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Oct 24, 2003

When Figures Alone Are Worthless

By: Ray Taulbot


"Wishing won't do the job but working will." When the moss of time is scraped from the surface of this old saying one discovers gold beneath its greenish surface.

The mere yearning for something will not produce the desired attainment of a given goal. Success in any field depends, first upon desire, second upon the will to work. Thus, it may be said that desire is the fuel that powers the will to work. One without the other is useless.

One should, however, remember that work is of two kinds, the right kind and the wrong kind. the wrong kind results in nothing more profitable than wasted energy; it is the right kind of work that produces the desired results.

Successful performance is wholly dependent upon the right approach. If one attacks any problem in an incorrect manner, then his effort is wasted. Unfortunately, too many racing fans are imbued with the mistaken notion that figures alone are sufficient for making good racing selections. But this is a fallacy of the worst sort. Figures serve to bring out the logical contention in a race; beyond this they have only a small value. Skill in the work of making sound selections is found in the individual's knowledge of horse racing and his ability to evaluate h is figures in accordance with the facts as they pertain to thoroughbred horses.

If horses were machines, then figures alone could be accepted at near face value. But race horses are not machines; they are animal athletes whose performances in many instances are governed by stable intentions as well as the physical condition of the horse.

The experienced selector knows that every race a horse runs either contributes to the furtherance of good condition or tends to dull whatever degree of sharp condition the horse might have previously enjoyed. Further, the selector knows that no matter what the animal's figures may seem to indicate, the horse s not going to win unless it is properly placed.

This is why a selector needs to know more than merely how to figure horses. He must know how to determine stable intentions, which is done through the use of racing angles and the current condition figures.

Thus it is clear t hat he must be capable of accurately judging the probable effect of a horse's last race upon its current condition before he can evaluate its handicap figures. If the horse's last race was an over-taxing effort its figures lose most, if not all, of their face value.

We have in front of us the past performances of an allowance race run this past summer at a major track. In this field we have two animals whose respective last races were run in an almost identical manner. Yet the probable effect of the last race is not the same in both instances. Study these two running lines:

Horse A ... 11/2 11 2nk 33

Horse B ... 11/4 11 21/4 33

These two animals ran, of course, in different races last start. However there was only one-fifth of a second difference between their respective final times. Therefore it seems that each race should have abut the same effect in both instances.

This apparent sameness in effect is due to the face that we are looking only at each animal's last races, both of which are almost identical insofar as the running lines are concerned.

But it is what went before which tells us what the probable effect of the last race will be. In short, we have to take a good look at each animal's next-to-last race before we are in position to make anything like an accurate judgment. Following are Horse A's last two races:

Last race ... 11/2 11 2nk 33

Next-to-last ... 76 75 64 1/4 86

Note that horse A was NOT in form prior to running his last race. He came to form last start, and under normal conditions should improve today. Now look at B's last two races:

Last race ... 11/4 11 21/4 33

Next-to-last ... 31 21/2 11 11/2

Note that B was sharp and in form prior to running his last race. It is not clear now that the effect of each animal's last race is not likely to be the same? A has just come to hand, and his last race should help him toward still further improvement today.

B, on the other hand, has now had two trying efforts, which combined are very likely to have taken something out of this animal. Its chances of improving today are much less than A's. In fact, B's last race appears to be the result of hang-over speed from his winning race next-to-last start. Therefore B is likely to stale off a bit today.

And that is just what happened in this race. A finished second, while B would up fifth, beaten six lengths.

Why didn't A improve enough to win this heat? That is a good question that deserves an answer. A was defeated because in this field we have a horse that has run three times in stakes company. True, it did not win any of the three stakes, but the fact that the stable spent money to enter the horse in stakes events strongly indicates its connections regard it as being something better than a run-of-the-mill allowance animal.

Is this alone sufficient to warrant either backing the better class animal or passing the race? In this instance this animal was the logical final choice because since running its last race 21 days ago the horse had been given three workouts during the 21 day rest period.

A high class horse of near stakes grade can be brought to top condition through the medium of workouts. This cannot be accomplished with cheapsters; they usually need actual recent racing to bring them to their best form.

So here we have a powerful angle which our handicap figures alone did not reveal. In fact, the winner of this race was the third figure horse. But this animal's potential class enhanced its figures to a point where it became the logical choice in this field.

One can garner many an extra winner, often at a good price, in allowance races where there is an animal that has started a few times in stakes races and which since running its last race has been given two or more workouts. There are some pros who back only this type of an animal in allowance races.

The two preceding examples should convince the most skeptical fan that figures alone are not sufficient to make good selections. We shall always need figures in our work for the purpose of bringing out the ability of contenders in any race. Buy the real sill in our work is developed through the acquirement of a wide knowledge of the many other factors upon which our figures must be evaluated.

At this point it seems advisable to warn the reader that angles, and knowledge of racing in general, apply to one of the two, three, or sometimes four animals in the field whose handicap figures must be evaluated.

At this point it seems advisable to warn the reader that angles, and knowledge of racing in general, apply to one of the two, three, or sometimes four animals in the field whose handicap figures place them among the top contenders.

It is a pure waste of time and effort to apply angles or anything else to those animals in the field with figures that do not support the idea that they are capable of dealing effectively with their competition. For example, if a horse has shown no signs of good condition in any of its most recent races there is no logical reason for giving it detailed consideration. Such animals do now and then upset things and win, but no amount of time and effort is likely to point them out as logical contenders before the race is run.

Upsets are a part of the hazards of racing, but because these sudden form reversals cannot be determined beforehand, the wise selector wastes no time and effort trying to figure such an animal. He simply eliminates it from consideration and concentrates his attention upon those horses in the field which clearly own the ability and current condition to run well with their opposition



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