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Thoroughbred Horse Racing at The Great Race Place Santa Anita Park

We view the Secondary Handicapping Factors as those which are beyond the horse's control, while being of no less importance than the Primary or Unknown Factors.

Level of Competition

Since every competent handicapping process must begin here, it will be imperative for horse players to be able differentiate among the various types of races, racing levels, conditions and restrictions; as well as the complexities involved with why a horse has been entered in a specific race.

The handicapper's task is precisely to determine how the Primary, Secondary and Unknown Handicapping Factors will relate under the varying conditions of each race on the card; which will either be a Maiden Claiming, Maiden Special Weight, Claiming, Optional Claiming, Starter, Allowance, Stakes or Graded Stakes race.

Moreover, within the above mentioned race-type classifications, there will be specific conditions for each race; sex, age, surface, distance and impost (weight to be carried by each entry), and in certain races there will be further eligibility conditions as set forth by the racing secretary (e.g. n1x, n2x, n3x, n1y, n1$, etc.).

In addition to establishing the racing conditions for every race, the racing secretary may impose restrictions in certain races based upon sex, age, lifetime wins, or some other criteria deemed relevant to racetrack operations (e.g. fillies, 2 year olds, 3 year old fillies, fillies and mares 4 years old and up, N2L - non winners of two lifetime races, etc.).


Racing Surface

From a handicapping standpoint, there is a fundamental difference between dirt and turf races.  Whereas over dirt, Speed as an individual element of Class will often be decisive.  Winners of turf races will require more stamina and determination during the final fraction in order to prevail.

Moreover, the breeding, running style and energy expenditure patterns typically present among turf horses, will be completely different when analyzing a group of horses in a dirt race; thus as a handicapping factor, turf and dirt races must be approached with different methods.

Often, a quick scan of a horse's racing record can reveal its preferred racing surface.  From time to time, when horses are trying a new surface for the first time or just switching surfaces, then other factors can be informative.

In such cases, handicappers may find a horse's breeding to be of some importance.  For the most part, if the sire of a race horse was an accomplished turf runner; then it too, may have a propensity to win on turf.

Lastly, turf tends to be a kinder surface to the race horses, runners don't get so much dirt kicked in their face; and as opposed to the main track, the inner rail is frequently adjusted in order to preserve the racetrack surface.


Racing Distance

Distance is extremely important in thoroughbred racing, certain distances can favor the conformation, temperament and running style of a race horse.

Therefore, there will be an exact distance or distances (win range) at which the great majority of thoroughbred horses will be capable of winning.

Knowledge of this fact will be important when evaluating the Pace of a race, the Current Form of its entries, and certain trainer moves; thus successful handicappers will pay meticulous attention to identifying a horse's win range and distance preferences.

Additionally, by understanding that the win range of most horses will be limited, horse players can avoid backing horses entered at unsuitable distances.  The racing record of a horse can often help to identify its preferred racing distance(s).

For any horse which has won a race or finished within 1-2 lengths of the winner at today's distance, the racing company, strength of the performance and recency of the effort can be good indicators of suitability to the distance.

In the absence of hard racing data, such as whenever sprinters are stretching out in distance or when routers are cutting back; a study of the Pace, Current Form, and of the distance preferences of its sire can shed light on a runner's potential to win at a given distance.


Impost

According to logic, the weight to be carried by an entry should have a demonstrative effect upon the outcome of a race.

In fact, the old Jockey Club method of weights and scales, is still used by racetrack handicappers pretty much everywhere, to assign varied weights to the entries in a race; in order to equalize chances of winning and thus level the field of competition.

That said, in practical handicapping terms regarding impost, since the racetrack handicapper has already done the work; other than in two specific cases, it will mostly be inconsequential.

However, handicappers should raise an eye brow any time a horse receives an allowance of 7 to 10 lbs, as usually associated with an apprentice rider; and also whenever european horses racing in their first American race are getting in light at 126 lbs.

Racing Connections

Racing connections are those people that own and work with a thoroughbred race horse; the owner(s), trainer, rider(s) and stable employees.

In terms of handicapping a horse race, the trainer and jockey will be most significant, but it's important to understand the numerous complexities arising from this human interaction with a race horse.

The trainer of a thoroughbred race horse will be an elemental component to its future development and running ability.  The trainer will observe the race horse entrusted to be under his care, provide an optimum diet; and develop an exercise routine with immediate and long term racing objectives in mind.

The job of the trainer is to prepare a race horse for competition and then to enter the horse in a race at a certain distance, within a certain class level; where it can win or be competitive.

Therefore since trainers usually have full control over which race a horse is entered in, they will often maneuver a horse up or down in Class for strategic reasons, in search of a group it can beat.

Sometimes the racing secretary does an awesome job in sending a group of equally matched competitors to the post.  In such races, riders will often "use up" their mounts jockeying for position; and in such races, time and time again, a clever rider will make all the difference in the world.

Mind you, no trainer or jockey can win, a horse will win the horse race; and any horse that is not sound or outclassed will not win today.

That said, there are certain clues to lookout for which can be indicators of a live horse ready to win.  The positive jockey switch, to a leading rider, especially when combined with a jump or drop in Class.  The leading rider whom all of a sudden shows up on a mount for an obscure barn.  The leading rider who has his choice of mounts in a race, especially when getting off a horse which he rode to victory in its last race, in favor of another.

Lifetime and Recent Earnings

From a handicapping standpoint, earnings are an important measure which can be used to gauge performance at a specific distance, over a given surface or under various conditions of thoroughbred racing.

Since they can be indicative of the type of racing company against which a horse has been winning, earnings are often associated with Class.  However earnings are not Class or even an element of Class, they are a byproduct of it; and as such, can provide a window to view Thoroughbred Class.

Moreover, in certain races, patterns among lifetime and recent earnings can be indicative of a horse on the improve or declining; thus shedding light upon the question of Current Form.

Environmental Conditions

At any thoroughbred racetrack in America, on both the main track and turf course; the condition of the surface will have a decisive impact upon the outcome of the race.  The most significant environmental factor will be the weather, specifically, the amount of recent rainfall.

On a yielding turf course, Speed will have virtually no chance of winning.  If the turf course is too wet, a race will typically be moved off turf; and many of the horses will scratch.  Therefore on racing days with bad weather, be sure to verify the race is still on turf.

When the dirt gets wet it gets sloppy and horses which are not in the lead get a constant flow of mud to the face. When handicapping a dirt race over an off track, examine how horses performed under different track conditions to see if they have demonstrated weakness or advantage; it may also be helpful, to consider the sire's performances, weaknesses and advantages over off tracks.

Statistical Analysis and Quantification

As noted above, we view the Secondary Handicapping Factors as those which are beyond the horse's control.

In other words in our view, any existing factor with the potential to impact the outcome of a race, if it can be quantified, and, if it is outside the horse's realm of control; then we classify that factor as a Secondary Handicapping Factor.

Moreover, there can be any number of secondary factors to rate from race to race, which must be quantified and accounted for; this is accomplished largely through applied statistical analysis techniques involving mathematical ratios.

CU@the$Window!

Thoroughbred Horse Race Handicapping Commentary

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