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Dec 09, 2004

Searching for a Sound Investment

By: Ray Taulbot

Racing fans could undoubtedly improve their winning percentage by confining

their selections

to horses that are physically sound. Racing todayis cluttered with unsound and

partially unsound

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,

however, racing

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

proclaiming"Bad Legs".

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

dangerous practice.

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

horse. Thus

the work pattern,consisting of both actual races and workouts, gives one a good line on

any horse"s true

physical soundness.

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

thoroughly sound.

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

atprofitable odds.

In the fifth race at Santa Anita on January 24, 1995,the only qualifier was Lord Byron

who had

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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