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Nov 30, 2003

Searching for a Sound Investment

By: Ray Taulbot

Racing fans could undoubtedly improve their winningpercentage 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

thediscomfort 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 howto distinguish between a sound and an unsound

 racehorse, and should then shun the unsoundhorse as he or she would the plague.

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

 pattern. A cripple or partial cripplecannot 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 athoroughly-sound horse more frequently than one that is partially unsound and still morefrequently than the horse that is an outright cripple.

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 breakdown.

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 partof the purse.

Sound horses, on the other hand, are handled in anentirely different manner. If a physically sound horse becomes stale from over-racing, itis given a temporary layoff. During this rest period, the horse usually receives somelight form of work. This work during the early part of the rest period is not found in thehorse"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 walkingexercise combined with slow gallops which take place during hours not usually devoted toworkouts.

Most noticeable of all is the fact that before a soundhorse is returned to actual racing, it will receive several morning workouts during thetwo 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 popularopinion, workouts are not always used as a means of bringing a hose to top form. Theirmore common usage is to keep a horse on edge after it has attained sharp condition. Thisexplains why workout times are a very poor guide to a horse"s true current sharpness.

Once the horse has attained sharp condition, it couldbe foolhardy to ask it for anything like its best speed in morning drills. To do so couldbe 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 themajority of instances have little meaning insofar as the horse"s true condition inconcerned.

This brings us to an angle or work pattern which can beemployed effectively to avoid horses that are unsound. To put the angle briefly: If thehorse has started within the past 21 days and if its last race was clearly one that didnot 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 contenderson any type of handicapping. (Fans who are pressed for time and cannot do their ownhandicapping may assume that the horse is a contender if it is one of the first fourpost-time betting choices.) It becomes a play if it meets all of the followingrequirements.

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

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

c. The horse finished fourth or farther back lasttime out.

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

e. Today the trainer is dropping the horse inclaiming price.

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


The inclusion of Rule e and Rule f makes this anglevery restrictive. The payoffs are generally on the short side but the win percentage isexceptionally high. This is the type of angle that should be played by fans who have notime 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 thetrainer"s intention eliminates the necessity for demanding

 an impressive finish laststart. In many instances a physically sound, well meant horse will go to post

atprofitable odds.

In the fifth race at Santa Anita on January 24, 1995,the only qualifier was Lord Byron who had

raced 20 days ago at this track, finishingseventh, and was dropping in price today from $12,500 to $10,000. He

 had received aworkout (handily from the gate) on January 14. Sent off as the third choice in thebetting, the

gelding paid $12.60 to win.

In some races there will be two or more qualifiers onRules a to e but only one qualifier on Rule Two, requiring

the horse to be one of the topfour betting choices.

For example, Ucantstopthemusic was a third choice andpaid $11.60 in the fifth race at Gulfstream Park on

 January 11. Major Funding was a fourthbetting choice that paid $14.20 in the eighth race at Santa Anita

on January 19.

Despite the lack of action with this profitable angleit will pay you to look for more qualifiers in future races.

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