How to make horse racing less of a drag

An image from the RMIT wind tunnel tests that measured the effect of slipstreaming on racing horses.

Slipstreaming is a standard strategy in sports such as cycling and speed skating – one that can save athletes power and energy.

Now investigators at RMIT have discovered what jockeys have long known – that they can also take advantage of their position on the course. Running their horse behind or alongside others can reduce aerodynamic drag by up 66%, researchers say,

"In a horse race, jockeys can ... give their horses an edge and help them reserve energy for that crucial burst," said co-chief investigator Franz "Tino" Fuss. "Jockeys, trainers, punters and betting companies should keep these findings in mind during the big days ahead of the Spring Racing Carnival."

Simulations conducted in RMIT's Bundoora wind tunnel, using model horses and jockeys, were the first in the world to measure the effect of slipstreaming on horses.

They found that when two horses were in front of one horse, the drag on the trailing horse was reduced by 66%, and that when four horses were in a row, the drag on the last horse was reduced by 54%.

If you are wondering how this can be applied, be assured that even illiterate and innumerate people can work out the odds, according to Italian research on poor Guatamelan natives.

Vittorio Girotto and colleagues from the DCP Centre for Experimental Research in Management and Economics at the University of Venice wanted to investigate whether the ability to calculate odds was learned or innate.

According to the authors, the study participants were able to predict the occurrence of random outcomes despite having no formal education. They say the findings suggest humans might possess a basic ability to evaluate probabilities.

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