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May 09, 2008

Searching for a sound investment


Racing fans could undoubtedly improve their winning percentage by confining

their selections to horses that are physically sound. Racing todayis cluttered with unsound and

partially unsound horses, which tends to complicate the workof making solid selections.

In bygone days, Thoroughbreds enjoyed the benefit ofsubstantial rest periods between

the late fall and winter racing, and again between winterracing and the spring session. Today,

however, racing schedules are arranged so thathorses receive little or no respite from the weekly

grind, unless their trainers find itabsolutely necessary to withdraw them briefly because of staleness.

This continuous grind has taken a toll so great thattoday we find an excessive number of bad-legged horses cluttering up racing cards, even athigher-class tracks.

It is not uncommon for the player to encounter severalraces a day where there is

not a single sharp, thoroughly-sound horse in the field.Bandages have become the rule rather

than the exception, and these leg wrappings seen onso many horses as they approach the paddock are nothing less than billboards proclaiming"Bad Legs".

The reader might point out that horses wearing bandagesdo win races. This is true. One

horse has to win every race run, but this truth in no wayalters the fact that backing unsound horses is a dangerous practice.

Many horses today that appear to be "quitters" have legs that are so bad that the horse

simply cannot withstand the discomfort that develops as each additional furlong is covered. These bad- legged horsesdo not quit because they are faint of heart, but only because of the pain they feel.Physical unsoundness also accounts for the apparent inconsistency of many horses. Thecripple or partial cripple is physically unable to turn in two good consecutive efforts.

No one knows how many dollars are lost by racing fansjust because of the physical

unsoundness of the horses they back, but the total must be inthe millions.

For his or her own good the racing fan should learn how to distinguish between a sound

and an unsound racehorse, and should then shun the unsound horse as he or she would the plague.

How can the racing fan tell whether or not horse is sound or unsound? The answer is found

in the work pattern. A cripple or partial cripple cannot withstand the same amount of work as a sound horse. Thus the work pattern, consisting of both actual races and workouts, gives one a good line on any horse"s true physical soundness.

From the horseman"s point of view, racing is abusiness, and he will start his charges as

frequently as possible. A trainer will race a thoroughly-sound horse more frequently than

one that is partially unsound and still morefrequently than the horse that is an outright


The same line of reasoning applies to workouts.Therefore, we find a marked difference

between the racing and workout schedules of a soundhorse and one with bad legs.

In the claiming divisions, we find sound horses racingon an average of every 21 days or

sooner. We also find that physically sound horsesreceive workouts between races in

most instances, except following a race of very recentdate, where the horse turned in a

bang-up effort last start within the past 10 days or so.

But the picture is entirely different where partialcripples and cripples are concerned. These

horses race less frequently and their workoutschedules differ widely from that of a sound contender.

The physically-unsound horse has to be patched upbetween races, and because it is

unsound it cannot be worked out too frequently. Further,when it is worked out the trainer

dares not ask it for real speed. The horse simply has tobe nursed along until such time

as its trainer believes it can be raced again without toomuch danger of a complete


We find physically unsound horses receiving only oneworkout following a period of

recuperation, and that workout usually takes place severaldays before the horse is to be

entered. The cripple has to return to the races withinadequate preparation, and with a

hope and a prayer that it will garner at least a part of the purse.

Sound horses, on the other hand, are handled in an entirely different manner. If a physically

sound horse becomes stale from over-racing, it is given a temporary layoff. During this

rest period, the horse usually receives some light form of work. This work during the early

part of the rest period is not found in the horse"s workout line beneath its charts,

because this exercise is not in the form of astandard workout. The horse may be galloped

on a lead line, or it may be given walking exercise combined with slow gallops which take

place during hours not usually devoted to workouts.

Most noticeable of all is the fact that before a sound horse is returned to actual racing, it will

receive several morning workouts during the two weeks prior to its return to active racing.

After a sound horse had resumed its regular racingschedule we find that it receives more

or less regular morning work. Contrary to popular opinion, workouts are not always used

as a means of bringing a hose to top form. Their more common usage is to keep a horse

on edge after it has attained sharp condition. This explains why workout times are a very

poor guide to a horse"s true current sharpness.

Once the horse has attained sharp condition, it couldbe fool hardy to ask it for anything

like its best speed in morning drills. To do so could be to run the risk of the horse leaving

its best speed on the training track. Therefore, the workout times are often moderate or

even on the slow side, and these times in the majority of instances have little meaning in so

far as the horse"s true condition inconcerned.

This brings us to an angle or work pattern which can be employed effectively to avoid

horses that are unsound. To put the angle briefly: If the horse has started within the past

21 days and if its last race was clearly one that did not overexert it, and if it has received

one or more workouts since running its last race, then you may be sure that the horse is

thoroughly sound.

We believe that one of the better spot plays is pointedout by the following rules of play:

1. Play is confined to claiming races only.

2. The horse must be one of the logical contenders on any type of handicapping.

(Fans who are pressed for time and cannot do their own handicapping may assume

that the horse is a contender if it is one of the first four post-time betting choices.)

It becomes a play if it meets all of the following requirements.

a. Its most recent race was run not more than 21days ago.

b. This top race was run at the track or a trackt hat is part of that circuit.

c. The horse finished fourth or farther back last time out.

d. It has had one or more workouts since running it stop race.

e. Today the trainer is dropping the horse in claiming price.

f. The horse is the only horse in the race that qualifies on all stipulated angle requirements.

The inclusion of Rule e and Rule f makes this angle very restrictive. The payoffs are

generally on the short side but the win percentage is exceptionally high. This is the

type of angle that should be played by fans who have no time to do their own

handicapping but who desire to do well over the long haul.

The first four requirements insure physical soundness, and the fifth is evidence that

the trainer is satisfied with his horse"s condition andintends to shoot the works.

This physical soundness angle, together with the trainer"s intention eliminates the

necessity for demanding an impressive finish last start. In many instances a physically sound, well meant horse will go to post at profitable odds.

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