Joe Takach

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(*For an extended treatment of the subject matter below, please see AMERICAN TURF  MONTHLY for March 2001 and April 2001).

No discussion of the physicality of the racehorse could be any more important than the pre-race warm-up and the post-race warm-down.  Horses should canter or slowly gallop at least 4 furlongs (half mile) before strenuous exercise of any kind to include a race.

Without getting too technical, pre-race exercise stimulates the cardiovascular system of the horse, slowly stretches his muscles and mentally sharpens his attitude.  Should he be sore in anyway, these 8 to 10 minutes offer the jockey a “failsafe” for early detection that saves injury to himself, his mount and to all others in the race.  If his mount isn’t racing “sound”, he’ll be scratched (or should be) a couple of minutes before loading.

Obviously, a 4 to 6 furlong pre-race canter greatly reduces the possibility of injury during the race itself, while at the same time offering the horse every chance to win.  It should be “standard fare” for every runner before a race, but it isn’t!  Horses only walked and/or slow trotted before a race are either being silently “stiffed” for any number of reasons, or they’re infirm and attempting to get past the track vet before the actual start of the race in hopes of being claimed away.  But whatever the reason for the lack of pre-race exercise, the outcome is usually the same. 

Horses who fail to lightly extend themselves in the pre-race exercise period with a solid warm-up, rarely extend themselves to their fullest during the actual running of the race!

The pre-race cantering for 4 furlongs will take a horse no more than 3 minutes.  Since the allotted warm-up periods are normally 10 minutes (weather permitting), not only is there more than enough time to go 4 furlongs, a jockey can go 6 furlongs or more and still get back to the starting gate with plenty of time to spare.

It matters little where the actual minimum of 4 furlongs of pre-race cantering begins and ends.  Some horses like to slow trot for a furlong or two before cantering.  Others will break into a light gallop right in front of the grandstand immediately following the post parade.  Just as long as they get a minimum of 4 furlongs, they are acceptable at the mutuel windows if all else about them is very correct.

Anything less than the minimum of 4 furlongs of pre-race cantering is a “pass” from a betting standpoint.  Sure, you’ll miss out on a few winners every now and then, but in the long run, the overall health of your betting bankroll will be intact and your longevity in the game insured.

After watching pre-race warm-ups for over 40 years, I can assure you that horses who properly warm-up before a race win countless more races than those who are UNDEREXERCISED before the gates fly open-----------------------------it’s really a no-brainer!  

On the other side of the pre-race warm-up, there is a crucial 3 or 4 minutes immediately after a race known as the post-race inspection that can enrich you in the immediate future.   

The first thing to look for is an “out well”.  There are horses who continue to be ridden for a furlong or more past the finish line even though the race is over.  This extra conditioning  is actually a “workout” within the race itself.  These out wells are being “set up” for a race in the immediate future if not the very next one. 

Though you might only see 1 or 2 a week, mark them down.  You won’t see a more meaningful nor more positive example of purposeful trainer intent.

A normal post-race warm-down at the conclusion of a race is a slow canter to the backstretch with a turnaround at the 5/8 or 9/16 pole (mile track).  The runner is then slowly cantered back for unsaddling.  If there are no major post-race negative observations, the horse is said to come out of his race in “good order”.

 Anything less than this proper gallop-out would be considered a bad pull-up of some kind, with the most extreme being eased before the wire. 

The 2nd worst pull-up is the quick pull-up!  This is where instead of slowly cantering to the backside, being turned and then slowly cantered back for untacking, the quick pull-up is at a dead stop within 100 yards past the finish line.  The poor pull-up is the 3rd worst only because he gallops out a tad further to 150 yards.  A bad pull-up is the 4th worst and where the horse is galloped out far enough to the backstretch before being turned, but instead of cantering back, they walk or trot very slowly to the unsaddling area.

If you are on track, try to get a look at any questionable pull-up taking note of puffed ankles, pronounced limping, severe cuts etc.  It will save you many a bad bet in the immediate future.  And a saved bet is the same as cashing on an even money winner!

There are also positive gems for use in next-out starts in addition to out wells.

Many horses come out of their last race in good order for a couple of reasons.  Perhaps they weren’t allowed to run their “normal” race and were blocked, steadied, pocketed, checked or somehow otherwise hampered from running to their fullest potential.  Most trainers will run  “trouble” horses right back and usually within 14 days while they are still good and tight. 

Another reason a runner comes out of a race in “good order” is that he might have only been one race away from peak condition and today’s race served as the final tightener for next out.  A perfect example of this would be a prior Graded winner returning off an extended layoff in a classified allowance race.  The trainer is merely using the allowance race to bring the horse to top readiness for an upcoming Graded affair.

Perfect or very easy “trips” also produce many horses who return in “good order”.  This is true regardless of where the favorable trip horse finishes.  If he ran with the bias on favorable paths, the effort most likely took nothing out of him and he should come out of the race in “good order”.

As you can see, watching post-race activities can pay huge dividends by saving you bad bets next out while offering you positive future investments. 

That is, if you are willing to do the gruntwork!  Good hunting!

 NEXT WEEK-----Profiting From Physicality Knowledge.



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