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Scientists overturn idea racehorses can't get any faster

Racehorses are reaching faster and faster speeds, scientists have found, overturning research which suggested they had reached their galloping limit.

A team from the University of Exeter studied a total of 616,084 races run by more than 70,000 horses, with a broader focus on sprint races.

Racehorses are reaching ever-faster speeds, the study found Credit: PA

Previous research, which suggested speeds had reached a plateau, had largely concentrated on a small number of middle- to long-distance races.

It is not yet known whether the faster pace is down to breeding, better training, better jockeys, or a combination of these.

Researcher Dr Patrick Sharman said:

There has been a general consensus over the last 30 years that horse speeds appeared to be stagnating.

Our study shows that this is not the case and, by using a much larger dataset than previously analysed, we have revealed that horses have been getting faster. Interestingly, both the historical and current rate of improvement is greatest over sprint distances.

The challenge now is to find out whether this pattern of improvement has a genetic basis.

– Dr Patrick Sharman, University of Exeter

Amateur jockey airlifted to hospital

Amateur jockey Tom Weston has been airlifted to Southmead Hospital after his horse fell at Cheltenham Credit: PA

Experienced amateur jockey Tom Weston has been airlifted to Southmead Hospital with injuries after his horse, Benbane Head, fell at the 14th fence in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase.

He was attended on the course by doctors and medical personnel and then taken to Cheltenham Racecourse's medical centre before being airlifted to hospital - he was breathing and conscious at the time.

Benbane Head ridden by Matt O'Connor going to post for the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase during Cheltenham Festival 2012 Credit: PA

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Tribute to AP McCoy at Newton Abbot Racecourse

Newton Abbot Racecourse has commissioned a bronze sculpture of jockey AP McCoy to recognise his achievements and contribution to the sport.

The sculpture will be unveiled before the start of the first race today and will go on show in the weighing room at the racecourse.

AP McCoy OBE Credit: Press Association Images

"McCoy provides such excitement at every fixture he attends here at Newton Abbot and we know it's the same at racecourses across the country. He's become synonymous with horseracing and is an example of the determination to succeed in the sport.

We're thrilled to be able to unveil this at our final fixture and recognise McCoy's achievements."

– Patrick Masterson, Managing Director at Newton Abbot Racecourse

The bronze sculpture was created by William Newton, a sculptor based in Wincanton. The unveiling will mark the end of the 2014 racing season at Newton Abbot Racecourse.

Arabian horse racing takes off in the South West

Horse racing is hugely popular here in the West Country with race courses in Wincanton, Newton Abbot and Exeter. Many of the top National Hunt trainers are based in the region. But now our local courses are backing the rise of a new competition - Arabian racing.

Horses from the Middle East are best known for their quirky, unpredictable nature and Taunton recently hosted the opening Arabian fixture of the season. Chris Spittles reports on the increasing popularity of the sport.

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Runaway horse collides with tv camera at Cheltenham

Jockey Daryl Jacobs has been injured in a dramatic incident at the Cheltenham Fesitval.

Somerset trainer Paul Nicholl's horse appeared to be spooked by something as he was cantering to the start for the 2.40 race. The horse went through the rails and jockey Jacobs was thrown from the saddle and into a TV camera.

Initial reports suggest that Jacobs has injured his shoulder and leg. He is currently having medical treatment.

Ruby Walsh injured and out of the Gold Cup

Ruby Walsh holds his arm after his fall today Credit: David Davies/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Cheltenham Festival's most successful jockey Ruby Walsh has suffered a bad fall and suspected fractured wrist in the day's first race.

The Irish jockey has been taken to hospital for X-rays and will now be unable to ride another race, including his mount in the Gold Cup.

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