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, http://www.highpointefarm.com/, 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-


About bpressey

Equine Exercise Physiologist

Posted on November 26, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Hong Kong works on the sound principle that excellent data provision and absolute integrity standards attract more and more punters to racing. Punters provide the majority of funding to racing. You have outlined the chasm in data provision. They also have about 400 staff working on racing integrity. In UK it is a small team of two or three. From UK we can only despair with embarrassment when there is no uniform sectional timing, nor public access to horse body weight data. Half the UK races are handicaps where the public is misled that a few pounds change in saddle weight is supposed to make a huge difference when the horse body weight, which may have changed by 40 pounds since the last race, is totally ignored/ unknown. Potential punters are leaving racing in droves to go to better regulated and informed sports.

  2. And half the workouts in our DRF, especially from training centers, are bogus as well.

  3. Couple thoughts – First, I assume there aren’t claiming races in HK, but don’t know. The extra information sure would change the “claiming game” here in the US. Second, I’m still trying to identify a trainer (any trainer) in the US who uses (or has used) a HRM and / or interval training. Who? How? What were the results?

    • Not sure about the claiming angle, but I haven’t seen any such races yet. Possibly like Argentina in that all claiming races are on one day? Or, perhaps with such a centrally managed outfit, there is no need to claim?

      I know of a few private trainers, but no public ones, that use HRM technology in the US. Some may use a form of IT as well, but not like we typically think of intervals. Personally I wouldn’t advocate IT for every horse, I would use the HRM to determine who may benefit.

      As far as young horses go, being broke/conditioned on the farm in KY before hitting the racetrack, these guys are leading the way with HRM use and a scientific approach: http://www.margauxfarm.com

  4. Thank you for this update

    I was wondering if someone could point me to information on the origins of Thoroghedge – who or what is thoroughedge?

    Love the content – would just like to know the people behind it – thanks and regards – Bernard

    Kind Regards,

    Bernard Ryan

    • Hello Bernard, here is a bit about me – the founder and sole employee of Thoroedge:


      • Thanks Bill – so you are a trainer yourself?

      • Oh no Bernard, I am not a trainer – they work too hard and get up too early!

        I am simply an international consultant on conditioning matters. Athletes today in all major sports have coaches/trainers – but behind the scenes there are specialists for strength/conditioning/etc. I study conditioning protocols around the world and attempt to pick the most effective strategies from each country and present them to my clients. The crux of my work is objective measuring of performance via HR/GPS/blood lactate monitoring. Additionally, I test supplements in the field to determine if they make horses more athletic, as promised.

        It’s been long overdue, but I plan to release a free .pdf book in the next few months:


        Essentially trainers practice external horsemanship; reading the outside signals of the horse to determine the next step in conditioning – while I interpret the internal signals, or internal horsemanship. Traditional horsemanship may tell you to work fast today, while internal horsemanship tells you precisely how far/how fast to go in order to maximize improvement and minimize chance of injury. My work individualizes exercise for each horse at any particular point in time.

  1. Pingback: Hey Racing: Stop Handicapping the Handicappers | ThoroEdge Equine Performance

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