View Full Version : Unconventional running styles and general inquiry on movement

Flashy Gray VA
Jul. 11, 2011, 11:40 PM
I'm one of those racing fans who comes from a horsey background in another discipline (h/j) and though I love love love racing for being a fantastic sport in its own right, I often find myself watching races through the lens of my own equine experience.

Which means that I'm a hunter rider at heart who is always trying to look for the nicest, most hunter-y mover in the post parade. :lol: I try not to let it influence my handicapping, I swear. Just kidding ... sort of!

However, I watched a few races over the weekend, and I was really totally blown away by the movement of a couple of horses. IIRC, two of the excellent eye-catching movers were winners, one hit the board, and a couple were out of the money.

By great movement I mean that they were super efficient and literally sweeping over the ground effortlessly (and tracking up nicely at the walk in the post parade).

I then watched a race this evening which was won by a sewing machine mover with his head in the air who just put on the afterburners at the top of the stretch and there was no catching him, won by about 3 lengths, at least. Ugly mover but a kick-a*s solid racehorse with an excellent closing move.

So my question for you racing gurus is: would love to hear some general thoughts/opinions about optimal movement for a racehorse and its importance in general.

Is it a big factor in evaluating yearlings? Does anyone really give a hoot about how a horse moves if he's successful, i.e. pretty is as pretty does? Would you need to change training and/or racing tactics to compensate for the style of a poor mover in order to better position the horse in the field?

And I'd love to hear about some racing greats who were considered to be unconventional (or just plain ugly) movers. Any specific horses come to mind?

Thanks in advance for any responses - I hope my query makes sense. :winkgrin:

BTW I got a kick out of the Racing Forum regular who posted a response on HJ to one of regular "What Makes a Good Hunter Mover?" threads - they noted that the poster simply needed to study a racehorse to learn what a good mover was! :D

Jul. 12, 2011, 12:11 AM
Someone will chime in with more historic examples but recent examples of dreadful movers include The Pamplemouse and St. Trinians.



Go to 1:30, it's the horse on the outside in the pink-ugliest action I've ever seen.

It can be hard to keep horses that move like this sound.

Jul. 12, 2011, 02:11 AM
Is it a big factor in evaluating yearlings?

This is an older 3-part article from The Bloodhorse that goes into pretty interesting detail on what some well-known pin-hookers and consignors are looking for in yearlings with regards to conformation. I wish they had followed up on the horses to see if any of them did anything on the track though.


Flashy Gray VA
Jul. 12, 2011, 02:48 AM
NC, my eyes are bleeding! :lol: Poor St. Trinians, looks like a crustacean sprawling all over the last turn :D but still - what a race!

I actually started thinking about this whole issue watching a broadcast recently of sales videos of 2 year olds under tack, so I appreciate the video of The Pamplemousse. It was fascinating watching horse after horse and their respective running styles. The Pamplemousse was certainly unique. :)

Cammie - what a fantastic article, incredibly interesting stuff! Thanks for posting!!!

Jul. 12, 2011, 08:56 AM
One you might want to watch - although perhaps not quite the level of St Trinians yet, is Lisa's Booby Trap, a Finger Lakes filly mentioned in another thread today. A Cinderella story from last year - was purchased by trainer Tim Snyder, had a club foot, and one eye. He fashioned some kind of shoe for that foot, and she won her first four of four, won at Saratoga, then was eventually overcome by bigger talent there. Looks like she's in good form for some success this year.

It's funny that you talk about the 2yo sales videos. I also come from a H/J background, but have also ravenously soaked up the sport of racing as well. Gave myself a dream trip this spring, including attending the April sales at Keeneland. While watching all the videos, I too, watched their movement, and made notes in my program to see if I had any kind of eye. Based on sales figures, I found several, and missed a couple. One source you might find interesting is an outfit like EQB (eqb.com) which measures cardio-vascular, and does gait analysis.

