“The Logical Choice is a great piece of work. Well done!” ~~ Ed Watts

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A Message To My Followers

I have received numerous emails over the past five or six weeks from folks wanting to know when my second book is coming out, if new blog posts will be forthcoming, wishing me a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, etc. I apologize for not answering everyone individually.

I am suffering from a terminally ill disease and I have not had the energy to do much more than watch television and pop pills for pain for several months. So, barring a miracle it is highly unlikely I will ever finish the book or post another blog article.Horse_50x50

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Workouts Are A Crap Shoot

orb_workoutThere are three types of workouts listed in the past performance records of horses: breezing (B), handily (H) and driving (D). Breezing means the horse was under no pressure at all and was not running near top speed. Handily means the horse worked eagerly with little urging by the exercise rider. A driving workout is rare as it is not often a horse is urged to go all out in the morning.

Workout times can be deceptive and usually do not reflect the true abilities of a horse. How much, or how little, a horse was urged during a workout is not only subjective but dependent upon additional factors. Was the workout made from a standing start? Was the horse galloping when it reached the point from which it was timed? Did the clocker time the correct horse?

The intention of a trainer is a guessing game and breezing and handily are not very descriptive terms. They alone cannot fully explain the ease or effort a horse put in during a workout, and thus comparing the times between horses, even if both workouts are listed as having been performed handily, is virtually meaningless.

The key to understanding workouts is the realization that frequency is the only compelling handicapping factor that can be derived from them. They are an indicator that a horse is likely not injured; that the horse is ready for a race. However, if a horse has not raced in several months, and only one track-mandated workout is listed in its past performance record between that race and now, I would see that as a negative sign. An absence of workouts over a prolonged period can indicate that a horse has a physical issue that required rest as most trainers with a sound, healthy horse will give their charge a workout or two to keep them sharp while they find it a suitable race.Horse_50x50

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Workouts As A Handicapping Tool

Eight_Bells_02Many racetracks have rules and regulations with regard to workouts. First-time starters and horses returning to racing after a long layoff are often required to have a set number of timed works before they are allowed to race. In addition, trainers may ask their charge to perform a relatively fast workout in the morning in order to prepare it for an upcoming afternoon showdown. These workouts, while not typically performed at full racing speed, are none-the-less faster than regular daily exercise such as jogging and galloping.

The past performance record of a horse will provide insight into the relative ability it may have compared to the other horses entered in a race, but it will not tell you if the horse is fit and ready to run to its potential. To help determine that, it is prudent to look at recent workouts. When choosing between two horses with similar past ability, it is often the horse with the best current form that prevails, and while workouts are an important tool in determining the current condition of a horse, interpreting them can be as daunting as predicting what Lady Gaga will have for lunch today.

Whatever the reason behind a workout, they have their place in the arsenal of a good handicapper. In understanding workouts, it is important to realize that both times and frequency can be indicators of an impending good race, but it is also important to realize that the intention of the trainer is often just a guessing game. That said, many trainers follow the same precise workout patterns when prepping horses for upcoming events, and if you feel compelled to spend the time required to compile such patterns for the trainers who enter horses at the track where you wager, you can sometimes spot a potential winner most bettors would never consider placing a wager on.Horse_50x50

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Training Horses To Win Is Not An Exact Science

509ed99357a8b.preview-620Any trainer can send out a horse capable of winning a race, but most of the time they are just as clueless as to which horse will win a race as you or I. Dick Mitchell said it best when he wrote, “If you ever want to become a zillionaire, all you have to do is open up a race-betting window that caters exclusively to trainers. The only group less informed than trainers are owners. Trainers are single-dimensioned. They only know about their horse. The rest of the field is mostly a mystery to them. I love it when I hear a punter say, ‘They’re shooting with the four-horse today.’ What the hell do you think the other eleven barns are doing – trying to lose?”

That pretty much sums up my beliefs on the subject of trainers. The only way an incompetent trainer can eke out a living in this business is by catering to owners who cannot grasp the fact that the nag they bought to impress their friends will never win a race. Eventually, these owners grow tired of hearing excuses as to why their horse has never finished in the money, tired of paying bills and having nothing to show for the money they have spent, and they leave the industry to make room for other dreamers.

Training horses to win is not an exact science, and the difference between a competent trainer and one who caters to owners with fanciful dreams and no grasp of reality is often the quality of his guesswork. A good trainer relies on instinct and his ability to learn from his hands-on, in-the-trenches experience while a poor trainer relies on his ability to string a dreamer along for as long as he can.

If I were to spend any time focusing on trainers, it would be to ferret out those trainers who have no ability. Fortunately, the horses under their care seldom demonstrate any prowess for racing and reflect such in  their past performance records.Horse_50x50

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Trainers As A Factor In Your Handicapping

Bob Baffert at barn_resizedHorse racing as we know it relies heavily on the trainers who condition the horses we end up wagering money on, but, as a factor in your handicapping, how much importance should you place on them?

At the recently ended Del Mar meeting, John Sadler recorded the most wins, 27, primarily because he started the most horses, 151. Bob Baffert finished second in the standings with four-fewer wins, but he had 52 fewer starters. Jerry Hollendorfer finished third with 20 wins, and he, too, had fewer than 100 starters. Which trainer is better at his job?

That was a trick question because all three trainers are very competent at what they do or their names would not appear on the list. To give greater emphasis to one of them would be doing an injustice to the other two, and would be a mistake when it comes to handicapping a race.

There were 218 trainers who started one or more horses at Del Mar this year, and the overwhelming majority of them failed to visit the winner’s circle even once, including Vladimir Cerin, Jerry Fanning, Roger Stein, Ted West, and Jack Van Berg, all well-known and highly competent trainers.

In the end, it is not the trainer who wins the race, it is the horse he has trained, and truly bad trainers do not last in this business for long. To place this all in perspective, assume you are a champion pole vaulter, and you have employed the best trainer available in the North America to prepare you for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. What are his chances of getting you to win a gold medal? While he might well be the best instructor, it is your physical prowess that will ultimately be the deciding factor. The same can be said about the top trainers of horses. An inferior horse is not likely going to beat a superior rival just because it has a well-known trainer.

If you took the time to conduct a thorough study, you would find that roughly 20% of all trainers win approximately 80% of all races. It is not because they are better trainers, but because their barns are filled with superior horses. The best trainers in the world lose many more races than they win, and the reason has nothing to do with their skills as trainers. It has to do with reality. Their charges faced superior competition on the days they lost.Horse_50x50

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