Maximizing Your Horse’s Potential by Using Race Conditions and Horse Assessment

The subject of the class of a horse or race classification is a very difficult one at HRP but i have heard it said that horse placement is one of the keys to success at HRP so whilst on the face of it it can be hard to describe i decided to have a go.
Now i have very limited knowledge of NA racing and whilst some people may say that doesn’t give me the knowledge to discuss placement i would have to say that whilst HRP is based on NA racing it can be misleading to believe that you just have to do the same as you would in real life to be successful here.

So what is meant by placement? Some may base their horses placement in races on work times, others may base it on performance and some base it on a perception of something called the class gene. That last subject is by far the most difficult to try and work out simply because it is a hidden trait that can only be discovered by actually running a horse at a higher level to see if it can perform there. The problem comes when a horse performs badly at a higher level causing the trainer to go back down the class scale until eventually losing the horse to a claim or a sale only to find another stable finds success at a higher level. You see a horse can have the class gene but not reach its peak until a certain age. it may run in a good race but be drawn wide or have an inferior jockey and thus run badly, these things and much more can end up with a good horse being passed on to have success with someone else.

This is where placement comes in because if you look at every horse in your stable with a view to it having a predetermined class gene and a predetermined improvement curve things can become a bit clearer. Forgetting a debut run which can be anything from a surprising win to a terrible defeat and have nothing to do with how good the horse is lets start to look at a career path from the second start and look at how you may place a horse from its two year old season and onwards.

Two year old maiden special weights: These races are the bread and butter of racing at HRP from the summer onward and are often notoriously hard to win. Remember at this point you could be racing against the next KYD winner in a maiden at MD or a BC Champ in a maiden at LAD so its hard to start the classification process at this time. Rather than concentrating on form, breeding or conformation which is tempting the only thing we really have to go on are work times and speed figures and a quick look at these races can give us a clue as to where we can start our juveniles.

Let’s say i have three two year olds, all have raced once, all have a passable conformation and fair breeding lines. I am looking to run them in a MSW.

So where do i run these horses next if i want them to finish in the money? To ascertain this we must first study the MSW’s at tracks from fair to high.

Firstly i looked at fair track maidens.

Works ranged from 59 and 1H up to 1.01 and 3H for 5 furlongs across 10 races with the winners working in the lower 30% of that range.
SRF speed figures for those raced ranged from 56 to 81 with the winners recording speed figures between 67 and 86.

Next bottom level maidens

Works ranged from 58 and 4H to 1.00 and 2H for 5 furlongs across 10 races with the winners tending to be the top20% of those work times.
SRF Speed Figures for those raced ranged from 65 to 87 with winners recording speed figures between 78 and 89

Next Low level maidens

Works ranged from 58 and 4H to 1.00 and 3H for 5 furlongs across 10 races with the winners tending to be in the top 20% of those work times.
SRF Speed figures for those raced ranged from 50 to 88 with winners recording speed figures between 79 and 88

Same again with mid level

Works ranged from 58 and 4H to 1.00H for 5 furlongs across 10 races with the winners tending to be in the top 15% of those works times
SRF Speed figures for those raced ranged from 77 to 91 with winners recording speed figures between 82 and 89

And finally high level

Works ranged from 58 and 2H to 1.00 and 1H for 5 furlongs across 10 races with winners tending to be in the top 40% of those work times.
SRF Speed Figures of those races ranged from 72 to 90 with the winners recording speed figures between 82 and 90

Just a glance at those statistics really rams home that the problem starts at this very early stage. The fastest works were well within 1 seconds of each other across every level of track and there was only 4 points difference in the best winning SRF figures from fair to high. This is where most players start and this is where most players start their journey into confusion and frustration.
What we learn from these stats is this, we do not find out where our horse will sit for the rest of its career from its efforts in those early MSW runs and therefore we shouldn’t judge our placement efforts on these results alone because whilst it seems almost impossible to differentiate between two year olds across levels there is a difference however small and it is this difference which we must study in order to map a racing career.

Those early months of two year old racing are very difficult and are usually dominated by large stables that can cherry pick their runners entering maybe the fastest 20% whilst leaving the others to either improve over time until they reach the sort of work times required to compete. Their other option is to sell to other smaller stables who will inevitably have a much smaller number and therefore less fast workers. So my first piece of advice is to not get too despondent about those MSW runs and to learn to analyze each performance looking out for improvement in work times, speed figures and noting not where they finish but how they actually run.
When you think about how many two year olds are produced in a year and then how many juvenile graded stakes winners there are it makes you start to realize that aiming for the stars is akin to doing the lottery. This is where patience and attention to detail will help and learning to categorize your horse is key at this early stage.

