Joe Takach

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The good thing about having an inquisitive client base for my weekly SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HORSES TO WATCH is that I always receive thought-provoking questions that usually end up becoming one of our new weekly handicapping articles.

Beaten favorites are important to take note of for many reasons.  Every time I handicap any given day’s card, I circle in red all beaten favorites in either one of their last 2 races.  I do this to draw my attention back to this horse after I’ve looked up his last race physicality, trip, and post-race notes from my program for that specific afternoon.

The first question you want to ask yourself about any beaten favorite is “was he a legitimate favorite or a false favorite”?  Obviously this is a very subjective question, but much easier to answer after the race is completed rather than before the gates spring open.

By “legitimate”, I mean did you have any major knocks on this horse before the race such as new negative equipment, or a running bias for that specific afternoon that was clearly against him?  

If you can’t find a good reason for a horse NOT to be the race favorite, then you can say that he was “legitimate”.

The second question to ask yourself about this beaten favorite is why did he lose?

Did he look good in the paddock?   Did he walk correctly with good energy?  Did he have good muscle and color?  Did he have a positive attitude when going under tack?  Did he warm-up properly and still remain nice and “dry” right up until loading?

If everything was OK in the paddock and the pre-race, how did the race unfold? 

Did he get a bad trip of some kind that cost him the win, or did he lose because he simply wasn’t good enough?

If he had a clean journey from front to back and wasn’t negatively affected by that afternoon’s running bias and still lost, then he simply wasn’t good enough------period!

If he’s returning today against a similar field at the same class level, he’s most likely a loser once again regardless of any favoritism bestowed by the less-suspicious public!      

If, on the other hand, he had a valid excuse, further investigation is surely warranted.

If I feel a beaten favorite was “legitimately compromised” somewhere during the running of his last event and it REALLY did cost him the race, I run to my post-race notes to see if anything written down that day might be of help to me on this specific afternoon in his comebacker.  For instance, if I feel the beaten favorite galloped out well in the post-race warm-down last time and came back to the unsaddling area in good order, he’s more likely to get serious attention on this specific afternoon if entered against similar.

Conversely, if he came back exhausted and gasping for air with his “tank clearly on empty” and/or walking short or with any other notable negatives, he’ll get nothing more than a cursory glance so that I have notes to go forward with in his next start after this one.

Let’s assume a last out beaten favorite has survived so far.

What makes him a solid contender today?

There are a few things that always seem to point to a well-intended beaten favorite in his very next start.


This is surely a no-brainer.  If the horse was ready to win today and caught trouble that stopped him from running “his” race, entering him back within 2 weeks is always a very positive sign.


This is another no-brainer.  If a well-intended last out beaten favorite is being “sent” today, the trainer won’t be experimenting with new and untried distances.  In other words, if a confirmed sprinter caught real trouble last out, his trainer won’t be sending him around 2 turns this afternoon if really “cracking” down.  Why add another variable to the equation?


Seems we have nothing but no-brainers here.   If you have a confirmed dirt horse who was a beaten-favorite last out, running him over a foreign surface like the turf or over an off track that he’s not bred for, can’t possibly help his chances this afternoon.


If you were a trainer hell-bent on winning this afternoon, you either keep a rider with whom you are satisfied or go to a better rider.  Anytime you see a trainer employ a lesser rider on a last out beaten favorite, drop the horse like a hot potato.  If the conditioner doesn’t think enough of his horse to get the very best ride he  can, then his horse races without my money---------period!


I can’t begin to tell you how important this last factor really is!  If a beaten favorite is well-intended this afternoon, you can be rest assured the jockey will lightly canter his mount at least 4 furlongs and anywhere up to 8 furlongs or a full mile!  As an example, I’ve seen Laffit Pincay warm up his last out beaten favorites from 6 to 8 furlongs to get them wide awake with their red blood cells out of their spleens and ready to deliver maximum oxygen to their hardworking muscles.  The “Ironman” with over 9000 wins didn’t get there without warming up his mounts---just ask him!      

The next time you’re confronted with a last out beaten favorite, simply employ some common sense and take advantage of the situation either by “betting the farm” on him or strongly wagering against him! 

Looks like a win-win situation!!!


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