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It's of ficial! Males do lean to the lef t (well, horses, anyway).

Byline: Graham Green

SCIENTIFIC research in Ireland appears to have stumbled on what could be a winning formula for punters keen to stay one step ahead of the bookies, writes Graham Green. An unlikely feat, you might feel, but Jack Murphy and his colleagues at the University of Limerick believe the battle of the sexes is a key factor that must be taken into account.

It follows a New Scientist report on experiments carried out over almost a year aimed at establishing whether a horse has a leftor right-side preference.

T rainers and riders frequently claim their animals perform better when running, turning or jumping in a particular direction. But Murphy, as part of a larger project he hopes will lead to the award of a doctorate at the end of the year, set out to discover whether this was the result of training and experience, or an innate characteristic in each individual.

Using 40 unschooled horses, the majority of them four-year-olds, Murphy designed a series of tests to closely monitor which leg they stepped forward with, and which direction they chose to detour around an obstacle or roll in a bed of hay.

The results were startling in that the majority of the female horses seemed to favour their right side, while most of the males preferred their left. Around ten per cent used both sides.

As a perfectly balanced horse is the ultimate objective, Murphy claims trainers could use this information to help develop the weaker side of their charges.

He also feels it could assist trainers and punters in assessing at which tracks - left or right-handed - racehorses will run best.

Although Murphy admitted to the Racing Post yesterday that his studies had not been extended to the racecourse, he highlighted one of Ireland's favourite racehorses as bearing testament to his thesis.

``The AIG (Europe) Champion Hurdle was run at Leopardstown last month and everyone claimed the race was too short for Solerina, but TV pundit Ted Walsh also made the point that the mare isn't nearly as good going to the left as she is to the right,'' said Murphy.

``I also read a recent report in which Noel Chance said he had two geldings who must really run on left-handed tracks.''
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Feb 11, 2005
Words:375
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