The one area that is under utilized is the maiden claimer and claimers for two year olds. Very often we are afraid to lose the horse just in case by some miracle it starts to work a second quicker after its fifth MSW defeat. In truth only a very small minority of two year olds will turn into superstars after 5 low end MSW defeats so whilst it is true that some do it really isn’t worth the cost of keeping those horses just in case they suddenly improve.
So how can we use the maiden claimers to our advantage? One way is to use farm works rather than track works to judge your horses ability. A public work of 1.01H is unlikely to attract any claims and yet that same horse can be working a nice 59 and 4B on the farm and those works are invisible to potential claimers. Simply use a 3% jockey, set the instructions on slow and maybe run it on a surface it doesn’t prefer, this will produce a poor track work and thus put off potential buyers. If you want to get rid of the horse rather than keep it then try a few four furlong track works with a 10% jockey and set on AA or fast and that should produce an attractive work time without really any reflection of the horses ability.
The competition in maiden claimers is markedly easier and it does open up several possibilities in the longer term with regards to the sorts of races it can enter.

So moving on we will find ourselves at the end of the year with a better categorized stable and a group of juveniles that are ready to move into their older years without having wasted too much of our hard earned money. As the horses get older so categorizing our horses and the races they run in can get a little more straight forward especially if we learn how to use the conditions of races to get the most out of our horses.
At first glance it can be confusing to see a graded stakes winner in a one win allowance, or the winner of ten races in a 3 win allowance and that s why it is important to understand the conditions of races and to use those to our advantage.

To start lets look at a claiming race that i have randomly picked from the race calendar.

9/15/2020 14:10 9/13/2020 3:00 FE Race #4 1 1/16m Turf Claiming
Purse $14.80 For Three Year Olds And Upward. Additional Requirements: Have won less than 2 races.
Three-year-olds 117 lbs. Older 122 lbs.
Non-winners of a race at 1m or over since 8/15/2020 2 lbs.
Claiming Price $8.00, if for $7.00, allowed 2 lbs.
(Races for a Claiming Price of $6.25 or less not considered for allowances).
Preference to Entries, Win, and Earliest Nominations.

This claiming race is open to horses that have won less than two races. It is a good spot for my $7 maiden claimer winner who won over seven furlongs because it will get full weight allowance, first of all it will get a 2Lb allowance for having won over a trip of less than a mile recently, it will also get 2Lb because i am happy to run it at the same claiming price of $7. Therefore if the horse is a three year old it will carry only 113Lbs and if it is older it will carry 118Lbs. The important thing to note here before you jump in and commit your horse is the weight of the jockeys at the track. It is no good having 113Lbs if the only jockey that weighs less than 115Lb is a 3% one so it is worth checking out the type of jockey you may get before confirming the entry.

You can find that a horse can move through the claiming grades winning at a good rate but never really progress past them ending up winning open or non restricted claimers but being unable to compete at allowance level. This is where people often go wrong as they get attached to a horse that keeps notching up wins and start to run it in allowances in fear of losing it. The chances are if you have a couple of goes in starter allowances or allowances and after analysis it doesn’t perform then it probably never will or atleast will cost you a lot of wasted entries before it does. Do not be afraid to own a profitable claimer and don’t be afraid to lose it in a claim, if you have done your homework the chances are it will do the same for the new owner and crop up in another claimer down the line.

So what do we do if we notice some improvement in work times, SRF figures and winning times and performance? Now we open up a group of races that contain the word Allowance. They are Starter Allowances, Claiming/Allowances and Straight Allowances, horses can move through these levels too winning at a good rate and turning a profit without ever touching a stakes race. With margins so small it is important once again to know you horse. It is no good having a horse that has won 4 races and be sitting on a profit of ten dollars and then enter it in a stakes race which costs $30 to enter when you know deep down it is not competitive at that level. You are quickly $20 down and its very hard to claw that back. So again be content moving through the Allowance system but always be on the look out for those improvements in works, speed figures or race performance that suggest it can step up a level.

So we will start with a Starter Allowance because my winner of ten claiming races has suddenly started to improve its works and i don’t want to risk it in a claiming race.

9/15/2020 13:35 9/13/2020 3:00 BTP Race #4 1m Turf Starter Allowance
Purse $12.20 For Three Year Olds And Upward. Additional Requirements: Have started for a claiming price of $5.00 or less since 9/15/2019.
Three-year-olds 118 lbs. Older 124 lbs.
Non-winners of a race at 1m or over since 8/15/2020 2 lbs.
Non-winners of a race at 1m or over since 7/15/2020 4 lbs

So the conditions of this starter allowance are that a horse has started for a claiming price of $5 or less in the last year. This is ideal for my improving claimer because he started his ten race winning streak in a $5 claimer last October so should find the easiest opposition as his last win was in a $50 high track claimer. He can also get extra weight allowance if i look carefully at the last two sentences, for example he may have won 9 races over a mile but his last win in the middle of July this year was over seven furlongs and therefore he can qualify for a further 4Lb allowance.

