Factors you can assess in Horseracing – Part 1

For all racehorses it is possible to trace back their pedigrees for hundreds of years. A good pedigree is an indication of a potentially good horse but not always. Horses are carefully bred to bring out characteristics that make good runners. Horses with good racing records are sent to stud in order to try to bring out those characteristics in future generations. However, due to the nature of genetics, the breeding of these characteristics is not always an exact science. A dam and sire with good racing records do not always produce fast offspring. Often the characteristics that make a good runner can skip generations.

One characteristic that has been shown to have a positive affect on the performance of horses is a large heart. Although this characteristic may be present in the sire it may not show up in his immediate offspring, only to reappear in later generations.

This can mean that a horse that may have had a poor racing record can sire fast offspring. This makes the study of pedigree an inexact method of finding winners. It tends to be used as a tool for finding winners where the horses have not run before.


Previous performance of the runners
Due to the unpredictability of breeding, a great deal of importance is placed on the previous performance of horses. Once the horse has actually run, you have a clearer indication of its potential. You will have information available about how the horses have performed in previous races. This is called form. Different racing publications publish this information in different formats. To cut down on space, abbreviations are used and each publication will give a key explaining them. As a general rule, the more detailed the information, the more you have to pay for it. You will therefore need to decide for yourself how important you feel the information is. The sorts of detail that are given are the results of previous races, the jockey, trainer, weight carried and a guide to the betting. When the horse has not run in many races in the current season, its performance for the previous season will be given.

Try to watch as many races as possible. The written data do not always show why a horse performed poorly. The jockey may have been at fault. He may have waited too long before pushing a horse. A horse may sprint quickly at the end of the race but if the jockey left it too late to push or was boxed in by other horses, it may still lose. A better jockey next time out may compensate.

Some horses may have an easy win, with the jockeys not having to use the Whip or, alternatIvely, easing down near the finish. Other horses may win but under pressure from the jockey. A poorer jockey next tIme out may mean it loses. A horse could fall at a difficult fence. If the fences are easier in its next race the horse may not be so unfortunate. A horse may lose a race over the jumps because it is brought down by a loose horse or slips on wet ground. With better running conditions, it may win its next race. With sprinting races, a horse may get off to a bad start. The next race may be better.

At the beginning of the season you will not have a lot of information on which to base your selection. As the season progresses, you will have a much better indication of how the horses are performing. Towards the end of the season, you will have many more consistent data on which to base your decisions. For this reason, you should bet cautiously at the begmmng of the season and gradually increase stakes as the season progresses and you are more confident of your selections.


Speed of the horse
The speed that a horse can run is by far the clearest indication of how likely a horse is to win. No matter how good the jockey, the trainer or the condition of the ground, if a horse is not fast it is unlikely to win. Assessing the speed is not a simple matter. Factors like the amount of weight carried and the going all affect a horse’s speed.

Timeform offer the most comprehensive records of the speed of horses. They produce a daily newspaper and separate books giving details of flat racing and national hunt statistics. For anyone seriously assessing a horse’s chances of winning, this information is invaluable. You can, of course, accumulate the information yourself if you are prepared to commit the time it takes to gather data.


Harness racing
The United States Trotting Association keeps records of the fastest race a horse wins each year. Abbreviations are used to cut down on space. With harness racing, the comparison of the runners is made much easier as most races are run over a mile.

Example: p,3,Q1:58.1 ($100,000)
p – the horse gait p = pace, no letter = trot
3 – age of the horse, here it was a 3 year old
Q – the type of race. Q = qualifying race, T = time trial, no letter = during a race
1 :58.1 – the time taken to run one mile, in this case one minute and 58.1 seconds
the length of the track – f = 5/8 mile, s = 7/8 mile, h = 1/2 mile, no letter = 1 mile
($100,000) – the amount of money won by the horse in its career


The race
You don’t have to bet on every race. Save your money for the races that offer the best prospects. It takes time to assess all the runners so concentrate on a few races each day. Certain races can be dismissed as it too difficult to predict the outcome. It is better to select races where you have a clear indication of a horse’s performance. Avoid selling races, claiming races, maiden handicaps, apprentice races and amateur races. With the higher class races you will have a lot more information on which to base your decision. Clips of the horses’ previous races run will be shown by the racing media and a lot more information will be written over these horses in horse racing publications.


Distance of the race
Most horses have an optimum distance over which they perform well. Some are excellent sprinters while others have stamina to cope with longer distances. If a horse is entered for a distance that it has never run before, its previous performance can provide some indication as to how well it will fare. Has the horse run shorter distances and won easily? Or has it run longer distances but lacked stamina and faded at the end? If you watch lots of racing you will notice these factors.

Change of class
The grade of race may have an effect on its outcome. If a horse performs particularly well in, for example, a Class 2 race, it may be entered for a Class 1 race. Since Class 1 races attract the best horses, it will be up against much stronger opposition than in its previous race. Avoid betting on horses that have moved up a class. Wait for them to prove themselves in their new class. It is also possible for horses to drop down a grade so a horse that has previously run in a Class 1 race may compete in a Class 2 race. The horse may have performed badly in the Class 1 race but the change of class may lead to a huge improvement. The form guides in newspapers give details of which horses are running in different classes.