Apr 23, 2004
Searching for a Sound Investment
By: Ray Taulbot
Racing fans could undoubtedly improve their winning percentage by confining
to horses that are physically sound. Racing todayis cluttered with unsound and
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,
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
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
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
the work pattern,consisting of both actual races and workouts, gives one a good line on
any horse"s true
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 morefrequently 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 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
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 in so
far 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
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
In the fifth race at Santa Anita on January 24, 1995,the only qualifier was Lord Byron
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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