Last week’s ATR Sectional Spotlight about the Total Performance Data striding figures which can be found on the “stride data” of selected races on this site prompted a large response, including from those who directed me to academic papers on the subject (many thanks), those who have already developed systems around striding, and those who, like me, are simply curious about the subject matter.
As with any new data initiative, there is a steep learning curve and likely to be false steps along the way: that can be part of the fun. Only time will tell if the assumptions made and the insights imagined have much validity.
Since then, I have looked into “How Classic Horses Stride”. This took no small amount of time in poring over videos of various quality!
Remember, that a horse’s speed is a function of its stride length and its stride frequency (or “cadence”). It is that simple in one respect, and in another not simple at all.
There is a correlation between cadence and stamina. If a horse “revs” highly – such as with a cadence of 2.50 strides/second or more – then it will not be able to sustain that for a long time. Cheltenham Gold Cup winners tend to exhibit a cadence of around 2.00 and can therefore stay the marathon distances required of them.
The following are the peak cadences and stride lengths of recent winners of the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the Derby at Epsom, such as they could be ascertained.
|Peak stride length and cadence of 2000 Guineas winners|
|2014||NIGHT OF THUNDER||23.5||2.48|
|Median = 24.7ft||Median = 2.43|
|Peak stride length and cadence of Derby winners|
|2017||WINGS OF EAGLES||25.7||2.31|
|2013||RULER OF THE WORLD||25.7||2.44|
|Median = 25.8ft||Median = 2.33|
A few observations need to be made. One is that it was possible to get accurate striding information for some winners of the 2000 Guineas from start to finish, but not for others, and it was possible to do so only in the closing stages for the Derby. The higher cadence and longer strides of Galileo Gold and Dawn Approach in the former race showed up earlier on.
Track configuration will have played its part – the closing stages of the Derby are downhill and fast, while the final furlong of the 2000 Guineas is uphill and slow – as will the racing surface. Camelot’s short-striding pattern at Newmarket is presumably down to a lack of traction on what was a soft surface.
The run of the race will also have had an effect, seen most obviously in Ruler of The World’s high figures towards the end of a 2013 Derby which turned into a sprint from the turn.
Nonetheless, in every year bar 2015 the measured cadence of the Guineas winner was equal or greater than the same for the Derby winner, while in every year without exception the measured stride of the Derby winner was longer than that of the Guineas winner.
One interesting feature is that Camelot’s cadence (2.34 in the penultimate furlong and 2.26 in the final one) was precisely the same in the closing stages of his Guineas win as his Derby win.
That cadence was more typical of a Derby horse in the first place, but a combination of ability and ground which blunted the speed of his rivals enabled him to triumph at the shorter distance.
While it seems that no horse can sustain in excess of 2.5 strides per second for a significant distance, the horse who can do that for a short period and otherwise relax into a slower rhythm has a powerful weapon in its arsenal. My future stride analysis will ideally take more account of such things.
By far the best example of this I have found is the exceptional Australian mare Winx, who I have revving as high as 2.60 in the closing stages when winning a 1,400-metre race but also as low as 2.30 when winning the 2017 Cox Plate at 2,040 metres.
The former frequency is rare, even in sprinting circles, while the latter is more what you might find in a Derby horse: now, that is versatility!
One of the performances that first sparked my interest in the subject of striding was the win of BRANDO in the 2017 Abernant Stakes at Newmarket. To me, it seemed as if his legs were going nineteen to the dozen but his stride length was short.
The truth was the opposite. After closer inspection I got figures of: 25.7 feet/2.34 cadence (3f out to 2f out); 25.2 feet/2.39 cadence (2f out to 1f out); and 24.6 feet/2.30 cadence (final 1f). Brando actually has a longer stride and slower cadence than other elite sprinters I have studied.
Brando also struck quite a blow for ‘sectionalistas’ later in 2017 when fulfilling the substantial promise of his fast-finishing third in the July Cup by winning the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville on his next start at double-figure odds.
He then lost his way, but Brando is back in the Abernant 12 months on and is flying the flag for another recent data initiative in that he has been declared as having had a wind operation since his last run.
I have not studied the effect of breathing operations – the declaration of which became compulsory in Britain in January – but that Brando has had one makes his recent patchy record more explicable (and excusable).
Assuming his legs are still sound, a repeat of his long-striding/slower frequency effort from 12 months ago could well be enough to get him back in the winners’ enclosure shortly after 3:00 on Thursday.
I will be in Hong Kong next week, when I intend reporting back about how sectional and other data is handled in that enlightened jurisdiction while keeping my fingers crossed that BLUE POINTtriumphs in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize there a week on Sunday.
All being well, I will write about some of the Guineas and Derby/Oaks trials from a striding and sectional point of view here on my return.