Handicapping Tip of the Day #55 – The Only Race

A sharp trainer uses the condition book to plan the future of a horse especially when it comes to conditioning and training. However, things don’t always work out.

by Art Parker for AGameofSkill.com

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

I became friends with a trainer during my first year of playing the horses – the days when I was learning something new every day. One day I noticed he entered a horse above his usual class. After thinking he couldn’t possibly win, I decided to ask him why. I caught up with the trainer late in the day and asked him that very question after his horse finished seventh in a field of nine.

“It’s the only race I could find for him. He is fit and ready to run. That was the only thing close to where he belongs, so I entered. It looked like it would be another week or so before another race would be available, and I would rather run him and keep him in shape,” the trainer explained.

Understanding the Condition Book

That was before I learned all about a condition book. Once I got my hands on a book, I began to understand. We know that racing secretaries must write races that have a higher probability to fill and to make the races as competitive as possible. What is not possible is to have a ready-made class system that is fair to all and will provide an abundance of opportunities to all horses. Nor is it possible to have enough horses to fill all races and all races be competitive.

Understanding the Condition Book

I borrowed the words from a West Point Thoroughbreds website that best describes a condition book. “A condition book is the schedule of races for a given track during a certain period of time, usually a few weeks or a month. It is this schedule that provides a framework for trainers to develop the training regimens for their horses for this time period. While this seems straightforward, there are a number of factors that can change the timing of races. You see, just because a race is in the condition book doesn’t mean that enough horses will enter the race to warrant it being used. That is why you’ll see substitute races in the book as well. These are races that also get entries and can be used in place of another race on the card.”

A sharp trainer uses the condition book to plan the future of a horse especially when it comes to conditioning and training. However, things don’t always work out. A race perfect for one horse may not fill and a substitute race is used. When that happens a trainer that has a horse ready must find another race that fits his charge, but that is not always possible; hence, the horse may be placed in less than an ideal event.

When you examine past performances and you see an awful race last time out, don’t quickly conclude that the horse isn’t what he used to be. That last race may have been the only option for the trainer.

Great horse racing videos – the late, great Forty Niner versus two of his top rivals

Trainer Kevin Patterson is On Fire

Mountaineer racetrack

When Frank Passero, a brash Canadian laying siege to Gulfstream Park, saddled a record 14 straight winners in 1996, the odds of performing that feat stood roughly similar to your shot of getting hit by a meteor. In fact, a theoretical $2 parlay on those victories would have returned a staggering $7 million. Kevin Patterson’s Mountaineer streak stands six short of that, by comparison, and while letting a deuce ride on that cinchy octet would merely make your car payment for the month, those eight MOVED like meteors, most leading at all calls. This ostentatious parade of speed should come as no surprise to followers of the bonafide super-trainer.

“Kevin extracts speed,” said Patterson’s main client, Robert Cole, who as a skilled handicapper and longtime student of the game well comprehends the advantage of shaking loose in front, even tailoring his acquisitions to fit Patterson’s training style. ” I don’t claim closers,” stated the long-successful Cole, who once led the nation in wins and made his considerable fortune in the mortgage business.

With his own best successes, like …

Industry Profile: European Trainer John Gosden

A trainer to rulers, royals and billionaires

In the sport of kings, John Gosden is a trainer to rulers, royals and the richest in the horse-racing industry.

The 68-year-old is seen by many as the antidote to the Coolmore and Godolphin operations, breaking their hegemony to win some of the world’s biggest races from the Epsom Derby to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe — his Enable is the two-time reigning champion.

It is all a far cry from the economics graduate who tried and failed to get a job in the City of London after leaving Cambridge University in a time of economic crisis.

Instead, he turned to training against the advice of his father, John “Towser” Gosden, himself a trainer.

“That was the last thing he said to me,” recalls the Newmarket, UK-based Gosden. “That it’s seven days a week and nearly 52 weeks. That was when there was much less racing and horses. He had 40 in his yard and said that was plenty. Now we have 150 to 200.

“If he came back now, he would say we’re mad. The pace of life has moved on, everyone needs instant gratification, there’s so much tracks and channels.

“We’re in a world where people don’t stop to think, it’s just go, go, go. If you don’t compete every day, you’re like a mouse trying to get back on the wheel, you’ll just fly back off.”

Trainer Aidan O’Brien Sets Record Group 1 Wins

Ascot racecourse in UKTrainer Aidan O’Brien is unlikely to be popping the corks on the champagne this evening unlike the late Bobby Frankel his predecessor as holder of the world record for Group One winners in a season. Instead the 48-year-old Irishman — who broke the record with Saxon Warrior at Doncaster on Saturday – is more likely to have… [Read more…]

The Unbelievable True Story of Trainer Antonio Sano

Gunnevara Fountain of YouthHe is now training a major Kentucky Derby contender

Antonio Sano was Venezuela’s most successful thoroughbred trainer. Race after race, 3,338 times, his horses won as his reputation as the “Czar of the Hippodrome” grew. Until he lost it all in the span of 36 agonizing days. Not at the track, but in a cell of a room that had no windows, no toilet, no… [Read more…]

Tom McCarthy, trainer of General Quarters, dead at 82

 Trainer Tom McCarthy, who became a sentimental favorite when he conditioned former claimer General Quarters to victory in the 2009 Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, died on Thursday after a battle with melanoma. McCarthy was 82. A retired school teacher and principal, McCarthy became the darling of the 2009 Kentucky Derby season with his one-horse… [Read more…]

Doug O’Neill’s Long-tenured Crew

Preakness 2016 LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Steve Rothblum’s eyes were weary with joyous fatigue. As he rested his frame upon a barrier at Churchill Downs’ Barn 41 the morning of May 8, the arm of Leandro Mora draped over his back and, together, they tried to articulate to the surrounding media the case of deja vu that arrived less… [Read more…]

Handicapping Tip of the Day #23 – Watch for this Sneaky Trainer Move

Up in class, distance switch

by Art Parker

Handicapping tips from agameofskill.com

I know you have seen it so you should remember it. A horse comes off a layoff and runs opposite of its historical successful distances. The horse gets trounced in his return to battle but then shows up a short time later for another race. But this time the horse goes back to its successful distance and goes up in class. For most players this move is a world of trouble simply because of the increase in class.

