This Is How Slipstreaming Tactics Will Work At The Melbourne Cup

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Scientists have have worked out why a tactic called slipstreaming works to reduce drag on a horse during a race.

Wind tunnel simulations by RMIT University researchers showed jockeys who take advantage of slipstreaming, or drafting, by running their horse behind or alongside others can reduce aerodynamic drag force by up to 66%.

This saves the horse critical energy for a burst across the finish line.

The simulations using miniature replicas of a racing horse and jockey are the first in the world to measure slipstreaming on horses through wind tunnel tests.

Professor Franz Fuss says slipstreaming is also a standard strategy in sports such as cycling and speed skating .

“In a horse race, jockeys can use this same principle to give their horses an edge and help them reserve energy for that crucial final burst,” Professor Fuss says.

“Our research for the first time quantifies how much drag is reduced through different slipstreaming tactics in a horse race.

“Jockeys, trainers, punters and betting companies should keep these findings in mind during the big days ahead of the Spring Racing Carnival.”

The research showed the impact of different horse packs on drag:

  • Two horses in front of one horse: drag of trailing horse reduced by 66%
  • Four horses in a row: drag of last horse reduced by 54%
  • Two horses running closely behind each other: drag of leading horse reduced by 6.5%, drag of trailing horse reduced by 38.5%
  • Five horses side by side: drag of centre horse increases by 25%

From these principles and further results, the energy expenditure can be calculated throughout the race of each individual horse, as well as the overall energy savings when slipstreaming.

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