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Feb 05, 2004

Weighing In On Class And Condition

By: Ray Taulbot

Every turf investor of any real experience knows that class is one of the two most important factors in the production of winning selections. Condition, of course, is the other. These two factors combine to produce more winners than any other two factors in the handicapping process.

At the same time, class probably gives the average turf enthusiast more trouble than any other single factor. Pace can be used successfully as a means of bringing out the class contenders in any type of race where the horses involved have established their true class.

However, when it comes to separating the class contenders, the selector is faced with a problem which does not submit itself to solution through the use of figures alone. Thus, racing angles enter the picture.

There are, generally speaking, three types of racing angles: Performance angles, which have to do with the manner in which the horse has performed recently; trainer angles, which reveal the trainer's intentions; and combination angles, which may consist of both performance and trainer intentions.

However, in all instances, it is current condition which governs the effectiveness of an angle. If the horse in question is not sharp then the angle is worthless. The same thing applies to the pace-class figures. A horse may have the highest pace-class figures of any contender in the field, but if it is not sharp as of today, its class rating is valueless.

Understanding these facts, it is clear that in many instances the selector finds himself in need of a subtle angle which will assist him in separating the degree of class.

There is such an angle, but it must be handled carefully and with a clear understanding of its strengths and weaknesses. The factor involved in this angle is weight.

We are sure that most of our readers know that we have very little respect for the old weight theory. We have never been able to persuade ourselves that a few pounds on or off the back of a sharp horse will materially affect its performance. Nevertheless, we do have a solid respect for the weight factor when it is combined with a trainer angle which denotes the conditioner's intention to try.

This respect, however, is not based on a drop in weight. On the contrary, it is based on an increase in weight. We are aware that many players have been schooled in the belief that trainers spend much of their time searching the condition book for weight-off spots. Perhaps many of them do. But the records to not support such a belief.

If the reader has any doubt regarding the above statement we suggest that he check a month's worth of result charts, making note of whether or not the money horses were dropping or picking up weight, or going with the same poundage they carried in their most recent race. Such a study is entirely worthwhile, because too many fans pass up sharp horses too frequently only because these horses are picking up weight, or because they are not dropping weight, whereas some other horse in the field is getting in with seven or eight pounds off.

If the reader is familiar with the basic theory of weight as it applies to horse racing, he must realize that generally speaking weight off is a sign that the horse is moving up in class, while weight on means that it is meeting less class than it encountered in its most recent engagement. This applies, of course, to the poundage assignments set forth in the conditions. Weight off for an apprentice rider cannot be considered, nor can the sex allowances be included. This is so because such weight allowances have nothing to do with weight assignments set forth in the race conditions.

For example, read the following set of conditions:


". . .four-year-olds and upward. Claiming. For non-winners of two races since March 29, 122 lbs. Non-winners of a race since April 29 allowed 3 lbs. . .in 1997 5 lbs. Claiming price $4,500, if entered for less 2 lbs. allowed for each $250 down to $4,000."


These conditions place a top price of $4,500 and a bottom price of $4,000 on horses that have not won two races since March 29, with a basic weight of 122 pounds. If a horse has not won since April 29, it will get three pounds off. If it has not won during 1997, it will get in with five pounds off. And it can get from two to four pounds off if entered for $4,250 or $4,000.

Now, it is clear that if the horse is entered for $4,500 (the top price) and carries 122 pounds in this race, it must be the best horse in this field insofar as its class and its winning record of recent date is concerned.

Suppose, for example, that last time this horse carried 118 pounds. In that case it is picking up four pounds today, which reveals that it is properly placed as to class.

On the other hand, suppose that this same horse had only 112 pounds up today. The drop of six pounds off the weight it carried last start would indicate that it is moving up a bit today.

Thus when we select a horse that is dropping weight off the poundage carried last out, for reasons other than sex, age, or apprentice allowances, we know it is moving up in class today.

Now we come to the angle itself. As you read the following rules, you will note that they take care of the condition factor in more than one way, a substantial gain and a defeat of less than six lengths. They also take advantage of trainer intentions as revealed by a recent drop in claiming price. In other words, this is a combination angle of performance and trainer intentions, with weight serving as a class guide.


1) Consider only horses that were dropped in claiming price or class in either their last or next-to-last race.

2) Eliminate any such horse that did not gain FOUR lengths or more between the pre-stretch call and the wire in either their last or next-to-last start.

3) Eliminate any of the above qualified horses that were defeated by more than 5 3/4 lengths in the gaining race used to qualify it, or any horse that was defeated by LESS than ONE length.

4) Eliminate any of the qualified horses that won either their last or next-to-last race.

5) Eliminate any qualified horse that is dropping weight off the poundage it carried last start. Under this rule the horse can pick up any number of pounds, but it must not drop even a single pound.


If only one horse remains after making the eliminations above, that horse is the play. If two or more horses remain after making the eliminations, the play is the horse that made the required four-length gain in the highest-class race. If tied on class, pass the race.

Presented in the form above, this angle sounds more or less like a system. It is not; it is simply an angle that is based on a recent drop in claiming price or class (a move that many trainers make one race before shooting) plus a strong gaining race within its last two starts (performance angle) plus safeguards to keep you off horses that are not sharp and those whose last race may have injured their sharp condition.

In closing, let us remind you again that when considering the weight rule you are not to consider apprentice allowances and sex allowances in your calculations. For example, if a horse carried 120 pounds last start and it has an apprentice up today it can quality if its weight today is no less than 115 pounds. The weight it is getting off is not due to the conditions of the race but to the trainer's choice of a rider.

There are instances where the sex allowance must also be watched. If a filly ran last start in a race conditioned for fillies and mares, carrying 111 pounds, and is entered with males today carrying 109 pounds, she is not dropping weight due to the weight clauses in the conditions. Her pounds off are due only to her sex allowances when meeting male rivals.

The same reasoning applies to age allowances. When three-year-olds are meeting older horses, they receive lighter weight assignments than the older horses.

One must never allow a slight variation in the rules to prevent the player from betting an outstanding overlay.

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