Often referred to as 'the most exciting two minutes in sports', the 137th Kentucky Derby has been won by Animal Kingdom, ridden by John Valazquez and trained by Graham Motion.
A record crowd of 164,858 witnessed a superb win by Animal Kingdom who finished ahead 2-3/4 lengths.
But what everyone wants to know is ‘what makes a great racehorse?’
Eclipse never lost a single race during his career (during the mid 1700s) and only retired due to the lack of competition. Great descendants of Eclipse include Kauto Star and Desert Orchid. So, what made Eclipse so special?
Both the Royal Veterinary College and the University of Cambridge, in England, have looked into what allowed this magnificent horse to remain undefeated. Using a combination of genetics research, paintings, written race reports and CT scans of his skeleton, they have been able to reconstruct theoretical limbs on a computer to test their theories.
Eclipse doesn’t appear to have anything remarkable though. In fact, quite the opposite, he was average. Although smaller than today’s racehorses, Eclipse was right in the middle of the ‘normal’ range that governs all factors for speed and ability.
In order for a horse to gain speed, the energy stored in muscles and tendons must propel the animal forwards and upwards. Fast horses not only have the ability to release that energy efficiently but must also be able to bring their legs forward quickly in preparation of the next stride. Horses that are larger and have longer legs usually find this harder to achieve.
Although researchers are said to have isolated the equine 'speed' gene, there is still no real answer to what makes the perfect racehorse... or an average horse win...however, the unpredictability is often what makes horseracing such an exciting sport. By the way, Animal Kingdom was anything but average in his win this year at the Derby.