For as long as I can remember, my father (and his father
before him) have been big horse racing fans.
In fact, for the last 20 years or so, my dad has bred and raced Standard
bred harness racers. Harness racing, for
those that aren't familiar with the
term, are the ones that pull cart (called a sulky) behind the horse rather than
have a jockey on the horse's
back. The type of racing that involves a
relatively small, light weight person clinging to the back of the horse and
holding on for dear life is known as Thoroughbred racing. At this point, you are more than likely
thinking, "Gee, that's
fascinating, but why are you telling me this?
Well, I'll tell
you. In the extremely crowded market of
console-based sports games, there are very few that break from the mainstream
stick, ball, and/or puck pursuits and delve into some of the niche sports such
as horse racing. Bethesda Softworks is
one of those that is willing to push the boundaries and explore new
opportunities. An example of this is the
recently released Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships for the
Xbox. While it is not harness racing, it
is close enough to have piqued my interest, so I decided to take a look at it.
As is the case in many sports, the horse racing enthusiast
can choose to concentrate on certain aspects of the sport, or go the whole hog
and participate in all aspects. In horse
racing this means one can simply buy a horse and race it, or go the full route
of breeding, training, and racing a horse.
Breeders Cup supports both
choices. As in many console games, you
can choose a quick play mode, or you can dig down into the esoteric details
that truly give a sport its long-term challenge and interest.
With horse racing, it all comes down the breeding. Volumes and volumes of historical data
pertaining to the lineage and race performance of horses are perused in an
attempt to find the perfect sire/dam combination that will result in a
race-winning foal. As with any pursuit
of this nature, however, there are no guarantees. A mating that looks great on paper may or may
not result in a horse that will perform as desired. This is, of course, the reason they actually
put the horses on the track and race them, and is what provides the addictive
nature of horse racing to its participants.
Hey, if it was easy everyone would be doing it!
starts you off with an empty six horse stable and a little bit of cash. It is up to you to decide how to populate the
stable and determine the strategy for growing your racing dynasty. There are three possible approaches:
acquisition of already racing horses through claiming races (races in which
every horse entered can be bought, or "claimed," for a stated price),
breeding, or a combination of the two.
Claiming a horse has the benefit of being able to base a purchase
decision on known performance, while breeding offers the opportunity to try to
tailor the resulting race horse to your favored track type, race type, and
Track types can be dirt or turf. Race types can be sprints, medium length, or
long. Horse disposition is a combination
of factors such as speed, strength, running style, and temperament that will
determine the best way to race the horse.
For example, a horse with a lot of strength will fare better in long
races than a horse that can sprint well but hasn't
the strength for a long race. A horse
with good temperament will perform better racing in a tight pack of horses,
while a horse with poor temperament will likely perform better as a front
runner where it needn't be in close
contact with the rest of the racers.
Other important factors are the fitness, fatigue, and injuries. Fitness, achieved through specific training
regimens, will allow for higher stamina and less chance of injury. Fatigue, resulting from too much racing, will
result in a poorly performing race.
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