But I know from speaking with some good people that in addition to movement and conformation, it also takes quite a bit of attitude to be a winner. They have to have that something, that heart, that makes them want to come in front (which sometimes can be discerned in a paddock full of foals), and not all of them have it, no matter how perfectly conformed they might be. Which is why this sport is so enthralling - with so many variables. Don't you just love it?;)

Jul. 12, 2011, 11:13 AM
Seabiscuit was described as a pretty funky mover (one of his legs was crooked or something), though having not been there, I couldn't say :p

One of the things that really struck me about Barbaro, when I went to watch him at Fairhill (so I could REALLY watch him) was the quality of his movement at the canter and gallop. He had a big, nice walk, too. But at the gallop he almost had wheels, rather than legs. Not sure how else to describe it, but it was like his body didn't move up and down a whole lot, and somehow he had very good shock absorbers. I'm not sure it was conventionally pretty (like, hunter ring pretty), really, but it was fascinating (for me, anyway) to watch.

In watching actual races, though, there's not always much rhyme or reason. Conformation and efficiency in movement will get you a ways towards a win, but heart/will seem to count as much or more. One of the CANTER horses we had recently had all the "parts" (you know, the head of a princess, butt of a fry cook, and walk of a hooker) and is a very pretty mover, total washout of a racehorse because she just doesn't *care* to put out any more energy than is absolutely necessary. May make her a very nice hunter, because she'll never rush or get quick down the lines, LOL

Jul. 12, 2011, 11:19 AM
The best movement is the one that gets them home fastest. ;)

I think it might have more to do with the type of race they like than overall suitability--Lucky is turned out in back like a ballet dancer, but MAN, he can sprint. He's useless past 5/8, and he was very much a front-runner (his wins all came by getting out in front and staying there until they ran out of race), and having worked him, he has a BIG rock-back-and-boom start. Big kickstart, no stamina. His "cousin", my first OTTB (another Hooper Farms descendant with Crafty Admiral on the sire side) was more "correct" in back, but never made much on the track as he was very slow to get rolling and never had that 'sit back' feel, but could stay a lot longer (and never raced over 6f, so he was usually only just getting started when they hit the wire. Not helpful.)

Lucky probably is not going to be an eventer or any other job where steady and smooth wins and he'd have gotten his butt handed to him racing at 1mile+, but funnily enough he does seem to like barrels, especially the dig-in and sprint from the last barrel to the finish. He's not the most perfectly constructed horse in the world if you're looking for smooth, flat and steady, but what he had worked for explosive sprints and anything where you need a solid burst. If you were looking to buy a sprint racer, the way he's put together would not put me off. A route racer? Not so much.

Jul. 12, 2011, 12:34 PM
Cherokee Run was a pretty bad mover, Skip Away had a ton of knee action (although a big athletic stride). Some great movers were Unbridled, Unbridleds Song,Sky Classic, Favorite Trick.

Jul. 12, 2011, 01:08 PM
In the grand scheme of things I think efficiency of movement will generally win out over less efficient movement. Obviously there are some very notable exceptions... check out the multiple G1 winning filly Attraction from a couple of years back.... (my God, how she didn't mow down every other horse in the field with those egg beaters and break the jockey's nose with her giraffe like head carriage, but she got the job done).

I think it's easier to get away with it at shorter distances with raw power. However the longer you go the more telling it will be. You'll see few top class 3 mile chasers that aren't lovely efficient and steady rhythmical gallopers.

Jul. 12, 2011, 02:27 PM
This past weekend has some excellent races, which I'm surprised a thread in its own right wasn't created ;) Among the most impressive was the filly St. John's River in the Delaware Oaks (July 9th) - she was dead last throughout the race until the top of the stretch.

Then when she inhaled the field I don't see the jockey using a whip - see the replay a few strides from the wire with the iso camera (go to the 2.22 min mark of the video) and I'm not seeing the whip in the left hand.

Video: Grade II Delaware Oaks - note the caller incorrectly cites her as St. John's Victory (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFsfNjL1nik) not her correct name of River ;)

Not that it was an ugly mover but what's is impressive is sucking up the field without the jockey going crazy with the whip like Jamie Spencer did with Cape Blanco in the MOW (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQQI41LOZCQ) - watch at the 2.11 mark. They have a length or more to spare and he's going to town like Calvin Borel.

Jul. 12, 2011, 04:25 PM
Then there was Assault who, as a weanling, impaled his hoof on a surveyor's stake and walked with an "eggbeater gait" the rest of his life.

Jul. 12, 2011, 04:52 PM
Vineyard Haven is a multiple G1 winner with such a severe paddle that it's a wonder he can run.

Neither Skip Away or Barbaro has pretty action in the hunter sense both both were very fast. They both had alot of knee action but they made up for it with their shoulder and alot of length of step from behind. You don't need to be a daisy cutter to have alot of step.

