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Mar 14, 2008

Weighing In On Class And Condition

By: Ray Taulbot


Every turf investor of any real experience knows thatclass is one of the two most important factors in the production of winning selections.Condition, of course, is the other. These two factors combine to produce more winners thanany other two factors in the handicapping process.

At the same time, class probably gives the average turfenthusiast more trouble than any other single factor. Pace can be used successfully as ameans of bringing out the class contenders in any type of race where the horses involvedhave established their true class.

However, when it comes to separating the classcontenders, the selector is faced with a problem which does not submit itself to solutionthrough the use of figures alone. Thus, racing angles enter the picture.

There are, generally speaking, three types of racingangles: Performance angles, which have to do with the manner in which the horse hasperformed recently; trainer angles, which reveal the trainer"s intentions; and combinationangles, which may consist of both performance and trainer intentions.

However, in all instances, it is current conditionwhich governs the effectiveness of an angle. If the horse in question is not sharp thenthe angle is worthless. The same thing applies to the pace-class figures. A horse may havethe highest pace-class figures of any contender in the field, but if it is not sharp as oftoday, its class rating is valueless.

Understanding these facts, it is clear that in manyinstances the selector finds himself in need of a subtle angle which will assist him inseparating the degree of class.

There is such an angle, but it must be handledcarefully and with a clear understanding of its strengths and weaknesses. The factorinvolved in this angle is weight.

We are sure that most of our readers know that we havevery little respect for the old weight theory. We have never been able to persuadeourselves that a few pounds on or off the back of a sharp horse will materially affect itsperformance. Nevertheless, we do have a solid respect for the weight factor when it iscombined with a trainer angle which denotes the conditioner"s intention to try.

This respect, however, is not based on a drop inweight. On the contrary, it is based on an increase in weight. We are aware thatmany players have been schooled in the belief that trainers spend much of their timesearching the condition book for weight-off spots. Perhaps many of them do. But therecords to not support such a belief.

If the reader has any doubt regarding the abovestatement we suggest that he check a month"s worth of result charts, making note ofwhether or not the money horses were dropping or picking up weight, or going with the samepoundage they carried in their most recent race. Such a study is entirely worthwhile,because too many fans pass up sharp horses too frequently only because these horses arepicking up weight, or because they are not dropping weight, whereas some other horse inthe field is getting in with seven or eight pounds off.

If the reader is familiar with the basic theory ofweight as it applies to horse racing, he must realize that generally speaking weight offis a sign that the horse is moving up in class, while weight on means that it is meetingless class than it encountered in its most recent engagement. This applies, of course, tothe poundage assignments set forth in the conditions. Weight off for an apprentice ridercannot be considered, nor can the sex allowances be included. This is so because suchweight allowances have nothing to do with weight assignments set forth in the raceconditions.

For example, read the following set of conditions:

 

". . .four-year-olds and upward. Claiming.For non-winners of two races since March 29, 122 lbs. Non-winners of a race since April 29allowed 3 lbs. . .in 1997 5 lbs. Claiming price $4,500, if entered for less 2 lbs. allowedfor each $250 down to $4,000."

 

These conditions place a top price of $4,500 and abottom price of $4,000 on horses that have not won two races since March 29, with a basicweight of 122 pounds. If a horse has not won since April 29, it will get three pounds off.If it has not won during 1997, it will get in with five pounds off. And it can get fromtwo to four pounds off if entered for $4,250 or $4,000.

Now, it is clear that if the horse is entered for$4,500 (the top price) and carries 122 pounds in this race, it must be the best horse inthis field insofar as its class and its winning record of recent date is concerned.

Suppose, for example, that last time this horse carried118 pounds. In that case it is picking up four pounds today, which reveals that it isproperly placed as to class.

On the other hand, suppose that this same horse hadonly 112 pounds up today. The drop of six pounds off the weight it carried last startwould indicate that it is moving up a bit today.

Thus when we select a horse that is dropping weight offthe poundage carried last out, for reasons other than sex, age, or apprentice allowances,we know it is moving up in class today.

Now we come to the angle itself. As you read thefollowing rules, you will note that they take care of the condition factor in more thanone way, a substantial gain and a defeat of less than six lengths. They also takeadvantage of trainer intentions as revealed by a recent drop in claiming price. In otherwords, this is a combination angle of performance and trainer intentions, with weightserving as a class guide.

 

1) Consider only horses that were dropped in claimingprice or class in either their last or next-to-last race.

2) Eliminate any such horse that did not gain FOURlengths or more between the pre-stretch call and the wire in either their last ornext-to-last start.

3) Eliminate any of the above qualified horses thatwere defeated by more than 5 3/4 lengths in the gaining race used to qualify it, or anyhorse that was defeated by LESS than ONE length.

4) Eliminate any of the qualified horses that woneither their last or next-to-last race.

5) Eliminate any qualified horse that is droppingweight off the poundage it carried last start. Under this rule the horse can pick up anynumber of pounds, but it must not drop even a single pound.

 

If only one horse remains after making the eliminationsabove, that horse is the play. If two or more horses remain after making the eliminations,the play is the horse that made the required four-length gain in the highest-class race.If tied on class, pass the race.

Presented in the form above, this angle sounds more orless like a system. It is not; it is simply an angle that is based on a recent drop inclaiming price or class (a move that many trainers make one race before shooting) plus astrong gaining race within its last two starts (performance angle) plus safeguards to keepyou off horses that are not sharp and those whose last race may have injured their sharpcondition.

In closing, let us remind you again that whenconsidering the weight rule you are not to consider apprentice allowances and sexallowances in your calculations. For example, if a horse carried 120 pounds last start andit has an apprentice up today it can quality if its weight today is no less than 115pounds. The weight it is getting off is not due to the conditions of the race but to thetrainer"s choice of a rider.

There are instances where the sex allowance must alsobe watched. If a filly ran last start in a race conditioned for fillies and mares,carrying 111 pounds, and is entered with males today carrying 109 pounds, she is notdropping weight due to the weight clauses in the conditions. Her pounds off are due onlyto her sex allowances when meeting male rivals.

The same reasoning applies to age allowances. Whenthree-year-olds are meeting older horses, they receive lighter weight assignments than theolder horses.

One must never allow a slight variation in the rules toprevent the player from betting an outstanding overlay.



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