The Speed Limit at One Mile-Series III, Daily Racing Form, 1935-04-26


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iTHE SPEED LIMIT AT ONE MILE SERIES III. j t By SALVATOR.. In two previous articles for Daily Racing Form the writer has brought together and i endeavored to , analyze, comparatively, the i many fast mile3 that have been run over American tracks. . It was shown that, taking the tables that ! have for many years appeared annually in The American Racing Manual, "what we may term the speed gauge has had to be pro- 1 gressively raised until it now stands at 1:36, in order to standardize what classes as an extremely fast mile. 1 Almost thirty years ago when the statisti- j cians of form first began collecting and . tabulating such figufes, the original list of very fast miles included all run in 1;39. or better. At that time, excluding the mile run against time by Salvator, over a. so-called : straight course,, the American mile record : in a race was 1:37. Hence the margin allowed was one and three-fifth seconds. Then, as time passed, the list grew so large that in 1916 a new standard had to be set. So 1:38 was adopted. At that date the American mile record in a race was 1:364. This kept the same margin as before between the top and bottom miles. History repeated itself. By 1924 it was again necessary to set a new standard, and i 1:37 replaced 1:38. At that date the American mark was 1:35, leaving still practically the same margin of speed. Finally, for the current new Manual of 1935, it was still again needful to "revise upward." So, 1:34-7;; being now the mile record, the limit was placed at 1:36. And, as the table was presented of no less than fifty-four different miles fun in 1:38 or better up to January 1, 1935, it was seen there was ample justification for this procedure. Viewing all these facts "in the large," together with numerous attendant circumstances, tha opinion was expressed that, while superficially they seemed to indicate an amazing increase in speed by the American thoroughbred in the past thirty and especially the past twenty years, that was a conclusion decidedly open to argument. Analyzing the tables, it was revealed that ! modern methods of track building and ditioning had undoubtedly been responsible for much of the increase in speed. Very significantly it transpired that as far back as 1914, or twenty years ago, a record of 1:36 had been "established over a regulation mile oval, with the start and finish at the same point the imaginary "wire" in front of the stands. And that to this day, that record has never been beaten under the same conditions. While The Manuals table shows a total of fifty-four miles to date all in 1:36 or better, each and. every one of them- has either been run over a mile track with a chute eliminating" the lower, or clubhouse turn, or else over a track of larger size than one mile; also with a chute. As a matter of fact, the entire list of 1:36 miles fifty-four as stated is distributed among but seven different tracks, as follows: Arlington Park, Belmont Park, Churchill Downs, Hialeali, Lincoln Fields, Saratoga and Washington Park; excluding, of course, that Salvator mile above mentioned. It was also developed, as we were "looking backward," that several times in past years there had been record-breaking "waves," during which a remarkable number of very fast miles had been run, owing to sjecial efforts in he way of track build-, ing and conditioning with the object or intention of producing new marks. Following which there had been the intentional "slowing" of the fastest courses due to allegations that in order to make them so fast, "safety" had been sacrificed to speed and their "pasteboard" surfaces were ruining our " racers. .These outcries, it was also shown, were for ,the most part without real foundation; for, subsequent to the "slowing" of the tracks there has been no appreciable difference in the number of horses that have broken down or gone wrong Nevertheless, the tracks were "slowed" because of the outcries and racing relapsed into a rut of mediocrity, from the speed standpoint, until as is invariably the case under such circumstances there come reactions and once more there were efforts toward fitting the courses for record breaking. Considering, all these things, it was pointed out that uncertainty could not but exist regarding any really marked advance in speed on the part of the American thoroughbred during the twentieth century, at the standard distance of one mile. There is now to be added a factor hitherto unconsidered; namely, that conditions have otherwise been greatly altered in a way to promote average speed which is superficial rather than real. This arises out of the fact that in former times sprinting and sprinters were minor features of the American racing scheme whereas now and for several decades past, they have become the major feature. This has had an enormous influence upon apparent as opposed to real speed capacity on the part of our thoroughbreds. Horses are today almost universally trained and raced only with the object of displaying intense speed over short distances. While the practice has become just as universal of forcing the pace from the fall of the flag making the entire race run "from end to end" at the highest possible rate of speed. Now, if we go back to former days, we find that horses were trained and raced ;upon a wholly different system. Today we hear track followers refer to horses capable of running a mile as "routers" something that would have been laughable in the past, when to deserve such a name a horse had to be able to race up to his best form at from a mile and a half to two miles and beyond. Trained, conditioned and raced as they were, the horses of former days in their much longer races were "rated" and "waited with," and courage, stamina and staying : power were among- their most necessary assets. Horses with true stamina and staying power are now derided as "plodders," and constant efforts, both ... open and more i indirect, made to disparage and underrate them. Severe critics, almost without exception, , and.regardess of the abnormal conditions that becameprevalent here in America, re-i i i ! 