Last week, the University of Exeter in the UK released the extraordinary results of a new study which could change the racehorse breeding industry, both now and far into the future…

Researchers at the university, led by Dr Patrick Sharman found that the age of both the dam and sire of a racehorse plays a significant role in the overall speed of the horse. In fact, the data clearly shows that the speed of thoroughbred racing horses declines as parental age at conception increases. 

Using data from over 900,000 performances of around 100,000 racehorses, the study found that the age of both the mothers and fathers of the offspring played a significant role in the overall speed of the horse.  

The study analysed race result data from 1996-2019, from meetings across the UK. Their data included offspring of 41,107 mothers and 2,887 fathers. They found a ‘significant effect’ of maternal age on speed, with each additional year of age at conception decreasing the offspring speed by 0.017 yards per second.

Although this might not sound significant, it actually converts into a predicted difference of approximately one second over a race of one mile between, by way of example, a five-year-old and a 15-year-old mother. 

 And, it wasn’t just the dams which affected the offspring, interestingly sire age also showed a decrease of 0.011 yards per second for every increasing year in stallion age.

In a press release, Dr Sharman said,  “it is perhaps not surprising that offspring speed declines with increasing maternal age. It is the dams, after all, who care for the foal, first in utero, and then through to around six months of age.” 

Lady Princess and Oisin Murphy win the Qatar International Stakes Group 1PA at Goodwood

“What I find fascinating, though, is that increasing paternal age also causes a significant decline in racehorse speed. Thoroughbred stallions play no part whatsoever is raising a foal, so what is behind this decline in speed?” 

To read the full study, visit here:

This is not the first time Dr Sharman has studied Thoroughbred racehorses, he in fact led another research project in 2015, when he proved that racehorses are getting faster. To read the study visit here:

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