Video Update: Times Ahead Racing in Belgium

Many of you will remember the remarkable story of Times Ahead and his brilliant young trainer Bart Hermans in The Netherlands. If not, please take time to read his insider’s account:

I cannot stress enough how much unique info is included in the above link, literally a step-by-step account of taking an injured horse from a top barn and making him ultracompetitive in several different EU countries last season, and now he’s back for more. Under Hermans’ tutelage and aggressive scientifically-based conditioning, oft-injured Times Ahead has made 12 starts – with 4 wins, 4 places, 3 shows, and 1 fourth place finish over 2 seasons. His most recent 2 wins came after a 16 month layoff.

To summarize the video above; Times Ahead is in 3rd place at 2:44, making his move on the turn as the jock gets busy with his hands. 2:56 finds him taking the lead into the turn. At 3:07 he moves a few paths closer to the rail, widening his margin to 5+ lengths, and at 3:27 you see a very healthy post-win gallop out.

Perhaps most amazing is that Times Ahead, after dominating the field over 10.5 furlongs in the above race, was back to training aggressively just 5 days later in preparation for a 14 furlong event later this summer – and training in interval fashion, nonetheless:


A quick refresher course: this chart comes from the Polar Equine RS800CX G3 heart rate/GPS monitor (US$600). The red line is heart rate, the blue line is speed, and the x-axis is elapsed time. The closer the red line/blue line relationship, the better.

From time 0 to time 15:00 is the traditional warm-up phase. Note the very low HR under tack at the beginning; a horse wearing a saddle sporting a HR of 27bpm is extremely aerobically fit. Alone in his stall he’s likely under 25bpm, which is insanely low. That’s much lower than any world class human athlete, yet our boy weighs 1000 lbs+. Most often this ‘under tack heart rate’ is from 40-80bpm.

Beginning at time 20:00 you see the first interval: 4F in :57. In contrast to a human interval regimen, this serves more as a complete warm-up than an actual piece of work. As expected, his HR recovery plummets quite quickly, dropping to 96bpm less than 2min after the end of the roughly 14sec final furlong. Again unlike human intervals, a more complete rest interval is undertaken – here 6 minutes. At time 27:25 he breaks off for his true speedwork: a blazing 4F in :45 and change. After the wire, we start the HR recovery clock – 2min later HR is 125bpm, dropping to 116bpm 5min after peak speed. A third interval after this one would certainly have been overkill.

Now, let’s assume that we skipped the first interval, and went straight to a 4F/:45 breeze, as is the custom in the US. What would this chart look like? Well I’ve seen those charts, and the HR recovery is typically quite poor – along the line of 160bpm at the 2min mark and 140bpm at the 5min checkpoint. That type of recovery is indicative of a high chance of injury, while Times Ahead should move forward off his 125/116bpm data.

So that’s a typical speedwork session for Times Ahead, and here is a graphical representation of a ‘slow’ day gallop:


That’s 6+ total miles, with 3.6 miles worth of interval-style sub-maximal gallops: each consisting of 5 furlongs ranging from 16-22 seconds/furlong pace with rest intervals of 20-40 seconds between each. Note how each successive interval gets a bit faster and has a higher working HR, yet when the session is over HR recovery drops to 80bpm in less than 5min. The first interval serves as a warm-up, the last serves to improve cooling out, and the 4 middle ones are where the work is done. How many horses do you know that gallop 3.6 miles on an ‘easy’ day 2/3 times a week?

Congrats to Bart and best of luck throughout 2013, as he has a few youngsters coming into their own.

Friend/Follow Bart on Facebook to stay updated with his growing stables’ progress:



About bpressey

Equine Exercise Physiologist

Posted on June 12, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Phillip Haycock

    Bill your choice of the word Insane probably well sums up this horse’s resting HR.
    Reading this article and studying the graphs makes my own HR race.
    At 17+ m/s the HR is less than 210bpm, would this be HRmax?
    Even at 85% of that, (178bpm) the horse may be traveling near 30mph?

  2. Nice article!

    His HRmax used to be around 215, only since I started training him again he never goes past 210, i think it has to do with him knowing the drill.

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