When you are confronted with this, take the time to view the replay of the return race. Did it look like the horse was intentionally wide in the trip? Was the horse gunned to the front when it is not usually a speed horse? If something doesn’t look right it may be that the trainer was using the return race to tighten up the horse. The trainer may know his horse is close to being ready and just needed to get a race in his charge. One key is the short turn around. If a trainer thought his horse wasn’t ready after a return race then why hurry it back to the track?

Other things to look for in this situation is a positive jockey change or a change in equipment. Catching a good trainer with a slick move is hard to do. Remember, suspicion will not work for you unless…you are suspicious.

Trainer Profile: Albert Stall, Jr.

Al Stall, Jr., the 54 year old born in New Orleans, is a part of a well-known Louisiana racing family. His father was chairman of the Louisiana Racing Commission for many years and the turf course at Fair Grounds is, in part, named for his grandfather. Stall also served as an assistant for Frankie Brothers, another lofty name in Louisiana racing history.

But the Al Stall that is one of the Kings of Keeneland earned his greatest nugget of fame by pulling off the upset of a racing legend. In 2010 Stall won the Breeders’ Cup Classic with champion Blame and defeated the previously undefeated Zenyatta in the process in one of the greatest Breeders’ Cup moments in history.

Exactly 70% of Stall’s Keeneland victories have come in the fall and over a third of those are first layoff runners. His rested runners either come from Saratoga with short layoffs or they come from Fair Grounds where they have been off the track for several months. Class movement will vary with his layoff runners so one cannot focus on class drops or class jumps. Stall will usually hold a runner’s last work 7-8 days prior to race day and the work is more likely to be short as opposed to long. Stall is very consistent on the amount of work his layoff runners have with almost all of them recording 12 or 13 furlongs of work within 30 days of race day.

Stall has also scored several winners using debut runners and the majority of those have been juveniles. He has longer gaps in works with his debut runners but almost always works them from the gate in their last workout before a race.

Stall also does well with his second time starters. All of these winners ran either at Saratoga or Fair Grounds in their first race and then broke their maidens at Keeneland in their second career race. These runners usually work or race 12-13 furlongs in the last 30 days before their second race, and their last work will usually come 4-6 days prior to race day.

Most of Stall’s Keeneland victories come with clients Claiborne Farm or Columbine Stable.

Fall meet edition 2014His top riders has been Shaun Bridgmohan, Garrett Gomez and Robby Albarado. However, he has also used Rosie Napravnik, Greta Kuntzweiler, Chris Landeros, Shane Sellers, Julien Leparoux, Freddie Lenclud, Miguel Mena and Brian Hernandez.

Note: This trainer profile is an example of the new feature that will be found in the upcoming edition of “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns” by Art Parker.  Pre-order today and save off the regular price. 

Did you miss this trainer profile?

Mark Casse – How He Wins

If You Were the Trainer…What Would You Do?

By Art Parker, author of “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns”

It is early afternoon on August 20. You have a horse in the barn that appears to be ready for a top effort. You take out the condition book and look at upcoming races. On August 24 there is a claiming race for $12,500 at six furlongs. The purse is $26,000. But you know your horse is better than that and even though he may win he will probably get claimed and you want to avoid that. Not only is your gelding better than the $12,500 claiming tag, the owner will shoot you if you lose his horse at that price.

Tampa paddock inspectionLet’s see, what else is available? There is a race for a $40,000 price tag on August 25 with a hefty $51,000 purse. That looks inviting but your guy finished second in a photo for a $25,000 claiming price last out. This race may be too tough. At that level you always catch some of those tough allowance types looking for an easy score.

There it is; a race for $25,000 on August 31. Maybe a half-mile work in a few days and he will be ready. Oops. That race is a mile and your horse is a pure sprinter best at either 6 furlongs or maybe 6 ½ furlongs.

He hates the grass so those few turf sprints are out of the question. Well, the only thing left is a race on September 8 with a claiming price of $20,000. The purse is $31,000. He is really worth a little more than $20,000, but you just don’t have any more options.

So, what would you do if you trained this horse?

This is what a trainer faces nearly every day. The overwhelming majority of the betting public has no idea about this part of racing. They do not know what a condition book is. Have you ever sat around the track with some guys and they just cannot figure out why a horse runs for $20,000 this time since he ran well for $30,000 just a couple of weeks ago, or why a horse is jumping in price for no reason?

One of the things a good trainer does is find the right race for his horse… the best he can. It is almost impossible for a trainer to find exactly what his horse needs with any regularity. The reason is a track may have 1,200 head in the stable area and that translates into 1,200 needs. A racing secretary has the tough job of writing races that will accommodate the most horses as frequently as possible. Trainers must be flexible with their race selections and the training of their runners. It is not an easy job especially when you have a bunch of owners that never want to lose a race and constantly complain about the cost of keeping a horse in training.

Next time you look at past performances start to envision why a horse ran in each of his races. If you do this several times you may find yourself able to understand why trainers do the things they do. The sooner you can understand what trainers do, the sooner you escalate the probability of winning at the races.