Joe Takach

Article Library


Last week we discussed front wraps and liniment.

We’ll now continue with barshoes, covered frogs and martingales.

Barshoes are major league big-time no-nos!!!

Over a year ago in our weekly SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HORSES TO WATCH, we stated that it was hard to believe in this day and age that barshoe information was still unavailable to the common man for the 3 major tracks of Del Mar, Santa Anita and Hollywood Park.

If you are betting any of these 3 major Southern California tracks you can get this information in one of 2 ways.

Inspect every runner yourself if you are on track, or subscribe to the SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HORSES TO WATCH as we’ve been tracking barshoes for out clients since 1993 and are the ONLY COMPLETE SOURCE of barshoe information for Southern California.

As this installment of PHYSICALITY #11 is written (December 2000), there are 155 horses listed on the SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HORSES TO WATCH Barshoe Board.  Put another way, if you are betting off track at a satellite facility, there are 155 horses that usually will cause you to toss losing tickets on the ground!

To the best of my knowledge, the Racing Form notes horses running in barshoes for every other track in America, with perhaps the exception of very minor and short run meets or country fairs.

Horses run in barshoes for only one reason.  One or more of their hooves are splitting and/or cracking.

Instead of wearing a normal open ended shoe something like the ones we use when playing regulation “horseshoes” at a picnic, the back ends of the shoes are completely closed.  The barshoe can additionally take many other forms to include a full oval shoe.

With the hoof attached to a closed shoe of some kind, the theory is that the closed shoe will stop the splitting and therefore allow the horse to continue to race.  What this horse really needs is time off on the farm for the hoof to grow out (much like a lost human fingernail).   But in today’s game, economics dictate that if a horse is ambulatory, he races----even if in the minor leagues for diminutive purses.

As mentioned above, barshoes are always a no-no! On any major league circuit with very rare exceptions, the only place they ever win is on the very bottom of the claiming ranks.  In Southern California, the overwhelming vast majority of them only win in the 8, 10, 12.5K and 16K claiming ranks or the last 4 rungs of the ladder.

This is not to say that many barshod horses are not running at higher class levels.  In fact, it is not at all uncommon to see a horse run with a barshoe in an other-than-1 allowance race or in a high priced claimer.  Recently I witnessed a horse favored in an 80K claiming race compete with covered frogs.  He finished dead last while never remotely close at any juncture of the contest.

I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do is bet a horse running with a barshoe or with covered frogs.

The frogs are the fleshy underneath of the hoof itself.  When these frogs are covered, a metal plate is slid in between the frog and the shoe itself.  The shoe itself does not have to be closed at the back, but when this metal plate is inserted, it is virtually the same thing.  Traction or “grabbing” the surface becomes a chore!

Betting horses running in barshoes and/or covered frogs is like betting on a NASCAR or an Indy 500 contestant who will be forced to compete with only 2 or 3 tires!   

It’s hard enough to win a race with good feet----imagine what it must feel like racing with splitting hooves or delicate frogs!  It hurts just thinking about it!

Since horses win races everyday at the very bottom of the class ladder while running in barshoes and/or covered frogs, this is all the justification a narrow-minded trainer needs to keep running a tender horse so that he can keep getting his “day” money (daily rate).  Simply put, a trainer can’t win races when his horses are resting on a farm.

This doesn’t mean that we, as betting handicappers, have to wager upon them. 

Personally, I pass any horse running in barshoes or with covered frogs.  And even if they are removed in the future, I still won’t wager upon them until I see them win and I can evaluate exactly who they beat and if they are back to their “oldselves”!

A martingale is a very negative piece of equipment.  Typically it is used to stop a horse from carrying his head too high or continually throwing it about and/or to keep his saddle from slipping.  Nearly every lead pony wears some kind of a martingale, though not exactly like the ones employed on thoroughbreds.

The martingale that concerns the handicapper is the one with the breastplate.  This leather strap passes around the breast and back across the shoulders, fastening to the saddle strap about level with the rider’s knees.  

Its sole purpose is to keep the saddle from slipping backwards on horses that are abnormally skinny or those with flat ribs (a conformation defect).  The very last thing a jockey needs to worry about as he’s turning for home is his saddle slipping!  “Fear falls to the rear” in the stretch drive.  All of a rider’s tack figures into him maintaining a “good seat” while going to a stiff whip.  If the saddle is going backwards, momentum and balance is quickly lost and usually so is the race! 

Much like barshoes and covered frogs, horses equipped with martingales very rarely win races unless running on the bottom rungs of the claiming ladder against even more problematic runners.

My only advice to you is to stay off them!

Next week-----The pre-race warm-up.


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