Reasons for performing study: A previous study has identified exercise undertaken during training to be associated with racing performance in flat racehorses. However, no such studies have been conducted in National Hunt (NH) horses.
Aim: To determine whether exercise undertaken during training is associated with racing performance in NH racehorses.
Methods: Data were collected as part of a larger study investigating injury occurrence in NH racehorses. Race records and daily exercise data were obtained from NH racehorses at 14 training yards. Canter, gallop and race distances accumulated in the 30 days preceding a ‘case race’ were calculated. Associations between exercise-, horse- and race-level variables and the odds of winning, winning prize money, being pulled up and falling were identified using mixed effects logistic regression.
Results: Data from 4444 races run by 858 horses were included in analyses. Horses accumulating longer canter distances in the preceding 30 days were more likely to win or win prize money and less likely to be pulled-up. Horses accumulating longer race distances in a 30 day period were more likely to win, whilst those accumulating longer gallop distances in a 30 day period were more likely to win prize money. Horses that had jump-schooled in the preceding 30 days were more likely to fall during the race than those that had not. Trainer and horse were associated with racing performance after adjusting for exercise.
Conclusions: Results from this study suggest that NH race performance may be improved through modification of exercise regimens. After controlling for the abilities of individual trainers and horses and conditions of the case race, horses accumulating longer exercise distances in the 30 days preceding a race were more likely to be successful. However, horses that had jump-schooled in the 30 days preceding a race were more likely to fall.