Dec 11, 2003
Trainer Intent and Workout Patterns
By: Ray Taulbot
Many horseplayers are
"workout conscious," that is, they watch for and study the workouts with great
care. When they find a horse that turnedin a work in fast time, they are inclined to
believe that they have found a horse that has a good chance to win today.
For example, if a bettor finds a horse that worked a half mile a few
days ago in something like :47, or one that was worked six furlongs in say, 1:12 and
change, they believe that they have found a sharp horse.
Yet workout times can be deceptive. Many workouts were not made from a
standing start, and in many instances the horse was galloping before it reached the point
from which it was to be timed. As a result, the horse had a running start before the
actual time began.
When the workout was from the starting gate, the time factor has greater
meaning, because the horse started from a standing start. Remember, though, that even
workouts from the gate do not offer the handicapper accurate information regarding the
actual condition of the horse.
No trainer in his right mind will ask for a horse's best when working it
out. To do so would be to run the danger of having the horse leave its best effort on the
training track in the morning. In short, a fast workout can dull the edge of the horse's
condition to such an extent that it will have nothing left for an actual race during the
next few days. So the use of workout times in making selections may become a dangerous
In our opinion, it is when the workouts took place that is really
important to the handicapper. You must remember, too, that the date of the workout is
closely related to the date of the horse's last race. This relationship cannot safely be
ignored because it is the horse's recent races and workouts which form its overall
There are few claiming horses that can be brought up to winning form
through workouts alone. Cheaper horses have to be raced into condition. There are a few
exceptions, but you won't find many of them in a racing season.
Since the majority of horses in competition must be raced into
condition, it follows logically that about one third of the races the average claimer runs
are actually workouts under actual racing conditions; that is, about a third of their
starts are conditioning races in which the horse is not expected to win or even finish in
No informed racing fan would argue against the statement that an actual
race contributes more to conditioning a horse than a workout.
If it not difficult to understand why this is so. Thoroughbreds have
been bred to race, and if the horse is healthy and sound, it enjoys racing in competition
with other Thoroughbreds.
A horse soon learns the difference between a morning workout and an
actual race, and most of them do not enjoy their morning workouts simply because in most
instances they are running against a stopwatch instead of competing against other horses.
It is for this reason that a trainer will sometimes work some of his
horses in pairs, or even in threes. He may resort to this simply because some of his
horses refuse to extend themselves satisfactorily when running alone.
From what has been said, it should be clear that a "workout
race" offers much better evidence of a horse's true condition than does its morning
If this is true, why do trainers bother with morning workouts at all?
Because workouts serve two major purposes: 1) They contribute toward keeping a
sharp horse on edge; and 2) horses need exercise in order to maintain good health.
A trainer can't afford to let his horse stand in its stall for days between races. Such a
procedure would produce very poor results insofar as the horse's health and physical
condition are concerned.
Our experience has taught us that very few racing fans ever view a
horse's last race as representing a workout. Yet any trainer will tell you that every race
a horse runs either contributes to its condition, or dulls its current condition to some
degree because the race was an over-taxing effort.
That brings us to the relationship which exists between a horse's races
and its workouts. First, two recent races and a couple of workouts comprise good evidence
of soundness. Soundness is of the greatest importance to the handicapper, because unsound
horses are not consistent performers.
There are two race and workout patterns that have great meaning. First
there is the workout that took place not more than three days prior to the horse's last
race. If the horse turned in a good effort and is re-entered with 28 days or so, it may
not need a workout after its last race in order to retain its sharp condition.
The other race-workout pattern is found when a horse had a workout some
days prior to its last race and has been given another workout after the last race.
Many of the horses that win each week fit into one of these two
race-workout patterns. However, a satisfactory race-workout pattern is not alone
sufficient to guarantee sharp condition. It is evidence of soundness, but unless the last
conditioning race reveals sharpness, it is risky to back the horse merely because the
evidence indicates soundness.
The key to the condition factor is found in the time in which the
horse's last race was run, as compared to the time of its previous race. If the horse's
last race resulted in a final time for the winner that was faster than the winner's time
in the next-to-last race, and if the horse earned a speed rating as high as or higher than
the speed rating for its next-to-last race, you may be sure that the horse is sharp,
despite what its beaten lengths seem to indicate.
How good a wager are these horses with evidence of soundness and sharp
condition? Do they win a high percentage of their races? How solid a wager the horse may
be depends largely upon two factors: 1) Its pace ability as compared to the pace
ability of other sharp horses in the field; and 2) The trainer's intentions today.
What about the distance factor? What should a bettor do if the horse is
a sprinter and is entered in a route race today, or vice-versa? There is only one logical
answer to this question and that is leave the distance factor to the trainer. There is no
escaping the fact that the trainer knows more about what distance is best for his horse at
the moment than do we selectors.
It costs time and money to bring a horse up to winning form, and the
trainer is a business man. Only a greenhorn would misplace a sharp horse as to distance.
You also may be sure that if you try to outguess the trainer in this matter, you will come
up holding the short end of the stick more often than not.
If there is evidence that the horse is sharp, and evidence that the
trainer is going to shoot for the win, our best advice is to leave the distance factor
entirely to the trainer's judgment.
Here is the preliminary part of this trainer-workout angle:
1. Consider only horses which have raced within the past 28 days.
2. In its most recent race, the horse must show some semblance of a
return to form. It can be either early speed at the first call, a gain of four or more
lengths from the first call to the stretch call or a gain of four or more lengths from the
pre-stretch call to the finish.
3. The horse must be running in the same class as or lower class than
its last race.
4. The horse must have had a blowout within three days of today's race.
A "blowout" can be considered to be a work of three or four furlongs. Time is
5. Where two or more horses qualify, play the horse going off at the
highest odds today.
Those players who wait for these trainer-workout angle plays, plus some
additional points to strengthen them, should get enough hard-hitting, live action to
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