Dec 19, 2008
Searching for a sound investment
By: RAY TAULBOT
Racing fans could undoubtedly improve their winning percentage by confining
their selections to horses that are physically sound. Racing today is cluttered with unsound and
partially unsound horses, which tends to complicate the work of making solid selections.
In bygone days, Thoroughbreds enjoyed the benefit of substantial rest periods between
the late fall and winter racing, and again between winter racing and the spring session. Today,
however, racing schedules are arranged so that horses receive little or no respite from the weekly
grind, unless their trainers find it absolutely necessary to withdraw them briefly because of staleness.
This continuous grind has taken a toll so great that today we find an excessive number of bad-legged horses cluttering up racing cards, even at higher-class tracks.
It is not uncommon for the player to encounter several races 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 on so many horses as they approach the paddock are nothing less than billboards proclaiming "Bad Legs".
The reader might point out that horses wearing bandages do win races. This is true. One
horse has to win every race run, but this truth in no way alters 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 horses do 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. The cripple or partial cripple is physically unable to turn in two good consecutive efforts.
No one knows how many dollars are lost by racing fans just because of the physical
unsoundness of the horses they back, but the total must be in the 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 more frequently 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 sound horse and one with bad legs.
In the claiming divisions, we find sound horses racing on an average of every 21 days or
sooner. We also find that physically sound horses receive workouts between races in
most instances, except following a race of very recent date, 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 partial cripples and cripples are concerned. These
horses race less frequently and their workouts chedules differ widely from that of a sound contender.
The physically-unsound horse has to be patched up between 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 one workout following a period of
recuperation, and that workout usually takes place several days before the horse is to be
entered. The cripple has to return to the races with inadequate 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 racing schedule 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 could be 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 over exert it, and if it has received
one or more workouts since running its last race, then you may be sure that the horse is
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 21 days 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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