There is an athlete named Bengala who has started to emerge in her sport over the last year.
Bengala is a four-year-old fIlly who recently won her race at Belmont. Bengala’s breeder is a group called Dayton Investments, so she is likely named in relation to the nearby Cincinnati Bengals, which brings up the obvious question: Is she faster than John Ross?
Bengala’s July 12th win at Belmont came on on a 1 1⁄4 mile race on turf where she posted a time of 2.01.60. Ross is most famous for setting the NFL combine record for running the 40-yard dash in 4.22 seconds. Obviously, these are very different races, so it will take some effort to compare the two.
In horse racing, they use something called speed figures to adjust for races of different distances and in different conditions when comparing horses. After researching how speed figures are calculated, the author of this article quickly realized why he switched his major from Math to Liberal Arts a week-and-a-half into his freshman year of college. Needless to say, it was necessary to seek another approach when looking to compare the respective feats of these two athletes.
A Brief History of Man vs Horse
The most obvious example of a man racing a horse for Bengals fans is former Bengals’ wide receiver Chad Johnson who won his race in 2007. Johnson had a head start before running a 100-meter sprint and defeated the horse who had to run about twice as far as he did. While many have dismissed Johnson’s feat, British gold medalist Jamie Baulch failed to come out on top in a similar style race in 2010.
In Baulch’s defense, this was year’s after he had stopped sprinting competitively. Famed Olympian Jesse Owens raced horses on a regular basis in the years that followed the Berlin Olympics. Owens would also have a head start and run 100 meters and won many of these races.
The only human who has defeated a horse on a level playing field is Huw Lobb who accomplished the feat in 2004 winning the Man vs Horse Marathon. He was the first human to win this annual 22-mile race between humans and horses.
For some perspective, Baulch’s personal best 100 meter was 10.51 seconds while Owens’ was 10.3. Ross’s personal best in high school was 10.66. Although to be fair, Ross certainly developed as an athlete during his college years, this may not be an accurate comparison.
Johnson released a video years ago of him running 24 mph on a treadmill. Usain Bolt ran close to 28 mph at the World Championships in 2009 which is the fastest human footspeed ever recorded. The fastest a horse has even been clocked at is nearly 44 mph.
To tie things back to Ross, Bolt ran a 9.58 100 meter setting the world record with the above mentioned performance in 2009. After Ross’ record-breaking combine, US Olympian Christian Coleman ran a 4.12 40 to prove that he was faster than Ross. Coleman’s best 100 meter is 0.37 higher than Bolt’s.
So, based on this, Coleman is faster than Ross. The world’s fastest man is faster than Coleman. The world’s fastest horse is faster than Bolt. Therefore the world’s fastest horse is faster than Ross, but in all fairness, Bengala is not the world’s fastest horse.
It is hard to take anything out of these past performances, as there is a lot more information available on the human competitors than their equine counterparts. Both horses and Olympic sprinters run longer distances than 40 yards. Bolt is known to be faster in the last half of the sprint than he is at his start. Comparing one race to another isn’t apples to apples and comparing one athlete to another isn’t horses to horses.
Bengala has 8 starts. Ross has 1. Bengala has 2 firsts, 2 seconds, and 1 third. Ross has 0 catches on 2 targets and 1 rush for 12 yards. Bengala has career earnings of $101,480 making $12,685 per start. Ross had a base salary of $437,469 plus a $10,587,900 signing bonus last season meaning he has made $11,025,369 per start.
So is John Ross faster than Bengala? In all likelihood, no.
Is he fast enough to give the Bengals the deep threat they need opposite A.J. Green? Absolutely!
The most important thing is that Ross and Bengala should never actually race, because that is a hamstring pull waiting to happen.