horse of the Year, to my surprise. Congrats once more to Billy Mott.

To Saturday and the boys, and Georgie Vancouver with the only win in the Juvenile turf for vaunted Coolmore trainer Aiden O’Brien. During a revealing interview where we see the Irish conditioner riding I his jeep at 35mph next to his exercising horses, I caught an image of my HR/GPS equipment on rider Joseph O’Brien’s left arm:

Buff Bradley and Groupie Doll: let’s just say he’s one of the nicest fellows I’ve met in this game, and a local KY boy to boot. I hope she wins another 50 races and becomes the next Brass Hat.

Here’s a few seconds of the interview with Charles Lopresti, trainer of likely Horse of the Year Wise Dan:

Lopresti Interview (you may need to crank up the sound a bit…)

Talk about the info you don’t get in the DRF, or even from the clocker reports. He finished a gallop last week at KEE being allowed to fly home the last furlong in 11 FLAT! Where have we heard this before?

And finally kudos to Animal Kingdom for a brave effort, let’s hope he holds together for any type of race in 2013, but I feel we have just witnessed his swan song.

BC2012: Take West Coasters on Dirt, Euros on Turf

‘The Best is Yet to Come’ indeed – but not for the US east coast based stars.

How’s that for simple? No pace figures, no pedigree, no Thorographs or Ragozin Sheets, just look at the conditioning patterns of the trainers and head to the windows.

That being said, the East Coast ‘conditioned’ horses will likely win the big jewel on Friday, The 9F Ladies Classic, because only one West Coast trained entry is present: Include me Out under the tutelage of Ron Ellis. So this highlight race is sadly a ‘toss’ for me. I do expect Royal Delta to bounce off her recent Belmont romp however.

Blog readers will know my affinity for west coast conditioning with multiple 6F works in the past performances. This year Baffert, O’Neill, and a few other have sent these horses across the country to dominate the Triple Crown season:

I hate the fact no Euro ever has any recorded work in the form, but I know from personal experience how they condition their turfers across the pond, and it’s an advantage over here on the grass even though it’s quite a long ship. To the details:

Race 4 – 6F Juvenile Dirt Sprint:

WEST: South Floyd, Super Ninety Nine, Hazardous, Merit Man
EAST: Hightail, Sweet Shirley Mae
EURO: Ceiling Kitty – who I believe is on STORM:

Race 5 – 14F Dirt Marathon

WEST: Balladry, Jaycito, Romp, Worth Repeating
EAST: Atigun, Grassy, Not Abroad, Eldaafer, Commander, Juniper Pass
EURO: Fame and Glory, Calidoscopio, Almudena, Sense of Purpose

Race 6 – Turf Mile

EURO: Sky Lantern, Flotilla, Waterway Run, The Gold Cheongsam, Infanta Branca(AE)
WEST: Flashy Ways, Moulin de Mougin(AE)
EAST: Kitten’s Point, Summer of Fun, Spring Venture, Watsdachances, Oscar Party, Tara from the Cape, Nancy O, Moonwalk, Sustained

Race 7 – Juvenile 8.5F

WEST: Beholder, Executive Privilege, Renee’s Queen
EURO: none
EAST: Spring in the Air, Dreaming of Julia, Almost an Angel, Broken Spell, Kauai Katie

Race 8 – BC Turf Mile

EURO: The Fugue, Up, Nahrain, Ridasiyna, I’m a Dreamer
WEST: Star Billing, Stormy Lucy, Nereid, Lady of Shamrock
EAST: Zagora, Marketing Mix, In Lingerie

Some new readers may wonder, What is the difference between west coast and east coast trained horses?
It’s all in the conditioning:

This advantage was blunted the past Breeders Cup races at SA because of the synthetic surface – and the Euros dominated, with the exception of Zenyatta.

Sorry for only getting to the ladies races on Friday, but I threw out my back this week and the pain pills are severely hampering my ability to think and type – I may have to name my next yearling Tramadol.

After a brief time out I do find the energy to post about the boys on Saturday:

Race 4 – Juvenile Turf

EURO: Artigiano, George Vancouver, Fantastic Moon, Dundonnell, Lines of Battle, Rising Legend(AE)
WEST: Dry Summer, Know More
EAST: Summit County, Gervinho, Brown Almighty, Balance the Books, Noble Tune, Joha, I’m Boundtoscore

Race 5 – Dirt Sprint

WEST: Teddy’s Promise, Rumor, Switch
EURO: none
EAST: rest of the field

Race 6 – BC Dirt Mile

WEST: Rail Trip, John Scott, Fed Biz
EURO: none
EAST: rest of the field, including Shackleford

Race 7 – BC Turf Sprint

EURO: Starspangledbanner
WEST: California Flag, Camp Victory, Tale of a Champion, Reneesgotzip, Mizdirection, Chosen Miracle, Starspangled Heat(AE)
EAST: Great Mills, Next Question, Upgrade, Great Attack, Bridgetown, Corporate Jungle, Unbridled’s Note, Global Power(AE)

Race 8 – BC Juvenile

WEST: Title Contender, Speak Logistics, He’s Had Enough, Monument, Capo Bastone, Power Broker
EURO: none
EAST: Shanghai Bobby, Dynamic Sky, Fortify

Race 9 – BC Turf 10F

EURO: St. Nicholas Abbey, Treasure Beach, Shareta
WEST: Cogito
EAST: Kindergarten Kid, Point of Entry, Turbo Compressor, Little Mike, Dullahan, Optimizer, Slim Shadey, Trailblazer

Race 10 – BC Dirt Sprint

WEST: Jimmy Creed, Coil, Fast Bullet, Capital Account, Smiling Tiger, Amazombie, Boxer de Rues
EURO: none
EAST: Sum of the Parts, Gantry, Justin Phillip, The Lumber Guy, Trinniberg, Hamazing Destiny, Poseidon’s Warrior

Race 11 – BC Turf Mile

EURO: Excelebration, Moonlight Cloud
WEST: Mr. Commons, Obviously, Jeranimo, Suggestive Boy
EAST: Wise Dan, Animal Kingdom, Willcox Inn

Race 12 – BC Classic 12F

WEST: Game on Dude, Handsome Mike, Nonios, Richard’s Kid,
EURO: none
EAST: Pool Play, Flat Out, Alpha, Fort Larned, Brilliant Speed, Ron the Greek, Mucho Macho Man, To Honor and Serve

A few notes:

-Here I detail why Animal Kingdom will be roundly defeated, or run big and get hurt (again):

-And here is an inside look at cold laser massage treatments that Hollendorfer’s two entries, Nonios and Chosen Miracle, have received the past few weeks: – the same guy was also behind longshot Dakota Phone’s triumph in the 2010 BC Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs

-Wise Dan could be the anomaly for the weekend, as he trains off track here in Lexington quite a bit; Euro style over some rolling bluegrass hills. Plus he just may be too good, and the Euro bookmakers rank him just a tad behind Frankel.