Via Science Daily, there’s an article from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council about what makes a fast race horse.

An interesting factoid from the article (also mentioned at the Wikipedia) was that 80% of modern thoroughbred racehorses have the 18th century horse, Eclipse, in their pedigree (Eclipse’s claim to fame was winning 18 races in 18 starts). 80%…that’s gotta be one hellacious family tree.

But what was so special about Eclipse? According to researchers, Eclipse may have been a speedy horse because of his average size:

Using portraits of Eclipse and contemporary accounts of the horse running the researchers reconstructed one of its legs and have discovered that its legendary speed may have been due to its ‘averageness’. Dr Wilson said, “Analysis shows that Eclipse’s body shape and everything about him seems to have been right in the middle of the normal range, suggesting that all the factors for speed were perfectly matched.”