Horse Racing Handicapping - Viewing the Horses as Athletes
By Bill Peterson
Too often we handicappers get into a rut of thinking in terms of numbers and names alone. For instance, we scan our racing form looking for jockey trainer combinations or the names of horses we are watching. At other times we think only in terms of numbers, as in who has the highest speed fig at the distance, etc. Many times there is one important part of horse racing handicapping we overlook and that is the fact that the horses and jockeys are athletes competing in an athletic event.
As some of the recent tragedies in horse racing have illustrated, this is a very demanding sport. It tests the riders and horses in ways that can be physically dangerous, even deadly. In order to compete a horse has to be in excellent shape. Many of the horses that compete from day to day are horses that have raced long enough to have sustained injuries in the past that the conditioner must be aware of and help the animal to overcome. We all know that some of the most successful trainers got to the top by being able to claim lame animals and get them fit and ready in a short time.
Horse racing handicapping therefore demands that we be able to judge a horse's physical ability and condition according to its most recent performance. But which performance do we go by, workouts or races? You may ask yourself, did the trainer send this horse out for an easy 3 furlong breeze because it couldn't manage more than that or because it is in fine shape and the trainer doesn't want to use it up in the morning? That is a good question and to answer it, look at the last race the horse ran. How recent was it? How does the trainer normally work this horse? In other words, this horse is an athlete and has muscles that must be conditioned and also a personality that must be considered. What works for one horse doesn't work for another horse and one trainer's methods may not work for one horse but will work for another. Remember, the first word in horse racing handicapping is horse, an animal, flesh and blood, muscle and bone.
So when you are handicapping think of the race as a competition between trained and conditioned athletes. See if you can figure out which athlete is conditioned the best and also has the best athlete on its back to help it along. Just once try to spend a whole day looking at the horses as athletes and let your horse racing handicapping be confined to athletic ability.
Workouts and times can be confusing but it really all comes down to Horse Racing Handicapping Basics.
Bill Gamble has been involved in horse racing as an owner and professional handicapper for almost fifty years. He has developed a way to compare workouts and pickout the really outstanding workouts using Whatsa willies?