2004, Number 34
Inside This Newsletter
A Paddock Refresher
• A guest article by Joe Takach
ALL-Ways Version 11 New Features
For ALL-Ways Handicappers
• ALL-Ways Icon
ALL-Ways Version 11 Update
At the time this newsletter went to press in early June, we were projecting the release of ALL-Ways Version 11 to be during late July, 2004. To check the actual status of Version 11 and to obtain details regarding the new features, please visit the What’s New page on the Frandsen Publishing Web site at www.frandsen.com. Also, notices will soon be mailed to ALL-Ways software users who are in our current mailing list. If you are not sure you are in our mailing list and would like to be, please either use the Sign-in Page on our Web site or send an e-mail with your address to email@example.com. Note: If this newsletter was mailed to you, it means you are on the BRIS mailing list, not necessarily the Frandsen Publishing mailing list.
A brief description of the new features in Version 11 is included in the article on page 4 of this newsletter. One of the new features is the ability to view all handicapping reports on screen as opposed to requiring they be printed.
A Paddock Refresher
A Guest Article by Joe Takach
One special area of successful handicapping that is frequently discussed, but often not well understood, is being able to accurately assess the form and readiness of a horse to run in today’s race by looking at the horse in the paddock and in the post parade. We came across an article by Joe Takach that was published in the June issue of American Turf Monthly. We thought this article did a great job of summarizing how to approach this important area of handicapping. It is the most clear and concise discussion of this subject we have seen. Our thanks go to Joe and to American Turf Monthly for giving us permission to reprint this article in the ALL-Ways Newsletter. More about Joe and ATM a little later on.
By Joe Takach
“How’s your game been of late?
If you’re cashing 35-40 percent of your wagers year-in and year-out, there’s no need for you to continue to read this article. You’ve arrived!
But if you’re like 99.9 percent of handicapping ‘mortals,’ which includes yours truly, you need to continually work on your methodology, holding on to those things that have stood the test of time and discarding other factors that were only momentary winning aberrations.
Most serious and seasoned players hold on to speed, pace, breeding, class, trip, running profiles, trainer/jockey stats and a multitude of other significant areas that help them to cash more tickets. In other words, they know how to crunch paper as well as anyone. Finding the best horse in a ‘playable race’ isn’t the problem. Getting the best horse to run the way they think it should once the gates fly open is the gray area.
Though I forget the name of the sage, so I cannot give him his due credit, sometime ago I recall reading his profound statement that I’ll put in my own words, ‘Better than 50 percent of any given race is out of the control of any handicapper and is therefore unhandicappable.’
That assertion stopped me cold in my tracks and took over my present-moment activity until I had thought the idea through from front to back. Though I knew that a part of the handicapping equation was totally out of my control, I had never put a percentage on it.
What was unhandicappable?
Well, we don’t open the gate on our selection when we’re sure that all four of its hooves are still and firmly on the ground. Furthermore, we’re not an assistant starter holding our wager’s head straight before the gate opens, allowing it to break smoothly. We’re certainly not riding our bet. We have no guarantees that with every next step of the race that our wager won’t get blocked, steadied, bumped, forced out, etc. We’re not even sure if its ‘connections’ are actually sending today! I could offer you more, but I’m sure you get the gist by now.
Is it 50 percent or actually more of the wagering equation? Might be!
But even if it is, I know how to bring that percentage down to a manageable level every single time that I wager.
After visiting the mutuel windows for more than 40 years, I know that just as faster horses win more races than do slower ones, so too do good-looking horses win more races than their bad-looking counterparts. How’s that for rocket science at its finest?
It is impossible to refute the fact that when these two factors compliment each other in a “playable race,” there isn’t a better bet in the game. If half of the race is out of our control, at least we have done everything possible to control the other half.
Even if you currently employ ‘paddock handicapping’ in your day-to-day methodology, it never hurts to review exactly what you’re doing at this moment. Is it enough? Is it too little? Is it too much? I can only tell you what I do every day in the paddock and during the pre-race warm-up period. I can also unequivocally state that if I didn’t do these things, I’d cash far less tickets—if I cashed any at all!
So what’s important and what’s not? And what has changed in my paddock methodology over the past 40 years?
I’ll answer the second question first. Absolutely nothing has changed in my paddock methodology. Ready-looking and well warmed-up horses ruled supreme 40 years ago and maintain that lofty position to this very day.
If you wager via satellite rather than on track, there are basics that even a novice can very quickly comprehend, easily master and immediately start using. Most ‘beamed in’ races to satellite outlets offer decent paddock shows. Talking heads reel off unending statistics while viewers are offered many quick shots or five-second glimpses of each race participant. There is ample time to spot ‘readiness’ if you merely examine a few things.
1) COLOR – This is where the novice should begin because it is so simplistic. Think about an automobile for a minute. If the sun is out and a car is washed with a good wax job, the sun bounces off the car’s paint and nearly blinds you. Conversely, if the car is dirty with little or no wax, sunlight doesn’t bounce back at you, it is absorbed into the paint itself.
