Update on Kentucky Derby times

The Darley Arabian

Much stimulating discussion ensued after Saturday’s post about why Kentucky Derby winners aren’t getting much faster.

Reader Avin D. sends us this 2014 Deadspin piece by Roger Pielke Jr. which has much better stats and looks at whether we’ve neared peak speeds in animal races:

One possibility, advanced by Denny and others, is that thoroughbred race times may have leveled off because the narrow genetic diversity of racehorses limits the genetic diversity in the pool of potential thoroughbred champions. Modern thoroughbreds are descendants of a small number of horses (less than 30 in the 18th century), and 95 percent are thought to trace their ancestry to a single horseThe Darley Arabian. Today, there are fewer than 25,000 thoroughbreds born each year in the United States. Compare that with the more than 7 billion people worldwide.3 The size of the human population may simply lead to a greater number of potential athletes with extreme speed.

Very cool.  Imagine if every current human runner was descended from, like, Guto Nyth Bran.

The Darley Arabian sired Flying Childers:

It is said he completed this race, over the Round Course at Newmarket, in 6 minutes, 40 seconds and that he reached a speed of 82 1/2 feet per second or 1 mile per minute. This was claimed to make Flying Childers the only horse on record as having matched the top speed of the unbeaten Eclipse. By way of comparison, this would be nearly 40 seconds faster than the unbeaten Frankel ran the Newmarket Rowley Mile in his famous 2,000 Guineas victory of 2011, over 30 seconds faster than the current mile track record and very close to the five furlong track record set by Lochsong in 1994.

As for Eclipse:

Eclipse is still remembered in the phrase “Eclipse first and the rest nowhere”, snowcloned as “[name of competitor] first and the rest nowhere,” referring to any dominating victory. This phrase is occasionally seen in American print media (most often in newspaper sport sections) but is more common in Britain.

A new one to me.  If Flying Childers could keep his alleged top speed of 82.5 feet per second he’d finish the Kentucky Derby in a minute twenty.

Why aren’t horse races longer anymore, the way they were in the Stewball era?

Anyway, congrats to Justify:

 



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