Tuesday 9 April 2024

What Is A Long Furlong?

One of my racing friends is called Seamus Furlong.

Understanding horse racing and all its terminology and intricacies isn’t a test in the sense of a competition. However, I do like to test those who ‘know’ something about the Sport of Kings. I ask: ‘How many metres are there in a furlong?’

Send your answers on a postcard, as they used to say about 40-years ago.

In realistic terms my thoughts of questioning may suggest some kind of shortcoming in my own self concept. As when someone uses a fancy word instead of something bog standard. My in depth knowledge of subjects is limited. I know my niche of two-year-old horse racing and birds. That’s the feathered variety as my next door neighbour Eric Alterton would say.

For those who have no idea how long a furlong is or care to wonder I will detail it’s 201 metres.

Don’t ask me how long that is in feet and inches.

It just proves the point that we can all be exceptionally intelligent and dumb a the same time.

Horse racing is one of those subjects where it makes the best of people, even trainers, look like they’d struggle to spoon feed themselves cornflakes each morning.

I’ve had occasions when that final furlong has felt like a long furlong. I know what your are saying: ‘How can 201 metres be anything other than that basic number? It’s a scale, theory, method or whatever you want to call it.’ However, and this sounds like a joke: ‘When is a furlong not a furlong?’

It’s akin to the story penned by George Orwell’s - Animal Farm: ‘All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.’

Only a pig could say those words.

But it’s true for furlongs too. And when a punter says a horse is running over 6-furlongs there is often a marked difference between the time of the same distance. It’s the same for the humble furlong. At Epsom a furlong may be run in 10 seconds while at Pontefract 13. Then consider the variable of the going it can be even more marked. On the firm ground at Bath to the heavy going at Leicester the time difference may be 8 seconds (for a furlong). In fact, over a longer trip of 1m 6f, the final furlong on testing ground may take 22 seconds to run. So one furlong takes the same time as another horse on faster ground could run two furlongs.

I hope you’re keeping up!

The longest furlong may have nothing to do with time but everything to do with perception. I’m sure a few readers will know what I am talking about.

When you have a potential big win and your horse is two or three lengths clear leading into the final furlong. It’s called a long furlong because with each stride the lead is being reduced. You’re not sure whether to watch your horse, the chaser, tongue lolling out like it’s blowing a raspberry, or the finishing line. Your eyes dart from the three like it’s the holy trinity. At times, it must be an optical illusion, I could swear the finishing line (lollipop) is moving further away. The reality of the furlong comes to being with the win, loss or draw.

How many times I wished that furlong took one second faster or slower to run.

However, sometimes it’s just the right distance and time.