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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


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.

Trainer says horse has had enough

We have had nine superb years with the horse but, after seeing him in his work these past few weeks, myself, Clifford and Dan were of the opinion that the time had arrived to retire him.

Of course, as owner, the final decision rested with Clive, but he agreed that the horse had done enough.

...And, deep down, we know he has done enough - and in some ways I think we have to protect him from himself. And maybe ourselves, too. If he did go to Kempton and win or run well, would you really want to run him - or be able to resist the temptation - in the Gold Cup?

– Paul Nicholls, trainer writing on


RSPCA reaction to the Grand National

The RSPCA has said that due to the excessive use of the whip the result should not stand and Neptune Collonges should be stripped of the win. Gavin Grant, chief executive of the RSPCA said that the race contained too many risks for the horses:

The death of two horses at the Grand National, is totally unacceptable. This is the second year running that two horses have died. In it's current format, the risks to horses are not appropriate and we want an urgent examination of the Grand National, including a number of fences including Beecher's Brook where horses are continuing to die despite safety improvements.

It would appear the whip was overused in the final stages of the race. If that is the case it is totally unacceptable and given the narrow margin of the win I believe the result should be reversed.

– Gavin Grant, Chief Executive, RSPCA