Slipstreaming in horse racing can reduce drag up to 66 percent


Aerodynamics can spell the difference between a victory and silent walk back to the trailer. To further explore the importance of horse racing position, researchers from RMIT analyzed exactly how much different slipstreaming tactics cut down drag on a horse during a race. 

Co-chief Investigator, Professor Franz "Tino" Fuss, and colleagues used wind tunnel simulations for the research. The simulations demonstrated that jockeys who take advantage of slipstreaming, or drafting, by running their horse behind or alongside others can lower aerodynamic drag force by up to 66 percent, according to the study. This can save the horse critical energy.

"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 said in a statement. "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."

Take a look at the impact of different horse packs on drags on average:

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

The simulations, conducted in the SportzEdge program of RMIT's Platform Technologies Research Institute, are the first in the world to measure the effect of slipstreaming on horses through wind tunnel tests. 

Horse trainers can use these new statistics in their racing methodology.