The Sun Shines Bright on My Old Kentucky Home

In honor of the Kentucky Derby, here is a pic from my entryway that captures the essence of the song CD plays just before the post parade on Derby day. Coincidentally, the song was composed in the precise year my new house was built, 1852, by Stephen Foster, not 2 miles away from where I now sit.

Read an amazing story about a $500 bargain who won the Kentucky Derby in the DRF, Old Rosebud:

In that piece was a quote from legendary trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons that caught my attention:

“It’s what you can’t see that matters most.”

He probably wasn’t thinking about physiologic structures inside the horse when he said that, but he was on the right track.

I try to simplify it greatly. Let’s assume that one factor dictates equine athletic performance. It’s not true but helps for this example. That factor will be mitochondrial density. As you know, mitochondria are the energy powerhouses of the muscle cells. Genetics sets the blueprint as to what is the maximum value in a horse, but training dictates how much of that potential will be realized. Proper conditioning develops more mitochondria, which in our simplified example, wins more races. We could do the same thing with another physiological variable: capillary beds – you are born with a certain amount, genetics dictates your ceiling, but only training/racing can increase the number of capillaries developed between arteries and veins, leading to improved oxygen metabolism….and racing performance.

Both of these are observable physiological structures within the horse. Both of them are positively influenced by proper conditioning. Neither of them are observable to the naked eye. It’s quite likely that whomever wins the Kentucky Derby in 2 weeks’ time will have the most of each.

photo (30)


About bpressey

Equine Exercise Physiologist

Posted on April 24, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Phillip Haycock

    Nice home Bill
    ” improved oxygen metabolism ” as a result of conditioning for sure but also a genetic superiority in physical oxygen delivery to the lungs via the respiratory tract.
    i suspect that within any group of horses regarded as “clean winded”there exists a significant range of wind “flow rates”.

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