Jun 17, 2004
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
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 practice.
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 training pattern.
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 the money.
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 workouts.
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
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
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 not important.
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 satisfy them.
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