Feb 11, 2005
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 today is cluttered
with unsound and partially unsound horses, which tends to complicate the work
of making solid selections.
In bygone days, Thoroughbreds enjoyed the benefit of substantial rest periods
between the late fall and winter racing, and again between winter racing and the
spring session. Today, however, racing schedules are arranged so that
horses receive little or no respite from the weekly grind, unless their trainers
find it absolutely necessary to withdraw them briefly because of staleness.
This continuous grind has taken a toll so great that today we find an excessive
number of bad-legged horses cluttering up racing cards, even at higher-class tracks.
It is not uncommon for the player to encounter several races 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 on
so many horses as they approach the paddock are nothing less than billboards
proclaiming "Bad Legs".
The reader might point out that horses wearing bandages do 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 with stand the discomfort that develops as each additional
furlong is covered. These bad- legged horses do 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. The cripple or
partial cripple is physically unable to turn in two good consecutive efforts.
No one knows how many dollars are lost by racing fans just because of the
physical unsoundness of the horses they back, but the total must be in
For his or her own good the racing fan should learn how to distinguish between
a sound and an unsound racehorse, and should then shun the unsound
horse as he or she would the plague.
How can the racing fan tell whether or not horse is sound or unsound? The answer
is found in the work pattern. A cripple or partial cripple cannot with stand 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
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 more
frequently than the horse that is an outright cripple.
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 racing on an average of every
21 days or sooner. We also find that physically sound horses receive workouts
between races in most instances, except following a race of very recent date,
where the horse turned in a bang-up effort last start within the past 10 days
But the picture is entirely different where partial cripples and cripples are
concerned. These horses race less frequently and their workout schedules
differ widely from that of a sound contender.
The physically-unsound horse has to be patched up between 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 too
much danger of a complete breakdown.
We find physically unsound horses receiving only one workout following a
period of recuperation, and that workout usually takes place several days before
the horse is to be entered. The cripple has to return to the races with
inadequate preparation, and with a hope and a prayer that it will garner at least
a part of the purse.
Sound horses, on the other hand, are handled in an entirely different manner. If
a physically sound horse becomes stale from over-racing, it is 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 a
standard workout. The horse may be galloped on a lead line, or it may be given
walking exercise combined with slow gallops which take place during hours not
usually devoted toworkouts.
Most noticeable of all is the fact that before a sound horse is returned to actual
racing, it will receive several morning workouts during the two weeks prior to its
return to active racing.
After a sound horse had resumed its regular racing schedule we find that it
receives more or less regular morning work. Contrary to popular opinion, workouts
are not always used as a means of bringing a hose to top form. Their more
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
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 could be 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 the
majority of instances have little meaning insofar as the horse's true condition
This brings us to an angle or work pattern which can be employed 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 pointed out 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 own handicapping may
assume that the horse is a contender if it is one of the first four post-time
betting choices.) It becomes a play if it meets all of the following requirements.
a. Its most recent race was run not more than 21days ago.
b. This top race was run at the track or a track that 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 its top race.
e. Today the trainer is dropping the horse in claiming price.
f. The horse is the only horse in the race that qualifies on all stipulated
The inclusion of Rule e and Rule f makes this angle very restrictive. The
payoffs are generally on the short side but the win percentage is
exceptionally 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 and
intends to shoot the works.
This physical soundness angle, together with the trainer's intention eliminates
the necessity for demanding an impressive finish last start. 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, finishing seventh, and was
dropping in price today from $12,500 to $10,000. He had received a workout
(handily from the gate) on January 14. Sent off as the third choice in the
betting, the gelding paid $12.60 to win.
In some races there will be two or more qualifiers on Rules a to e but only one
qualifier on Rule Two, requiring the horse to be one of the topfour
For example, Ucantstopthemusic was a third choice and paid $11.60 in the fifth
race at Gulfstream Park on January 11. Major Funding was a fourth betting
choice that paid $14.20 in the eighth race at Santa Anita on January 19.
Despite the lack of action with this profitable angle it will pay you to look for
more qualifiers in future races.
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