Jan 27, 2012
AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-OFF FORM WINNERS
By: AMERICAN TURF CLUB
It certainly is cause for wonder when a horse, after finishing far back of the winner several times in a row, comes out and wins a race. Is it possible there is a hint, somewhere in the running line of its last beaten-off race, that this wakeup is imminent?
The answer is yes—in many cases there is just such a hint. It shows up in the early stages of the horse’s most recent race, in a flash of early speed that is an unmistakable clue that the horse is ready to show improvement in its races.
This doesn’t mean that every beaten-off horse that had early speed last time out is a sure winner today. But it does help to explain why so many horses that were badly beaten last out, come on to win or at least finish close up.
Consider the horse and you will understand better why this flash of speed suggests impending improvement. Let us assume that the horse has been running below par in its races, but is gradually improving, thanks to a few workouts and the careful attention of its trainer. It is not ready to cope with horses that are well ahead of it in condition, but it IS in a running mood.
If this is the case, the horse will show it in its races. It will run as fast as it can, as far as it can go, after which it will find it impossible to keep up with better conditioned horses that have moved into contention—and it will start to drop back.
Its jockey will quit urging it, while the riders on the contenders work feverishly on their mounts in an effort to win the race. The natural result is that the farther the race progresses, the more the early-speed horse falls back, so that at the finish it may be 15 or 20 lengths behind, or even more.
The point I make is, the beaten margin means nothing. The big item is the early speed displayed by the horse—the hint that it is in a running mood, approaching peak form. It may not win its next race or the one after that, but there can be no denying the fact that it IS approaching peak form. Which means that it will run far better than its beaten margin the last few races would indicate.
This, then, is the hint that a wakeup is imminent—the flash of early foot by a horse that ends up beaten by a wide margin. Now, how can you use this knowledge in your handicapping?
Just make this a hard-and-fast rule: “Don’t eliminate any horse as out-of-form due to beaten-off races if in any of these races it showed early speed.”
Note I wrote “any of these races—not all of them. If the horse was beaten by plenty in its last two or three races, it must be considered if it had early foot in ANY of the three, not necessarily all three. This is important because you must not demand the same performance of a horse every time it runs. Remember, they are not machines—and they must not be expected to perform as such.
As long as the early-speed race was run within the last 30 days, that evidence is there that the horse is on the improve, and just because it followed up this early-foot effort with a below-par performance doesn’t mean it has gone back. It may have been overmatched, off poorly, outrun by speedier horses in the early part, etc.
Include this rule in your handicapping procedure and I’m sure you will find it possible to come up with a wakeup winner now and then that you would never have given a look-in otherwise. You will not always consider the beaten-off horse as the right play in the race just because it had early speed recently; there may be other horses in the race that figure better on class, consistency, and other important aspects of handicapping. But on some occasions you will find that the beaten-off horse, if given credit for a good performance recently on the strength of an early-speed flash, actually rates best, or at least is a good longshot possibility.
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