This is the argument that sporthorse enthusiasts and professionals have been making for the past two decades, while they merrily import Warmbloods and breed their own horses, seeking out the sturdy legs and stamina that Thoroughbreds were once known for – American Thoroughbreds are bred to run too fast, too briefly.
Here’s a little history lesson from Professor Sid on the length of US graded stakes races:
When Graded races first started in the US in the early 1970s, two races were given Grade 1 status at 1 3/4 miles or beyond: the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at two miles on dirt and the Grade 1 San Juan Capistrano at one and three-quarter miles on turf. At the same time—and can you believe this?!—there were no Grade 1 races at six furlongs, and only one at seven furlongs—the Vosburgh. Now, however, there are no Grade 1 races at those extreme distances, but there are several at six furlongs, with most on dirt in the eight-to-nine furlong range.
It’s interesting to note that The Jockey Club Gold Cup started at 2 miles. I loved it as a kid because it was a mile and a half race. The JC Gold Cup dropped to a mile and a quarter in 1990, leaving it just another under-filled stakes race right before the Breeders’ Cup, which itself has enough sprint divisions to suit every sort of short-distance runner.
The question that this article brings up, though, is that without a proving ground for horses to run more than eight or nine furlongs, do we really know if they just can’t do it? The long-distance horses either disappear (there aren’t races written for them) or they go to steeplechasing (where, interestingly, horses tend to run well into their mature years.)
So, are Thoroughbreds these days little more than glorified Quarter Horses, galloping six furlongs as fast as they can and retreating to the breeding farm at age 3? Or could they be so much more?
Be sure to click over and read the whole post from Sid Fernando.