Trainers, Speed Figures and Class
Most persons capable of thinking will agree that ignorance is
the most costly element in human existence. Since this truth does not submit to argument,
it is clear that no matter what type of work we do it is of vital importance that we know
what we are doing, and that we do it well.
Handicapping-that is, the making of good racing selections-is
not a science nor in the strict meaning of the term an art. Handicapping is a trade.
Surely no one will argue against the fact that one must learn a
given trade before he can logically hope to practice it effectively. Certainly, the reader
would not assume that he can become a master plumber by merely reading a few articles or
books on that subject.
The beginning selector frequently finds himself struggling with
what appear to be insoluble problems, when in reality these problems could be solved
easily, if one had a reasonable knowledge of the facts of racing. First, horse racing is a
business, not a sport. Most men who own and race horses do so for the purpose of making
money. No trainer in his right mind ever purposely wastes a sharp horse. He can't afford
to if he wants to stay in business.
The trainer, so to speak, is the middle man in racing. With few
exceptions his livelihood depends upon winning purse money. Never forget that a trainer
can be fired if he fails to produce. A second fact that should never be overlooked is that
all horses do not respond to identical methods of training. Thus, we encounter different
methods of procedure which we sometimes call racing angles. Therefore, one must
familiarize oneself with what a trainer has done in the recent past and what he is doing
today. And more important-why he is doing it. We believe every reader will agree that he
could improve his winning margin if he knew that every selection he backs is a fit horse,
well-meant, and properly placed.
Let's look briefly at a type of move which tells us what the
trainer is up to. A horse turns in a fair effort over a six-furlong distance. Next start
the trainer enters this horse in a route race, and gives it an easy conditioning race.
Today he has again entered him in a sprint race.
What does this trainer move tell a selector? It tells him that
after the horse turned in a fair sprint effort its trainer decided it needed more stamina.
Therefore, he entered it in a route race in order to leg his horse up a bit. Today he has
entered his horse in a sprint race, which means he believes his horse is now ready and he
is going to try. If the horse is a figure contender, the selector knows it is a real
threat-it figures well and the trainer has practically told us he is going to crack down.
There are three kinds of racing angles that help the selector in
his work: trainer angles, performance angles, and a combination of the two. The trainer
angles reveal the method the conditioner has employed to get his horse ready for the race.
The performance angle reveals the condition of the horse through the manner in which it
has recently performed. When we have both trainer and performance angles present in the
chart we have a strong combination angle.
A third fact that should be remembered and accepted is a
1) Sharp condition contributes more toward a winning effort
than any other single factor.
2) There is no such thing as a sure thing in horse racing.
Any horse in the field may win or lose. This fact, if
remembered, should prevent the common mistake of going overboard on a horse that looks
like an extra good selection. In short, it is bad business to bet two dollars on one
selection and ten dollars on another.
When the effectiveness of a sharp current condition is mentioned
many fans ask: "What about horses that win when there was no evidence in their chart
to indicate sharpness?"
First, the horse won, therefore it ran faster than any other
horse in the field, so it was fit and ready. And now to the key question: Was there any
evidence that the trainer believed his horse was fit and ready despite its poor public
No one can answer that question unless he is familiar with all
of the good trainer angles. We can tell you, however, that in many instances such angles
are present, and if you knew about them you could pick up many an extra good priced
winner. Here are the top two races of a horse that was cleverly prepped by its trainer:
1-1/4 Clm 3500 45 921 923 925 30.90
6f Clm 3599 59 59 421/2 99 6.30
Note that this horse was beaten by 25 lengths last time out and
nine lengths in its previous race. To the casual observer the horse appears in no way
ready to win a race. But let us look at how the horse was handled by the trainer. The
penultimate race appears dull until we see that the horse was allowed to run in one burst
of speed from the half-mile pole to the eight pole, making up 6-1/2 lengths on the leader.
Its "race within a race" shows us that the horse was
sharp. Sharp enough for the trainer? No. Perhaps the jockey told him the horse had
Accordingly the trainer next entered him in a race of 1-1/4
miles where he could employ the race workout and distance switch angles. Was this the time
for the horse to try for such a win after its six furlong speed sharpener? No, the horse
received some backing in its next-to-last race but next time out it went off at 30-1.
After being close to the pace for half a mile the horse was allowed to amble along behind
What did the trainer achieve? He gave the horse a workout both
for speed and endurance. Further by now he has shaken off about 90 percent of the novice
racetrack handicappers. But how can we tell if the trainer is really trying in today's
sprint contest? We get a pretty good tip-off in the fact that he has chosen a race where
he must drop the horse $500 in value. This horse won returning $87.40.
Drops in claiming prices do not always signify that a trainer is
trying. But when you get 40-1 odds you can afford to make a few mistakes. Bear in mind
that if you can beat the price you can beat the races.
We wonder how many of our readers know that slightly more than
50 percent of the races won during the past 20 years were won by horses that finished
in-the-money in one of their last two starts? And that when horses that finished fourth,
beaten no more than 1-1/2 lengths, are included the percentage climbs higher. Isn't this
fact of racing important to the selector's work? We think so. How many readers know what
percentages of races are won by horses that have previously won 35 percent of their
starts? We can tell you it is surprisingly high, although the prices on some are too short
for profitable speculation.
Another fact that every racing fan should accept is that:
"Every race a horse runs either contributes to the
furtherance of sharp conditions or tends to dull whatever degree of sharpness the horse
enjoyed at that time."
This is why speed ratings are not always a true indication of
the degree of current sharpness. In some instances the speed rating will reveal the
sharpest horse in the field, in other instances it will not. We must first consider the
probable effect of the last race upon the horse's condition before we can accurately judge
the true value of a speed rating. Let's look at an example that will make this clear.
Examine the running line of the two following races:
Horse A 54 33 22 21 speed 95
Horse B 11/2 11/2 1nk 1 no speed 95
It is clear that Horse B had a very hard race, one in which it
was under severe pressure from the first call to the finish. Horse A, on the other hand,
was never under hard pressure and, as a result might improve today, while Horse B will
almost certainly tail off. The problem becomes even more complicated when the two races
were run over different distances, or when the two horses earned their respective speed
ratings over different tracks. Speed ratings, which include the beaten lengths, if any,
are a factor that are usable in certain conditions, but to accept the figure blindly at
face value in every instance is a dangerous procedure.
Another costly fallacy common to racing fans is what we call the
pattern hang-up. For example, last week a fan backed a horse that had run as follows
before winning: 23 22 22 21. Today in the fifth he finds a horse that ran its last race in
an identical, or nearly identical manner. Therefore, he reasons that because the horse he
bet last week won, the horse should win today.
His loose reasoning is based upon the fact that he does not
realize that no two races are identical in every aspect. For one thing the horse in the
fifth today is not meeting the same horses the winner of the last week was meeting.
Another fallacy among beginners is their belief that claiming
prices can be used effectively as an accurate measuring rod of class. A claiming price is
actually a selling price, that is, the price at which the horse is offered to sale. Thus,
the best that claiming prices can do is to roughly divide claiming grades. Therefore, the
price of $3,500 does not actually prove that the horse is of a higher class than one
bearing a $3,000 selling tag. Class can be determined through pace, combined with claiming