levels and attitudes are big “tells” in paddock handicapping.
those of you on track, some will get unobstructed 5 to 7 minute views
of horses walking in from the backside for the upcoming race immediately
following the current race. It is not uncommon for race participants
to pass each other as some walk in from the backside and some are returning
to the backside. If you have binoculars with you, this is where you
want to start looking at energy levels.
you have to wait until the horses enter your paddock, you still have
plenty of time to make judgement calls on overall energy levels. And
even if you are playing via satellite, the many different times
you see each horse will “tell” you who is ready to run
and who is not!
these pre-race attitudes will allow you to concentrate on horses with
a positive mental outlook towards the upcoming race, while quickly dismissing
those with negative postures.
are 5 basic types of energy levels coupled with specific attitudes.
horse is very easy to spot. His posture suggests totally lethargy.
Each and every step is an enormous effort as the groom encourages him
forward. The horse’s eyes are half closed. His ears are most likely
flopped over completely. His head is low and bobbing. He’s usually
kicking up dirt with every step as his hooves barely come off the ground
from his last step. Just looking at him makes you yawn!
not every single horse devoid of energy is hurt, lame or sore, many
are! Additionally coupled with this very negative profile are a host
of other maladies to include walking short, flat tails, poor ear positions,
undermuscling, walking wide, enlarged ankles, bowed tendons, liniment
and poor color.
walking dead will offer little, if any, resistance during
the upcoming race. While they might not have every negative trait mentioned,
they will possess a few. And a few are too many!
waste no time dismissing these highly unlikely specimens and strongly
suggest you do the same.
horse is the first cousin to the walking dead. While both members of
this family appear utterly apathetic, the walking half-dead
are just that. There might be hints of life inside them unlike their
fully comatose cousins, but these animals offer no clues of a willingness
not necessarily burdened with every aspect of the walking dead, the
half-dead are merely nondescript contestants who would prefer the solace
of their barns. Few will be competitive at any stage of their upcoming
pass these losers as well.
dwellers have learned over their handicapping careers that unruly
and uncontrollable animals are always a no-no!
like the walking dead, fractious horses are very easy
to spot in a crowd. They’re the ones jumping around like kangaroos
in heat for no apparent reason. Take a good look at their grooms.
Most likely they are sweating profusely from trying to control them.
than delve into the reasons for this negative behavior that could include
sickness, fear, anger, lameness, legal or illegal drugging, our time
would be better spent addressing the negativity of the fractiousness,
the needed energy that is lost, and the signs that are readily evident.
horses are constantly wheeling or rearing up in an attempt to free themselves
from their handlers. Insensitive grooms will waste no time in giving
their horse some very hard downshanks on the lead chain.
If that fails to calm the horse (which it rarely does), the indifferent
groom sometimes uses the leather strap attached to the lead chain to
smack the unwilling animal. As a last resort, I’ve seen fractious horses
punched in the head or kicked in the stomach.
unacceptable methods of control only serve to further
infuriate the beast!
fractious horses are frightened horses. Their eyes offer the most convincing
evidence. It is not uncommon for the whites of their eyes to be overly
visible. They look as if they just saw a ghost.
ears of a fractious horse sometimes flicker continually. They randomly
move in every direction imaginable. It is obvious that the horse isn’t
concentrating on anything in particular and doesn’t want to be where
he is. If he becomes excessively angry, his ears will pin themselves
against his head and almost disappear.
horses are sweaty horses even during the colder times of the year.
All the hyperactivity involved in fighting their handlers and trying
to run off causes their body temperatures to rise. Massive amounts
of kidney sweat (a white foamy lather) can run down the inside of their
rear legs. Neck lather, saddle sweat and front leg sweat are also very
common. Heavy drool from the mouth is frequently evident. After unnecessarily
expending all this precious energy
in the paddock, the fractious runners won’t have much left in their
tanks for the running of their upcoming races.
you are on track and can get close to a fractious horse, you’ll notice
his breathing patterns are exceedingly irregular. One minute he’s huffing
and puffing and appears somewhat exhausted. Then he’ll momentarily regain
his composure, catch his breath and once again return to his craziness.
In addition to these deviate-breathing patterns, he could be chomping
incessantly on the bit making a loud gnawing noise. He doesn’t want
that bit in his mouth and he’s trying to bite thru it.
tail moving in every direction also denotes fractiousness.
could be swishing east to west or angrily popping north and south.
The stomping of the hooves along with this negative tail movement further
paints this very negative posture.
muscle twitching may also be evident with the fractious horse. For
no apparent reason, the muscles on the body will quiver as if attempting
to dislodge an insect. If you see this twitching and no insects are
present, he’s totally nuts!
horses will often carry their heads abnormally high in
a never-ending attempt to free themselves from their lead chain. Additionally,
they might vehemently twist their heads east and west in a very rapid
motion. If the groom fails to maintain a tight lead chain, they are
sometimes successful in breaking free and running back to their barns.
you are on track and are still uncertain as to the level of fractiousness
in any potential wager, just watch the saddling ritual. In fact, even
if you’re betting via the “beam” at a satellite outlet, it pays to watch
your TV monitors. Some satellite shows such as Santa Anita have excellent
views of the horses in their stalls, as does Hollywood Park where the
horses are saddled in the open air.
is very hard to hide when going under tack. Most fractious horses are
impossible to saddle. I’ve seen it take up to four people to get them
tacked up. The instant the saddle or the saddle cloth touches their
backs, they rear up or attempt to wheel backwards. It is quite obvious
that they want no part of this game!
an eye on the jockey before he attempts to mount a fractious horse.
The word apprehension will be written all over his face. He’s considering
his options if this horse decide to prop (stopping abruptly
without warning) or bolt for the outside fence nearing the far turn.
Have you ever tried to bail out of a car at 35 or 40 MPH?
you think the factious horse has hit his “crazy peak” in the paddock,
just wait for the post parade.
be bucking and rearing in an attempt to get free. If accompanied by
a lead pony, he might attempt to bite him on the neck or shoulder.
If you see this, take a good look at the lead pony. His ears will either
be flopped over or pinned against his head. He wants no part of this
the fractious horse will be tough to load into the starting gate. It
often takes 3 or 4 gatemen to forcibly push him into his slot. When
the gates do open, this crazy horse either runs like a bat out of hell
trying to get away from everybody for 2 or 3 furlongs before stopping
abruptly, or he misses the break and is very slow to begin. The fractious
horse acts like a loser from the time you first see him until he finishes
his race in the backstretch. They very rarely offer any serious opposition.