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Article 05_008_1
June 12th, 2005
"Racing Ahead" - July 2005: "Spotting the winner"

This article was the second of a series of 4 published in the monthly racing and sports magazine - "Racing Ahead" - between June and September 2005.  The article was illustrated with a version of the Virtual Paddock 3 on the site.  Refer to these Paddock Pictures.

In the first article the areas to consider when assessing a 2yo before a race were introduced. This month we take these ideas a little further and cover two other issues - fitness and behaviour.

But we'll start with example based on the five pictures with the article, so try to rank those into a 'best to worst' order before reading further. The following  sentence summarises the five main areas to think about.

(SIZE and BUILD) as assisted/hindered by (GEOMETRY and ATHLETICISM and TOGETHERNESS)

The pictures show 2yos from a single race who represent a range of ability from top-class to poor. Working from two dimensional pictures will mean that you do not have all the information you would at the course. However, there are also advantages in that you can take the time to compare and study them.

Saddlecloth Number 1 : Smallish, lengthy and short for his size. Acceptable build in some areas but lacks 'togetherness' and the parts do no seem to fit with each other. A good example of a 'bits and pieces' geometry. Likely to be a poor mover and a limited athlete but probably able to rate in the 50s because of solid build.

Saddlecloth Number  5 : A different type to Number 10 for example, also smallish but with an above average build and deeper body. Quite neatly put together but slightly lengthier than a classic fast sprinter. Still a little immature and less fit. Athleticism limited by his lack of range. Ought to be able to rate around 70 at 2yo but struggle in open maidens against bigger, stronger & more athletic types.

Saddlecloth Number 7 :  Medium size but heavily built, deep bodied with a shorter neck. Compact set-up of a sprinter but with good range in his walk and holds himself well. In proportion and good quality overall. Not fit enough looking at the 'belly' and the muscle definition. Ought to be a useful sprinter or better.

Saddlecloth Number 10 : Smallish, lightly built and lacking depth. A little lengthy and  not an obvious sprinter. Lacking power overall with a longish, weak neck. Acceptably neat and together but limited by lack of strength and immaturity. Fit enough. Limited to 60s rated at 2yo and need to develop well to rate higher over longer distances.

Saddlecloth Number 13 :  Medium size and above average build, quite deep bodied and powerful behind the saddle. Slightly lengthier than number 7 and carries himself less well in front. Mostly in proportion and ought to be an above average sprint winner.

[Try to answer the Virtual Paddock with the article before reading on. The next paragraph reveals part of the answer.]

The winner of the race was number 13 and the best horse in the race finished fifth on his debut. That was number 7 - Oasis Dream - who didn't win his next run either but was the champion 2yo and a Group 1 sprinter at 3yo. Although the best type he was not 'ready' enough physically and mentally to win.

It is worth covering two other areas of paddock review. The first is fitness and the simplest way to look assess this is to look at the muscle definition on the horses' buttocks. You will soon be able to spot the difference between the deeper lines that show up on a fit horse and their absence in the less fit ones.

The second area behaviour. You'll probably have heard commentators referring to items such as sweating up and 'coltishness' but in general these should be considered as details within the horse's overall behaviour. Judge the horse on whether it's behaviour seems bad enough that it will almost certainly effect it's performance.

For example, you will be able to spot runners who have 'gone inside themselves' and show no interest in what is going on around them but don't draw attention in the way the more showy traits do. Yet this type will always run badly while the 'sweaters' will be spread through the field from front to back.

So why bother with paddock review at all? There are a number of reasons but if you are primarily interested in betting then it is an excellent way to get a real 'edge'.

The majority of widely available information (previous form, statistics, etc.) will have been assessed by many individuals and groups. Most with more time and resources than you have so it will be extremely difficult to find that 'edge'. But your review is your own opinion and you will find opportunities where it is obvious to you that the betting market is wrong.

The understanding of racing gained will enable you to interpret the usual information sources, such as previous form, more efficiently. If you take the time to look at the horses a lot of those statistics will start to make more sense.

[Answer:  (a) = Saddlecloth Number 7; (b) = 13; (c) = 5; (d) = 10; (e) = 1.]

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