New shoes may see turf records tumble

Horse racing records around the world may be smashed after Australian scientists unveiled world-first, stunning new shoes that will slash the weight of a racehorse’s normal footwear.

Standard cast-aluminium horse shoes weigh about one kilogram each.

But the boffins at the CSIRO are 3D printing titanium sets which should weigh 50 per cent less.

If the fancy new shoes are widely adopted – and the Aussie horse racing industry appears enthusiastic so far – experts predict lightning-quick thoroughbreds to race down the track like super-charged rockets.

“Naturally, we’re very excited at the prospect of improved performance from these shoes,” said top trainer John Maloney, whose gelding Such Hope was the first in the world to be fitted with the jazzy 3D printed shoes.

The CSIRO’s titanium expert John Barnes told AAP: “It’s a lot like bicycle racing to me – speed ultimately comes down to grams.”

Such Hope, a four-year-old who recently finished second at Cranbourne, had the hot-pink coloured shoes fitted a few weeks back.

The process involved experts from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation scanning each of the animal’s hooves and then 3D printing its shoes to its exact specifications.

The shoes take just a few hours to print – offering another key advantage over standard cast aluminium versions.

And they cost about $600.

Three dimensional printing is not new, but the products the technique can make is rapidly evolving.

Australian scientists are also researching ways to 3D print replacement human body parts.

And its uses in sport are only just starting to be explored, with obvious uses in cycling, motor racing and sailing.

CSIRO’s new horse shoes have come too late for this year’s spring carnival, including the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.

But Mr Barnes reckons the shoes could be put into broader production within a couple of months.

The local racing industry appears positive about the development so far, though it remains unclear if the regulations would need a change-up to accommodate the footwear.

Campbell Mavity, president of the Australian Farriers and Blacksmiths Association said the cost of manufacturing titanium may be one of the main barriers to limit the market.