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Sep 16, 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 workof 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 way alters 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. 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 the millions.

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 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 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 sound horse 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 or so.

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 the horse'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 popularopinion, 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. This explains why workout times are

a very poor guide to a horse's true current sharpness.

Once the horse has attained sharp condition, it could be fool hardy 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 inconcerned.

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 the horse has started within the

 past 21 days and if its last race was clearly one that didnot over exert 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 21 days 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 last time out.

d. It has had one or more workouts since running itst op 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 angle requirements.


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 andintends 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 at profitable odds.

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