At the time the question seemed so simple.
Who is the fastest Thoroughbred in the world at 1,600 meters? The question surfaced a couple of weeks ago after the brilliant Brazilian 3-year-old colt Bal a Bali won the Grande Premio Estado do Rio de Janeiro Stakes (Brz-I) in 1:31.36. Publicity after the race touted the colt’s time as just shy of the North American mile record of 1:31.23 set by Mandurah on the Monmouth Park turf in 2010.
You can immediately see the problem with this comparison. While 1,600 meters is close to a mile, it is actually nine meters short of a mile. So the search began for apples to compare to apples to find out who holds the world record at 1,600 meters.
A Google search yielded nothing in the first five pages of results. The American Racing Manual last published world records in its 2012 edition, but those were for furlongs and miles. Conversations with The Blood-Horse research staff pointed in the direction of Candy Ride, who won the 2002 Joaquin S. de Anchorena (Arg-I) at 1,600 meters in 1:31.01. Further research by Sid Fernando and later confirmed by Argentine breeder Lineu de Paula Machado revealed the real record holder was Riton, who won the 1995 Premio Horacio Bustillo (Arg-III) in 1:31.
If you want to know the fastest human male or female sprinters in the world, it takes about 42 seconds to find several online resources listing the top 10 fastest sprinters. A search for the world’s fastest times for trotters and pacers takes about 35 seconds. By comparison, it took several conversations and e-mails spread over about 45 minutes to track down the world’s fastest Thoroughbred at 1,600 meters. Lots of resources simply want to call 1,600 meters a mile, but if you really care about comparing performances by time and distance, this won’t wash.
A search online for only North American records yields interesting results. Several web pages publish these records, but most are sprinkled with errors. One site lists Inspired Star as the fastest horse at a mile with a time of 1:33.40. Another got the mile record holder right with Dr. Fager and his 1:321?5 set at Arlington Park in 1968, but did not have the correct year he set the record. If someone didn’t have the resources to cross-check the information, how would these errors be known?
Equibase already provides a statistics web page with the all-time Thoroughbred leaders by wins and earnings (lists are available for trainers and jockeys, too). We suggest it would be a service to the racing industry for Equibase also to be the hub for North American and world records by publishing a dynamic list of the best times in furlongs, miles, and meters. The U.S. Trotting Association has a page of world records for trotters in four age categories (2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds, and 5-year-olds and up) and one category for all ages. A similar page exists for pacers.
Who cares about these statistics? All sports fans care. If an event is run against the clock, then fans want to know who is the fastest or how close a final time is to the record. Having an official repository of records, updated dynamically, ensures the integrity and timeliness of the information. Equally important, it would provide yet one more way for fans to be connected to Thoroughbred racing. After all, speed thrills.