1 1 j . : : i : , gard a horse incapable of showing his best farther than a mile, as a sprinter and refuse to classify him otherwise. Possibly a "miler". 13 only a "glorified sprinter." But, at the same time, if we scrutinize the histories of tha most famous American mile champions, we will discover that-they were able to go much farther than that i Equipoise won at a mile and three-quarters when far below his real form and, in the writers, opinion, could have gone two miles, or more if properly conditioned for the effort. - Salvator won without effort at a mile and a half and a mile and three-quarters. Roamer won the Saratoga Cup and other long-distance races under high weights and could go as far as modern horses are asked to in grand style. Man o War set a record at a mile and five furlongs that has stood for fifteen years and bids fair to indefinitely. Twenty Grand, holder of the mile record for two-year-olds, 1:36 with 122 lbs. was concededly one of the premier distance horses of modern America and is now in England- to prepare for the cup races there. Going far back to the first horse that ever ran a mile in 1:40 or better, we find Ten Broeck, whose mark of 1:39 was made in the year 1877. Just previously that season he had run and won two races, one at two miles and a furlong. Just following his mile feat he lowered the two-mile record from 3:32 to 3:27 and then in succession ran and won races of two miles and an eighth and three miles, and then of four-mile heats. It is at once apparent that any horse conditioned for such terrific long-distance tests as these could not by any possible means have been in form to show what he was really able to do at one mile. Had Ten Broeck been trained and raced as are modern horses, he must have been able to run a mile so much faster than 1:39 that it would have been slow in comparison. Consultation of the records shows that about the time when miles began to be common at rates of speed previously unattairied, not only were better and faster tracks at the disposal of the horses and their trainers distance racing was rapidly being eliminated from the racing scheme, making it necessary to condition but a very small minority of our thoroughbreds to go much if anything beyond a mile. All this weighed very heavily in the attainment of new standards of speed at that distance. It could not have been otherwise. Conversely, does any experienced man believe that if the average horse of today was trained and raced as were the horses of former times, he would be up to the speed rates that are now commonplace and beside which former ones look, superficially, so slow? Nothing is more notorious than that preparation for distance racing is far different from that for sprinting, and that the process of developing distance capacity takes something off the feather edge of a horses speed. But, beyond this, In considering wnat changed methods of training and racing have, contributed toward the reduction of the speed-limit at a mile, there is another factor closely allied, which no candid man should or can, if he is honest, ignore humiliating, and even disgraceful, as he may deem it That factor is "dope"? Why do men use "the dope?" There is only one answer. And that is: To make the horses run faster. Talk to any trainer who knows anything about the question and where is there one who dont, whether he "uses it" or not? and if he "gives it to you straight," he will tell you that to "start one cold" means a difference of seconds in the time in which that horse can run his distance. It is true that the average trainers opinion on the subject is far from infallible. Experiments have been made with horses for the express purpose of finding out, and it has been demonstrated that they would fun just as fast when started "cold" as when they had -been stiniulated. However, such, cases are not considered real criterions. That the average "dope hofse" is another steed than one altogether without the "hop" is the common knowledge and belief. And that it-is correct there is no doubt. Otherwise "dope" would be unknown. There would be no reason whatever for its use. In former days, when horses were running much slower than they do today, the use of "dope" was unknown on American courses. There has been much controversy about the date of its introduction and widespread use. Personally I can say that I never knew of it until the middle of the eighteen-nineties, and it was then being practiced only in a limited way. At that period no high-class trainer would have anything to do with it. They were afraid of it, and with reason; and only the other kind of men tampered with it. So little was known about it, indeed, that as yet no official cognizance was taken of it and no rules regarding it existed. About the period spoken of there was an immense expansion of racing and into what had been hitherto a sport, but was now becoming a business, there was an influx of people who became owners and so-. called trainers, who knew little or nothing about horses or horsemanship, and whose ethical or sporting standards were doubtful. "Anything to put one over" was their motto. It was this body of men who took up "doping" so generally that it became necessary to outlaw it and, after that had been done, kept right on with it nevertheless, until the whole sport became infected and it was common knowledge that among the "hop horses" were some of the most famous ones in training. It is a disagreeable angle of our subject. But facts are facts and to ignore important ones just because they are not scented with attar of roses is akin to throwing out the baby with the bath water. In this series of articles the endeavor has been to present nothing, but facts and call attention to them because, when all is said, and done, nothing else counts if we are to "get somewhere" in our quest which has been to find out how and why the speed limit at one mile .has been brought down. And whether, in that process, though the reduction has been superficially tremendous, the gain in speed as confined to the thor-; oughbred horse himself has not been more apparent than real.

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