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.
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.
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