Jetlag the secret to getting the best out of horses

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2011, 12:00am


The failure and abandonment of John Moore's Melbourne tilt with Mighty High and Silver Grecian shows again how tough it is to win overseas, and it seems to get even tougher when the horses and the staff with them are away for an extended period.

The only foreign Group One winner from Hong Kong to have maintained form based away from home for more than one or two races was Cape Of Good Hope (pictured).

The pattern has been that horses have arrived on foreign soil trained up and ready and run well early before their form fell away. Moore went through the same cycle with Able Choice in Melbourne in 2002 and Super Kid three years later. David Hayes had a similar experience with Helene Vitality at the Melbourne Cup carnival the same year as Able Choice.

Successful overseas sorties have been those conducted quickly - fly in, run in the target race and then leave.

On that angle, among the forest of media stories on horse racing in Australia at this time of year, we noticed one last week on the findings of a scientific team working in Melbourne and Bristol, England.

Those findings, published in the Journal Of Endocrinology (perhaps the waiting room of your doctor or dentist may still have one), claimed jetlag boosts a racehorse's ability to run at full gallop, by as much as an extra 25 seconds, before fatigue kicks in. Seven horses in the study were put on a three-month training schedule, including treadmill work, then subjected to a simulated easterly flight across seven time zones: the equivalent of a flight from Dubai to Melbourne.

The resultant positive effects on fatigue levels stunned researchers, including Melbourne University's Professor Roger Short, and were apparently attributed to the effect on the horses of changes in light and dark, on the flight and off it.

Short commented trainers would also get better results training horses at the same time of day as they race, rather than the traditional morning gallops and afternoon or night races.

And of course, the study involved added workload for the stewards. According to Short, the effects of the plane flight could be replicated in a racing stable simply by manipulating the available light.

''Maybe this ushers in photo-periodic doping and I think the authorities need to start looking at this,' Short was quoted.