Jul. 12, 2011, 05:00 PM
Did anyone read the book by Dogwood's owner (whose name escapes me and I don't have the book handy) where he mentions writing off a sales yearling because of his odd way of throwing out a foreleg when he moved, and he notes the next time he saw that wonky leg it was coming down the stretch to win the Kentucky Derby (iirc the horse in question on was Cannonero II.)

Jul. 12, 2011, 05:04 PM
This is an older 3-part article from The Bloodhorse that goes into pretty interesting detail on what some well-known pin-hookers and consignors are looking for in yearlings with regards to conformation. I wish they had followed up on the horses to see if any of them did anything on the track though.


I loved that series! And actually the BloodHorse followed up twice: once that fall after they sold and then again a couple years later to give the horses' names and race results. I'm pretty sure I still have the hard copies. If you're interested, I can try and dig them up. :)

Flashy Gray VA
Jul. 12, 2011, 07:14 PM
Wow, such a lot of interesting thoughts. And yes, it was a great weekend of racing!

I think that Barbaro moved like an awesome machine, if you'll pardon my use of the phrase. Incredibly efficient, with very little wasted motion of any sort. Very floaty, if a gallop can be described as such.

Maybe the lady who did the interpretive dance of him really was onto something. ;)

LaurieB - post the articles/links if available electronically, please!

Jul. 12, 2011, 08:08 PM
I don't believe that the updates were available electronically. When the series ran, I tore the pages out of the various magazines and stapled them all together. The final update was from the 10/23/04 issue--so 13 months after those yearlings sold. They were then almost at the end of their 2yo year. These were the updates at that point:

(#1) colt by Cat Thief x Flowers for M'lady. sold for 22K to Tony Dutrow. Named Jayarebee, he injured a tendon and never raced.

(#2) colt by Storm Cat x Exing, sold for 1.75M to Eugene Melnyk. Named Constitution River, he was at that point unraced. (John Ward who took part in the series was the underbidder.)

(#3) filly by Dynaformer x Lake Placid. sold for 240K to G. Watts Humphrey. Named Dynamic, she was unraced at that point.

(#4) filly by Red Ransom x Nothing Special. She sold for 52K to her co-breeder Barry Wiesbord. Named Bikini Ransom, she had raced once in a MSW at Delaware Park, finishing 6th of 8

(#5) colt by Unbridled x Serena's Song sold for 2.8M to Eugene Melnyk. Named Harlington, he was at that point unraced. (He is now a stallion standing at Hill n Dale.)

(#6) filly by Dixie Union x Yousaidamouthful. She was a 50K RNA and had raced once in a 25K maiden claiming race finishing 7th of 9. Her name was Snitch.

(#7) colt by Silver Charm x Validated. He was a 47K RNA and was in training with Jason Servis for his breeder Dennis Drazin. He was unraced at that point and his name was Valid Charmer.

Jul. 12, 2011, 08:16 PM
Further updates to current day:

#1, Jayarebee, never raced.

#2, Constitution River, 13-3-2-3, $71,393

#3 Dynamic, 5-2-1-0, $69,965

#4, Bikini Ransom, 5-0-0-1, $2,170

#5, Harlington, 10-6-0-1, $370,000. G2 winner

#6, Snitch, 31-4-8-3, $133,066

#7 Valid Charmer, 29-4-6-3, $32,416

Jul. 12, 2011, 08:57 PM
Thanks for posting the follow-up LaurieB! When they re-posted this on the website last year, I asked if there were any further articles with more info on the horses and was told no. Glad to see there was. I was wondering if there was a decent horse in the bunch, so its interesting to see Harlington in there.

I do laugh every time at how shocked they all are that the Storm Cat colt (#2) has nice straight legs. That certainly goes to show how many of Storm Cat's offspring inherited his knees!! :lol:

Jul. 13, 2011, 04:21 PM
This past weekend has some excellent races, which I'm surprised a thread in its own right wasn't created ;) Among the most impressive was the filly St. John's River in the Delaware Oaks (July 9th) - she was dead last throughout the race until the top of the stretch.
Hm .. of the sire line (http://www.pedigreequery.com/st+johns+river) of Broad Brush, Ack Ack, Alsab and Colin. And the dam line is nothing sneeze at, either.