Now using the starter allowance system i can win another ten races by carefully choosing the right races without ever facing horses that haven’t run in claimers.
But lets just say i want to take the next step with my horse remembering to keep on eye on those details to ascertain improvement or decline.

The next option is the Allowance/Claiming races where i can slip my horse in with or without the possibility of it being claimed. Lets take a look at one of those races.

9/15/2020 13:55 9/13/2020 3:00 BTP Race #5 6f Dirt Allowance
Purse $15.20 For Three Year Olds And Upward. Additional Requirements: Have not won a race other than maiden, claiming, starter, or statebred OR which have not won 2 races (other than statebred).
Three-year-olds 118 lbs. Older 124 lbs.
Non-winners of a race since 8/15/2020 2 lbs.
Non-winners of a race since 7/15/2020 4 lbs

In this particular race is a prime example of how these races can be used as a stepping stone for an improving claimer. In this race was a six race winner who had raced in good allowance company. The conditions of this race state that a horse can be raced without a claim as long as it hasn’t won two races that are not a maiden, a claimer, a starter allowance or a statebred race. Our 6 race winner had won a maiden and 5 claimers so it fell nicely into this race and was running against horses in the main that were treating the race like a normal allowance having won just 1 or 2 races. There was no risk of a claim on the six race winner and therefore his owner could experiment with his improvement without tackling full allowance races.

Now if our horse has won his ten claimers and his ten starter allowances and has successfully moved on to allowance/ optional claimer races our next step may be the Allowance races. These fall into two categories. Races for horses that have won less than a certain amount of races and races for horses that have won less than an amount of a certain kind of race. These are the two examples.

Purse $15.20 For Three Year Olds And Upward. Additional Requirements: Have not won a race other than maiden, claiming, starter, or statebred OR which have not won 2 races (other than statebred).
Three-year-olds 118 lbs. Older 124 lbs.
Non-winners of a race since 8/15/2020 2 lbs.
Non-winners of a race since 7/15/2020 4 lbs

Now this race is most like our allowance/Claimer races in that a horse that has won multiple claimers, starter allowances or statebreds can enter the race BUT it wont have the longer term option of running in the same race as a claimer should they win because this is not open to horses to run in with a claim attached. This can be a good option or alternative to the Allowance/Claimer especially if the weight allowances work better.

Purse $0.00 For Fillies And Mares Three Years Old And Upward. Additional Requirements: Have won less than 2 races (other than statebred).
Three-year-olds 118 lbs. Older 122 lbs.
Non-winners of a race other than maiden or claiming since 8/16/2020 3 lbs.
Non-winners of a race other than maiden or claiming since 7/16/2020 6 lbs

This is the second form of Allowance race but this is much stricter on its entry requirements limiting the race to horses that have won less than two races apart from a statebred race. So our multiple winning claimer cannot run in this race but it is worth noting that many come unstuck in a race like this simply because committing to and winning it can quickly use up our possible options for entering in the future. Very often i see a fair horse go and win a maiden and four of these races and then have nowhere to go but stakes races or open claimers. Meanwhile our old claimer is winning their 22nd race in the race type above this one.

So having gone through all those races hopefully you are beginning to see just how important it is to classify your horse early on to maximize its career and potential even if it is starting life in a maiden claimer. Too many people run their horses in Allowances and they may even win a few but very soon they are leaking money in races where they don’t belong.

The other very viable option is statebred racing. Many successful stables have used the statebred system to bolster their accounts and it is well worth making statebreds your first port of call when entering. The conditions are the same and the variables alike but the restriction is the horse has to be bred in the state. This limits opposition but more importantly winning these types of races do not use up your conditions. Therefore much like our claimer you can step through the allowance system and be up to win number five in statebreds and then switch to run in a two win allowance in a different state giving you a definite advantage.

A final tip. When entering your horse use the filters to find the best option. I have very often entered the first race that looked appropriate for my horse but missed a much better option a week later just because i didn’t look through all the available races. Start by using the filters from right to left, find out what bonus or statebred options there are first of all. Then go to the race type to find the absolute easiest option for your horses conditions just to see if there is a race available. Once you have been through those then worry about the track, surface and distances.

Lastly i want to say i hope i have helped in some way and if nothing else have convinced you that there is more to this game than competing with deep pocket stables in the top stakes races. Good luck and stay safe out there.



Categories: Editorial, FEATURED STORIES, Racing Information

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