Another tool for Horse Racing Partnerships.
As with most athletes, including equine athletes, the performance life cycle has three basic stages. First, early rapid improvement, peak performance in the middle of the career and a decline at the end of a career. Gramm and Marksteiner produced an article “The Effect of Age on Thoroughbred Racing Performance” in the Journal of Equine Science. Data was collected on 300 male Thoroughbreds that had raced until age 6 and had at least 45 starts. The results may have some biases but the results can be generalized beyond the sample without too much error. Information shows at 2.5 years old the horses on average ran about 9 lengths slower in a 6 furlong dirt race than they did at the peak of their careers. As expected rapid growth was seen during the first part of their careers until age 3.5 then gradual improvement (about 2 lengths at 6 furlongs) up until about 4.5 years of age which is the average for peak performance. After age 5 a gradual decline in performance was shown (about a length per year) which continues until about age 8 when the decline in performance accelerates. More detailed information can be found in this excellent article including very useful charts and graphs. There are many ways this type of information can be used by horse racing partnerships, owners, trainers and even horse players. As an example, a horse racing partnership may use this information when looking to purchase a young horse to estimate how much improvement could be expected when the horse is older. Another example could be using the information on when to retire an elite horse to stud or when to retire a grizzly veteran to a life of leisure. Unfortunately many of racing’s top stars never race beyond their 3 year old campaign so we often don’t see them reach their full potential. Just imagine American Pharoah at full maturity!