Joe Takach

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If you did your homework last week as I suggested, your comparative table should look something like this:


Maiden Special Weight                                       Allowance other-than-1

Maiden Claiming  80K-75K                                Open claiming  32-28K

Maiden Claiming  62.5K-55K                                   “           “       25-22.5K

Maiden Claiming  50K-45K                                     “           “       20-18K

Maiden Claiming  40K-35K                                   Starter Allowance/nw/2/life and broke maiden 40K or less

Maiden Claiming  32-28K                                     Open claiming 16-14K

Maiden Claiming  25K to 22.5K                               “            “      12.5K-10.5K 

All that we did to come up with this chart was to compare winning maiden purses to those of “open” company.  And, as with everything and every angle in our great game, there are exceptions and suggestions to the above chart that we’ll delve into at once.


It is not uncommon for a maiden winner to run a “monster race” when victorious for the 1st time, be it his initial outing or his 15th start.  This occurs for any number of reasons to include first lasix, blinkers on or off, level of competition, barn change, jockey change, new shoes etc.

A “strong or a big win” occurs when a maiden puts up a “number” that is impressive and good enough to beat much better, or the win itself was done so easily that it took nothing out of him.

Everybody knows what “big numbers” are and when they occur-----even the “hot dog” lady!   But more subtle wins that are equally impressive are sometimes overlooked because the “number” earned in the race itself wasn’t all that huge!

Examples would include any maiden who gains ground at every running call, or who wins with a very comfortable hand ride while well within himself, or who was being throttled down (under wraps) when out by so many lengths in the stretch that nobody could catch him.  These maiden-breakers could and should be regarded as “strong” or big winners. 

Suppose this “big maiden win” came at the Maiden Claiming level of 32-28K.  Under normal circumstances, he’d be entered with “open” 16K company next out.  But if he ran a winning maiden number that day good enough to beat Maiden Claimers at the 62.5K level, then it isn’t out of the question to enter him against “open” 25K stock (see our new chart).  Not only is it NOT out of the question, you’ll find that many of these step-ups are grossly “overlaid” on the tote board.  This is due to “Tom Ainslie Era” warnings never to bet a horse going into “open” company off his maiden win if entered for more than ½ of his winning maiden claiming tag.

You better discard that antiquated thinking!

If the number earned was “legitimate” and not the end result of a perfect trip behind a 3 horse speed duel while travelling over the very best part of the track, a victorious 32K maiden with a “big win”, frequently humbles 25K open claiming company in their next starts at very fair mutuel prices-----that is, if the big maiden win was all and everything that it appeared to be!

2-----WEAK WINS 

A weak or poor win is the other side of the “big win”.  In other words, if that same maiden 32K winner directly above only ran a race that day good enough to beat lesser Maiden 25K Claimers, then instead of going to “open” 16K next out, he should actually drop to “open” 12.5-10.5K foes.  If he doesn’t, he’ll most likely get his clock cleaned at 16K, let alone stepping up as our “big winner” did to the “open” 25K level.

Non-numerical examples of weak wins would be “blanket finishes” of 3 or more maidens.  If they are that close, it speaks more to the inferiority of the entire field, rather than to the superiority of the close finishers.  When you break your maiden, you better do it with authority because you’re only beating other non-winners.  Next out, you’ll be facing the “real” things!


Sometimes the trainer of a “big winner” will confirm what you think you recently witnessed by quickly returning their maiden winners in a hurry.

What’s a hurry?  It all depends, but a good rule of thumb would be to return him within 21 days along with a few morning maintenance drills.  If the horse is as good and tight as you believe him to be, waiting any longer than 21 days suggests problems or your misreading of the horse himself.


Trainers often tip their hands simply because they have no choice!  Unless experiencing momentary insanity, they wouldn’t go to an inept rider to get 5-1 on their horse instead of taking 6-5 with a Hall Of Famer in the irons.   The odds don’t ride the horse the jockey does!  If you go to a lesser rider, you should expect a lesser ride!  (How’s that for some Rocket Scientry!)

Regarding distance changes off maiden wins, I treat them as I would any other horse.  If a maiden winner is stretching out in his first start with “open” company, his pedigree has to be “up to snuff” and indicate that additional yardage will pose NO problem.

Conversely if shortening up from a maiden route win to “open” company going short, he’s most likely a loser!!!  He’ll be facing other prior sprint winners who are NOT coming off route efforts where early speed is frequently dulled somewhat with much slower opening fractions.

However, once in a great while you’ll come across a horse whose route fractions are as good as or only a tick behind the best pace figure in today’s “open” race.  If this maiden winner shows a few quick morning works, he has a decent chance of winning if properly placed and warming up strongly in the pre-race.  You’ll be amazed at how many times the public quickly dismisses these maiden route winners when dropping back to a sprint distance.

On the other side of that same coin, I love maiden sprint winners stretching out in their very first starts against “open” company provided that a few factors are present.

1---His pedigree fully supports today’s route distance.

2---He makes a relatively quick return off his maiden sprint win and hopefully that initial victory was a “big win”!

3---His pace figure in his winning maiden sprint places him far ahead of the competition after 6 furlongs (1/4 pole or thereabouts) in this upcoming “open” 2-turn affair. 

4---His jockey is good at stretching speed out to greater distances and not just someone who breaks well.  It is one thing to get a horse cleanly out of the gate in a hurry, and it is quite another thing to take that same sprinter and “nurse” his speed around 2 turns.  Jockeys like Pincay, Flores, Stevens and McCarron are “masters” at this on the Southern Cal. circuit.

If you can get ALL 4 of those requirements satisfied, you could have a very healthy 4 digit mutuel return if all else is correct about the runner.

Normally after a maiden win, I don’t like surface changes.  After all, you just got the horse to win for the first time---why try and teach him a new surface in his very first start against prior winners?  It’ll be tough enough to beat them without throwing a new surface into the equation!  You do see diamonds in the rough on occasion and this primarily occurs when maiden dirt winners with excellent grass breeding move over to the turf.

If a particular last out maiden winner still has your eye when moving from dirt to turf after handicapping the entire “open” field, only one thing is absolutely essential and in a word it’s breeding!  Sure, post position is important as are all other handicapping factors, but WITHOUT breeding, a last out maiden dirt winner showing up on the turf is just out for exercise!  Trainers usually don’t try to complicate a last out maiden winner’s life by immediately trying to teach him a new surface, but some trainers had this as a “plan” all along and the initial outing against winners on the turf is nothing more than sticking to a program.

A final clue on a surface change comes with front running dirt maiden SPRINT winners showing up in turf routes.  If their pedigree is totally acceptable, look out!  The trainer is going to try and “steal” this race by telling his jockey to go to the front at once and just keep going!  Look for this angle-----it’s a DOOZY!

That’s it!

If you use this writing as an overall guide, you’ll find yourself cashing some enormous mutuel tickets as well as having very solid mid-priced “singles” for your pick 3s, 4s, 6s and pick-alls!

Good hunting!


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