Monday, April 02, 2012

Racing in the slipstream

Sitting in the slipstream of frontrunners is a winning strategy for jockeys, according to new research.


A detailed study of almost 45,000 racehorses has shown that horses that tuck in closely behind frontrunners during races are most likely to come out on top.

The research, from Dr Andrew Spence at the Royal Veterinary College, London, and published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, demonstrates that just as an F1 driver might sit in the slipstream of the car in front, jockeys who deploy this tactic are most likely to have an advantage on competitors when it comes to winning a race

Dr Spence, working with Professor Alan Wilson and colleagues at the Structure and Motion Laboratory, used a unique data set from thoroughbred horse racing to find out just what tactics work. They determined the position and speed of 44,803 racehorses, once per second, in 3,357 races ranging in length from 1006 to 4225m (50.9–292.9 seconds duration) using a validated radio tracking system. They discovered that reducing aerodynamic drag by moving close behind other competitors had a marked effect on horse performance, and hence racing outcome.


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