Joe Takach

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It never ceases to amaze me how many bad “raps” physicality handicapping has taken over the past 10 years.

Mostly, it has been badmouthed by alleged professionals who rarely, if ever, actually attend the races in person to “work” the paddock on a daily basis.  If they did, they wouldn’t be so quick to run off at their mouths.  Additionally, whenever this inexact science is badmouthed, the naysayer will take one instance where an aberration occurs and make this aberration the new “norm”. 

For instance, if a winning horse was walking short before a race (a situation where the back hoof print does not completely go over the preceding front hoof print), “walking short” suddenly becomes a non-factor to this arm-chaired self-proclaimed “expert” who plays Solomon while off track at a satellite outlet or over his computer.  Funny, when these same “experts” get beaten by a slower horse, they have a million excuses for their faster animal, none of which include the possibility that their horse wasn’t at his absolute physical best for that specific race.

Face facts, EVERY handicapping angle has its shortcomings and absolutely NONE are 100% failure free! 

Slower horses beat faster horses.

Horses with added weight packages often beat horses carrying less poundage.

“Lone speed” horses are certain losers if a specific track is favoring “closers”.

Females beat males.

“Dirt” horses often win over the turf for the 1st time although their pedigree screams that winning is an impossibility!  

Horses do win 3,4 and 5 races in a row-----sometimes even 16 straight!

Shippers do win races over foreign tracks when running over them for the first time.

Horses frequently win when coming off layoffs of 180 days or more.

Sprinters often stretch out successfully around 2 turns for the first time even though their pedigree says that they shouldn’t be able to do so.

The point to all this dribble is that ABSOLUTELY NOTHING is “carved in stone” when handicapping a race from any single angle.

Which brings us back to physicality handicapping and all the naysayers who declare that it is too esoteric or only understandable to “insiders” who have been around horses all their lives.

That’s a load of crap!

Though I’ve been around horses my entire life, I’ve successfully taught thousands of horseplayers how to properly look at a horse via my personal on track instructions or thru my BEAT THE BEAM video.

These successful players know that while it is a great edge to have in one’s handicapping arsenal, it is NOT the only tool needed to consistently win on a daily basis. 

Put another way, there are many good-looking but very slow animals.  Finding the good-looking fast horses is what “physicality” handicapping is really all about!

Is “physicality” handicapping all that hard to learn?   Positively not!

In fact, if you gave both myself and Tom Brohammer a brand new “student” who had never before been to the races and we both had a full day to teach the neophyte what we knew about physicality and pace, I’ll betcha they’d retain much more of the “body language” lesson that the mathematically challenging pace scenarios.

And I’m not knockin’ Tom Brohammer------if I had a “pace” question, he’d be the first guy I’d turn to.  The point here is that learning body language comes down to nothing more than common sense-----learning speed and pace takes us back into the classroom and working with numbers and their many interrelationships.

Getting back to walking short, it is so very easy to learn that I’ll teach it to you right here and right now!

Go to the paddock the next time you are on track.  Once the horses come in and walk around, pick any one horse and keep your eyes on him alone.

As he walks in front of you, look at either front leg.  As this selected front leg leaves the ground, take particular note of the exact location of the front hoofprint left behind.  The horse then brings his rear leg forward on that same side and plants it.   Now take note the rear hoofprint left behind.   Is that rear hoofprint at least 1 full hoofprint ahead of the prior front hoofprint?

If it is on both sides, then he’s “walking well”.

If not, he’s walking short and should be DISMISSED at the mutuel windows!


Now how tough was that to learn vs. mathematically challenging speed and pace figures?

We can further define and explain correct walking by offering a caveat.

Before you make an assessment as to whether or not a specific horse is walking correctly, you must be ABSOLUTELY SURE that the horse is being permitted to stride in his normal walking gait.

Sometimes when a horse is full of energy, the groom might have his elbow or his shoulder against the horse preventing him from walking naturally.  The groom could also have his horse on a short lead chain with part of the chain positioned against the horse’s upper gum for greater control.  In both situations, the horse is prevented from walking correctly. 

Hopefully, you can view this horse when he is no longer being restricted in his movements.  If you can and he’s walking correctly on both sides, you might have a bet if he was your selection on “paper” when handicapping this race!

I must stress once again so there is no misunderstanding that the ONLY TIME to assess correct walking is when the horse is permitted to walk in his natural gait.  I’ve tutored many students who completely missed the point of being allowed to walk freely------if it appears that the groom is altering the stride in any manner, a proper assessment can’t be made!

I won’t bore you with the many ”whys” of walking short.  Those interested can read my POSTURES, PROFILES and PERFORMANCE for an expanded explanation.

I could never overstate the importance of walking well---it’s the very first thing that I look for with every horse I view, contender or not.

Next week we’ll talk about spotting “short” horses via your satellite monitors as well as walking wide and/or walking sorely.


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