Oct 02, 2003
Trainers, Speed Figures and Class
By: Ray Taulbot
Most persons capable of thinking will agree that ignorance is the most costly element
in human existence. Since this truth does not submit to argument,it is clear that no
matter what type of work we do it is of vital importance that we know what we are
doing, and that we do it well.
Handicapping-that is, the making of good racing selections-is not a science nor in the strict
meaning of the term an art. Handicapping is a trade.
Surely no one will argue against the fact that one must learn a given trade before he can
logically hope to practice it effectively. Certainly, the reader would not assume that he can
become a master plumber by merely reading a few articles or books on that subject.
The beginning selector frequently finds himself struggling with what appear to be insoluble
problems, when in reality these problems could be solved easily, if one had a reasonable
knowledge of the facts of racing. First, horse racing is a business, not a sport. Most men who
own and race horses do so for the purpose of making money. No trainer in his right mind ever
purposely wastes a sharp horse. He can"t afford to if he wants to stay in business.
The trainer, so to speak, is the middle man in racing. With few exceptions his livelihood depends
upon winning purse money. Never forget that a trainer can be fired if he fails to produce. A second
fact that should never be overlooked is that all horses do not respond to identical methods of
training. Thus, we encounter different methods of procedure which we sometimes call racing
angles. Therefore, one must familiarize oneself with what a trainer has done in the recent
past and what he is doingtoday. And more important-why he is doing it. We believe
every reader will agree that he could improve his winning margin if he knew that every
selection he backs is a fit horse,well-meant, and properly placed.
Let"s look briefly at a type of move which tells us what the trainer is up to. A horse turns
in a fair effort over a six-furlong distance. Next start the trainer enters this horse in a
route race, and gives it an easy conditioning race.Today he has again entered him in
a sprint race.
What does this trainer move tell a selector? It tells him that after the horse turned in a
fair sprint effort its trainer decided it needed more stamina.Therefore, he entered it in a
route race in order to leg his horse up a bit. Today he hasentered his horse in a sprint
race, which means he believes his horse is now ready and he is going to try. If the horse
is a figure contender, the selector knows it is a real threat-it figures well and the trainer
has practically told us he is going to crack down.
There are three kinds of racing angles that help the select or in his work: trainer
angles, performance angles, and a combination of the two. The trainer angles reveal the
method the conditioner has employed to get his horse ready for the race.The performance
angle reveals the condition of the horse through the manner in which it has recently performed.
When we have both trainer and performance angles present in the chart we have a strong
A third fact that should be remembered and accepted is a two-part fact:
1) Sharp condition contributes more toward a winning effortthan any other single factor.
2) There is no such thing as a sure thing in horse racing.
Any horse in the field may win or lose. This fact, ifremembered, should prevent the common
mistake of going overboard on a horse that lookslike an extra good selection. In short, it is
bad business to bet two dollars on one selection and ten dollars on another.
When the effectiveness of a sharp current condition is mentionedmany fans ask: "What about
horses that win when there was no evidence in their chart to indicate sharpness?"
First, the horse won, therefore it ran faster than any other horse in the field, so it was fit
and ready. And now to the key question: Was there any evidence that the trainer believed his
horse was fit and ready despite its poor public form?
No one can answer that question unless he is familiar with all of the good trainer angles. We
can tell you, however, that in many instances such angles are present, and if you knew about
them you could pick up many an extra good priced winner. Here are the top two races of a horse
that was cleverly prepped by its trainer:
1-1/4 Clm 3500 45 921 923 925 30.90
6f Clm 3599 59 59 421/2 99 6.30
Note that this horse was beaten by 25 lengths last time out and nine lengths in its previous
race. To the casual observer the horse appears in no way ready to win a race. But let us look
at how the horse was handled by the trainer. The penultimate race appears dull until we see
that the horse was allowed to run in one burstof speed from the half-mile pole to the eight pole,
making up 6-1/2 lengths on the leader.
Its "race within a race" shows us that the horse was sharp. Sharp enough for the trainer? No.
Perhaps the jockey told him the horse had flattened out.
Accordingly the trainer next entered him in a race of 1-1/4miles where he could employ the race
workout and distance switch angles. Was this the time for the horse to try for such a win after
its six furlong speed sharpener? No, the horse received some backing in its next-to-last race
but next time out it went off at 30-1.After being close to the pace for half a mile the horse was
allowed to amble along behind its field.
What did the trainer achieve? He gave the horse a workout both for speed and endurance. Further
by now he has shaken off about 90 percent of the novice racetrack handicappers. But how
can we tell if the trainer is really trying in today"s sprint contest? We get a pretty good tip-off
in the fact that he has chosen a race wherehe must drop the horse $500 in value. This horse
won returning $87.40.
Drops in claiming prices do not always signify that a trainer istrying. But when you get 40-1
odds you can afford to make a few mistakes. Bear in mind that if you can beat the price you
can beat the races.
We wonder how many of our readers know that slightly more than 50 percent of the races won
during the past 20 years were won by horses that finished in-the-money in one of their last two
starts? And that when horses that finished fourth,beaten no more than 1-1/2 lengths, are included
the percentage climbs higher. Isn"t thisfact of racing important to the selector"s work? We think
so. How many readers know whatpercentages of races are won by horses that have previously
won 35 percent of their starts? We can tell you it is surprisingly high, although the prices on
some are too short for profitable speculation.
Another fact that every racing fan should accept is that:
"Every race a horse runs either contributes to the furtherance of sharp conditions or tends to
dull whatever degree of sharpness the horse enjoyed at that time."
This is why speed ratings are not always a true indication ofthe degree of current sharpness. In
some instances the speed rating will reveal thesharpest horse in the field, in other instances it
will not. We must first consider the probable effect of the last race upon the horse"s condition
before we can accurately judge the true value of a speed rating. Let"s look at an example that will
make this clear. Examine the running line of the two following races:
Horse A 54 33 22 21 speed 95
Horse B 11/2 11/2 1nk 1 no speed 95
It is clear that Horse B had a very hard race, one in which itwas under severe pressure from
the first call to the finish. Horse A, on the other hand,was never under hard pressure and, as
a result might improve today, while Horse B willalmost certainly tail off. The problem becomes
even more complicated when the two races were run over different distances, or when the two
horses earned their respective speed ratings over different tracks. Speed ratings, which include
the beaten lengths, if any,are a factor that are usable in certain conditions, but to accept the
figure blindly atface value in every instance is a dangerous procedure.
Another costly fallacy common to racing fans is what we call the pattern hang-up. For example, last
week a fan backed a horse that had run as follows before winning: 23 22 22 21. Today in the fifth
he finds a horse that ran its last race inan identical, or nearly identical manner. Therefore, he
reasons that because the horse he bet last week won, the horse should win today.
His loose reasoning is based upon the fact that he does notrealize that no two races are
identical in every aspect. For one thing the horse in thefifth today is not meeting the same
horses the winner of the last week was meeting.
Another fallacy among beginners is their belief that claiming prices can be used effectively as an
accurate measuring rod of class. A claiming price is actually a selling price, that is, the price
at which the horse is offered to sale. Thus,the best that claiming prices can do is to roughly
divide claiming grades. Therefore, the price of $3,500 does not actually prove that the horse
is of a higher class than one bearing a $3,000 selling tag. Class can be determined through pace,
combined with claiming price.
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