Half the Race is Out
of Your Control (Part 2)
Nobody would argue that
there are many things out of our control when handicapping a race.
And while there might be more uncontrollable factors at the bottom
claiming levels of horseydom than with Graded runners, doubt or
uncertainty is present in every race.
As promised in Part 1 of this series, we'll look as some of the more
common things that are out of our control as well as a few I'm sure
you've never considered.
1----THE STARTING GATE
I don't know about you, but I wish I had a dollar for every race
that I lost at the starting gate.
Every handicapper alive knows that terrible gut-wrenching feeling
that swallows his entire being the moment he realizes that his horse
broke poorly and is 5 lengths behind the pack before the race is 6
It gives me an icy chill and 'goose bumps' just to write about
it----almost as if 'it' just came into this room and will somehow
cling to me this afternoon causing one of my bets to miss the break.
Why is there so much trouble with the starting gate?
A 'perfect break' would be one in which every horse was 100% ready
to start his race.
In order for that to happen, all horse's hooves would have to be
motionless. Every horse's assistant starter would have to be holding
his horse's head perfectly straight and perfectly still. And most
importantly of all, the race starter would have recognize this
'perfect moment' in time and simultaneously hit his starting button
that opens the gates.
That's a very tall order and one that is very rarely accomplished
Have you ever heard the term 'stand time'?
This is the time it takes to actually get a race off. It begins with
the loading of the first horse and ends with the opening of the
starting gate. Obviously, the last horse loaded 'stands' for very
little time before the break, whereas the first horse loaded feels
as if he's been in there forever and can't wait to get out of there.
Every horse is quite different in his ability to remain calm, cool
and collected when placed in the confines of a starting stall. He
has his own 'stand time' beyond which he begins to get very fidgety.
As a rule of thumb, the longer a horse 'stands' in a starting gate,
the greater his likelihood of his breaking poorly.
So what's out of our control at the starting gate?
We don't ride our bets.
We have no guarantees that today's 'trip' will be clean and without
In fact, when you think about it, very few trips other than
front-running efforts are clean and trouble free. Horses get
blocked, steadied, checked, bumped, forced wide, etc. in every race
and often thru no fault of their own.
Races are won and lost by a nose, so any hesitation by any horse in
any race for any reason could cost him a visit to the winner's
Unquestionably, we have no control over our wager's 'trip'.
3----HANDICAPPERS DON'T TRAIN THEIR WAGERS
Of course we don't train our wagers. Nor are we around the horse as
long as a trainer to notice little things that aren't quite right.
Perhaps he didn't eat this morning. Or maybe he's been abnormally
restless for the past 24 hours and failed to get his proper sleep. I
could go on and on with 'maybes', but the point is that nobody is
closer to the horse than his trainer and his groom.
Unknown factors such as these are beyond the control of most
handicappers with only a single exception.
Any competent 'physicality handicapper' perusing the paddock on any
given afternoon or any sharp-eyed satellite player can usually
determine if a horse isn't feeling up to snuff and ready to run to
Knowing whether or not he emptied his feed bucket this morning or if
he had a sleepless night will be evident from his paddock
Horses don't lie---they don't know how! If they're feeling only
poorly or only so-so on any afternoon, they won't hide it from you.
They will have zero energy and no 'attitude'. Their heads will be
low and bobbing. Nothing about them will remotely suggest race
Conversely, if they are ready to kick ass, it too will be quite
evident. Even novices of 'physicality handicapping' can plainly see
when a horse is quite full of himself and ready to run.
Continued in PART 3 of HALF THE RACE IS OUT OF YOUR CONTROL
Copyright '2004 by
Joe Takach. All rights reserved.
Joe can be contacted through his website at
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