HANDICAPPING Part 2
week we explained how easy it was to spot horses who were walking “short”.
vividly recall teaching a friend this extremely negative factor very
early in his horseplaying career. I’ll never forget the first time
he saw the actual ramifications of a horse with
poor walking extension.
this very day he still tells me that it convinced
him that “physicality” handicapping was just as important as speed,
pace, trip, bias or breeding!
came in one of those mindless and all too frequent $3,500 claiming races
at Keystone (eventually renamed Philadelphia Park). The event was a
conditioned claimer for horses who hadn’t won a
race in 180 days----as if $3,500 claiming races weren’t bad enough without
conditions! This race was carded nearly every day for the “walking
wounded” of the backside, of which there were many at the old Keystone
friend noticed a horse coming into the paddock who he wanted me to confirm
was actually walking short.
wasn’t the word and failed to do justice to how
poorly this horse was moving. If he had been walking any shorter, he
would have been going backwards!
was hard for me to believe that this horse passed the track vet, but
back in those days (mid 70’s), track management yielded enormous
power. They merely gave a directive to the backside that everyone ran
unless the trainers wanted to pay a “day rate” for the stall space of
all their non-runners. After all, the “Suits” could fill their stall
space in a heartbeat if they wanted to with a “live” ambulatory runner.
If horses were firm enough to take their free stall space
and train at their racetrack, they were firm enough to run.
watched this poor beast reluctantly get saddled by his
trainer, assistant trainer and 2 valets. He positively didn’t
want to run, was very fractious, and refused
his saddle for as long as he possibly could.
thru the post parade, the horse was literally walked to
the starting gate and there was absolutely no warm-up
of any kind-----not even a fast trot------NOTHING!
after the start, the horse broke down on the backstretch after feeling
a stiff whip out of the gate and was vanned off. Luckily for him it
was only a bowed tendon which is very serious of itself. But he lived
to race again at minor league Penn National where he won a $1,500 claimer
the following year.
amount of words nor any kind of video would have had the same
impact on this new body language student. Picking out a “short”
horse in the paddock all by himself and very sadly
watching him break down during the race, is now imbedded in his mind
wager my current bankroll that to this very day, he’s
never bet a horse who was walking short in the
brief diversion was to hammer home to you the negative ramifications
of horses who can’t walk properly.
is not Rocket Scientry, just common sense----if a poor beast
can’t walk, how the hell can he run?
trainers and jockeys, horses actually tell the truth 100%
of the time! They are incapable of lying! If
they are hurting, they clearly offer many signs to those
wise enough to pay attention!
brings us to walking short and satellite wagering.
5 second glimpse of a horse may or may not be enough
time to make a proper assessment. It certainly isn’t the same as being
there in person where you can continue to look at a horse for as long
as you wish. But if you’re at a simulcast outlet or using your home
computer, it is better than nothing at all!
“short” horses over your satellite monitor is hard to master because
you have to train your eyes and your brain to make an essential
decision within 2 or 3 full steps.
example, if the horse you’re looking at is accompanied by a lead pony
(as most runners are in the post parade) and he’s walking short, sometimes
it is difficult to ascertain if the lead pony is causing
the shortstepping. Quite often they are!
you can’t make a decision because of the lead pony. Other
times you’ll have no problem because the pony is not interfering with
the runner’s walking stride.
trick is to see if the pony is restricting forward movement
of the thoroughbred in any way, shape, or form. If the rider of the
lead pony has your horse on a very short lead chain, the runner can’t
walk properly! Or if the thoroughbred’s head is over the lead pony’s
neck, you simply can’t tell how he’s walking.
today’s simulcast shows from virtually all race tracks offer extended
views of each runner walking in the paddock both saddled and unsaddled.
This is the time to see how a particular horse
is walking via your satellite beam. Grooms usually allow their horses
to stride freely when circling the walking ring before mounting.
it isn’t the same as being there, but I have no problem doing it and
neither do thousands of owners of my BEAT THE BEAM video.
closing, I want to touch on horses who are walking wide and/or sore.
wide is always a big-time no-no!
wide is when a horse throws out either of his front or rear
legs to a fault. They walk wide because they are a bit tender. Often,
a low and bobbing head will accompany horses who are walking wide.
Legs will appear to be “paddling” as they are thrown out to almost a
45 degree angle. Every step is painful if extremely sore.
who walk well do so in a very straight line.
difference between the two is easy to differentiate if on track vs.
a satellite outlet.
on track in the paddock, all you have to do is to draw an imaginary
line thru the horse from top to bottom as he is walking towards you
so as to split him in half. (You might have to try a few different
locations in your specific paddock area, but you need
a head on of the horse coming directly at you).
front and rear hoofprints should be very close to this imaginary line.
If the fronts are more than 3-4 inches away from center, he’s probably
sore. In fact, the further his front hoofprints are away from
this imaginary line and his allowed 3-4 inch tolerance, the greater
the probability of lameness itself! Most leg problems are in the front,
but do yourself a favor and repeat this process from a rear view angle.
you spy any abnormalities (front or rear), you might want to rethink
your wager and/or pass the race.
a little concentration and practice, you will be able to quickly see
who is walking wide and who is not.
easiest place to start is in the lowest claiming races at your home
you inspect each and every entrant in about 5 or 6 of these bottom-feeding
events, you will see horses walking wide. Some
more than others, but you shouldn’t have a problem finding a few because
this is where the “walking wounded” congregate. Once you catch one
horse walking wide, you’ll have grasped the concept and others will
mentioned above, walking wide is always a no-no, be it a lowly claimer,
a Stakes’ horse, or anyone in the middle. And believe me, I’ve
seen them come in all classes!
closing, we should discuss just how a horse is putting down his hooves
as he walks
he walk gingerly? Does the hoof appear to hesitate before touching
the ground, or does the foot hit the ground with no concern?
he takes short choppy steps, he’s most likely sore. And if sore while
walking, imagine the excruciating pain if running!
forget that runners who are muscle sore give many signs. If a horse
is extremely tender in the hip or in his rear, he will noticeably drop
his hip and limp. After he puts down his rear foot on his good side,
he’ll quickly slide the bad rear foot up to the good one. This is called
studderstepping. These horses are gravely injured and
should be rested.
again, this is not Rocket Scientry-----only common sense.
week we’ll look at ears and the significance they can make in a betting