ANAL­Y­SIS OF GAL­LOP­ING STYLE

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Vari­a­tion in the amount of “loft” dur­ing the gal­lop cy­cle achieved by Amer­i­can Pharoah, Jus­tify and Sec­re­tariat is no­tice­able. It is not de­sir­able for race­horses to flex the knees like show horses or jumpers; ef­fi­cient gal­lop­ing means that the horse must stretch the ex­tended fore­limbs straight for­ward. How­ever, speed is not cre­ated by the horse’s limbs, and one who merely swings his fore­limbs stiffly like a pair of broom­sticks will prop along like a gi­raffe. A great race­horse makes his gal­lop stride longer by jump­ing up as well as for­ward—his stride con­sists of a se­ries of arcs, as if he were at­tempt­ing to clear a se­ries of low but in­vis­i­ble ob­sta­cles. Un­less the horse dis­cov­ers the joy of ex­press­ing his prow­ess in this way, he can­not achieve a dou­ble-sus­pen­sion gal­lop.

To cre­ate this com­par­i­son, I have had to dig up pho­tos which catch the horses in the same, or very close to the same, phase of mo­tion. The “ref­er­ence limb” is the con­tact­ing hind leg; for mean­ing­ful com­par­i­son, the ref­er­ence limb in both thrust and land­ing phases must be in close to the same po­si­tion in all three horses. On this ba­sis, I can find no ev­i­dence that Amer­i­can Pharoah used a dou­ble-sus­pen­sion gal­lop; he sim­ply does not gen­er­ate enough loft. Jus­tify gen­er­ates 42 units of loft, whereas Sec­re­tariat gen­er­ates a whop­ping 156 units in thrust phase and his low­est fore hoof is still 42 units above the ground in a land­ing phase photo that is ac­tu­ally a few frames later in the stride than that of ei­ther Amer­i­can Pharoah or Jus­tify. This is the se­cret to Sec­re­tariat’s very long stride: It isn’t the length of his legs! Rather, Sec­re­tariat “jumps over” a higher in­vis­i­ble ob­sta­cle, and thus flies far­ther through the air dur­ing the first gal­lop sus­pen­sion, than any other race­horse in his­tory.

MAN O’ WAR Dif­fer­ence 26.8o AMER­I­CAN PHAROAH Dif­fer­ence 16.3o JUS­TIFY Dif­fer­ence 33.6o SEC­RE­TARIAT Dif­fer­ence 15.3o This com­par­i­son looks at the over­all elas­tic­ity of the horse’s back and the de­gree to which he coils and un­coils his loins to gen­er­ate thrust from the push of the hind limbs. The ref­er­ence limb for the col­lected phase is the left hind; for the ex­tended phase, the con­tact­ing fore­limb. Jus­tify ex­hibits very su­pe­rior tech­nique in this com­par­i­son, bet­ter than ei­ther Sec­re­tariat or Man o’ War, with a whop­ping 33.6 de­grees of dif­fer­ence in pelvic an­gle be­tween the most coiled and most un­coiled po­si­tions. He not only has a more elas­tic back but long fore­limbs with great reach. Sec­re­tariat wins in terms of power and loft, Jus­tify in terms of elas­tic­ity and scope.

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