This is exactly what happens with racehorses. When healthy, their coats are brilliant and reflect sunlight. When just so-so, sunlight disappears into their coats.
So what does a healthy coat tell you? Most importantly, perhaps, is the runner’s blood-cell count. Brilliant coats scream that red blood cell counts are maximized. Red blood cells carry the oxygen throughout a horse’s entire circulatory system. This assures that a horse has the fuel it needs to run to its best. Think of red blood cells as gasoline in an automobile. Try and drive a gasless car. Try to win with a horse that isn’t getting all the oxygen (red blood cells) it needs to compete effectively. I’m sure you get the picture!
2) ENERGY – While you’re checking out a runner’s color, you can incorporate energy levels. Does it walk the paddock with its head upright indicating positive energy, or does it stroll the walking ring with its head low and bobbing while kicking up the dirt below as it drags its unwilling hooves.
3) EARS – Pricked ears (upright and straightforward) are the only winning position. Pinned, flickering or flopped-over ears aren’t. It’s that simple!
4) TAILS – There are three positive and three negative tail positions, and all are easily recognizable.
On the positive side, well off the rump is the most common tail of all winning horses. Well off the rump means you can see at least two to three inches of ‘air’ between the rump and the tail itself. This indicates to the viewer that the horse has positive energy and can keep its tail off its backside.
An arched tail is a rarity, but if you look long enough, you’ll occasionally see one. Not only is the tail well off the rump, it is literally arched. Believe one thing: when you see an arched tail, the horse is about to run a very solid race.
Finally, you’ll occasionally see a horse popping its tail north and south while offering controlled ‘false starts.’ A false start is where the horse gently lurches forward but is not fractious or acting crazy. It is fully tractable and willing. It offers these gentle false starts to its rider to let him know that it is totally ready to run right now! The three negative tail positions are just as easy to spot as the good ones.
The east-west tail is the exact opposite of the aforementioned north-south tail. This constant negative movement from east to west and from west to east is usually non-stop in the walking ring and in the post parade. It is a clear signal that the horse doesn’t want to race and is trying to rid itself of the forthcoming event as it would a relentless fly on a hot summer afternoon.
A flat tail is evident when you can’t see any ‘air’ in between the rump and the tail itself. The owner of this flat tail has very little energy and no interest in racing. Low and bobbing heads are closely associated with flat tails and are usually evident with this negative tail position.
Finally the flat tail goes further into this losing dimension and becomes the third negative tail position known as tucked tail. This is where the tail appears to almost disappear between the hindquarters. You won’t see this negative tail position all that often, but when you do, you’ll note that the horse is usually very fractious and/or rearing up with a wild look in its eyes. The very last thing on its mind is the upcoming race.
5) MUSCLING – If you can count a horse’s ribs, it lacks proper muscling. If you doubt that muscled horses win far many more races than do anorexic greyhoundish-looking equines, call me. I want to sell you some prime swampland in Malibu for under 10 bucks an acre!
6) WALKING – While it is a no-brainer that if a horse can’t walk properly, it surely can’t run properly, you’d be amazed at how many handicappers have never so much as considered this essential physicality factor in their day-to-day methodology.
So when is a horse walking properly?
Pick any horse in any race. It matters not if you are on track or watching over a satellite monitor. And yes, it is harder to see over a satellite monitor than in person, but far from impossible to eyes that know exactly what to look for.
Take note of either front hoofprint after a front hoof leaves the ground. The horse then brings its rear leg forward on that same side, plants its rear hoof and continues walking. The rear hoofprint it leaves should be at least one horseshoe ahead of the front hoofprint that preceded it.
That sentence can be confusing. Merely read it again until you understand the concept. Every time a horse takes a step with either front leg, the subsequent hoofprint left by its rear leg on that same side must be a full horseshoe ahead of the front leg hoofprint if it is to be considered as walking well. Only horses that are walking well are acceptable from a “physicality” and betting standpoint.
Should the rear hoofprint not clear the preceding front hoofprint on the same side, the runner is said to be ‘walking short.’
I offer only one caveat when assessing if a horse is walking properly. You have to make sure that the groom is not restraining the horse’s natural walking gait. Artificial restraint by a groom is easily seen. The handler will have a short hold on the horse and his elbow or shoulder will be flush against the horse’s front shoulder in an effort to keep it from moving forward too quickly.
7) THE PRERACE WARM-UP – The pre-race warm-up is the ‘fail-safe’ of physicality handicapping. You’ll recall that when discussing color, we had a quick sidebar on red blood cells and their essentialness for maximum output. Consider the following.
About a third of a horse’s red blood cells are dormant in its spleen. There are only two ways to release dormant red blood cells from the spleen.
The first way is through fright. Horses in the wild about to get attacked by a predator need all the oxygen they can muster to outrun danger. The spleen quickly lets the red blood cells go when offered the unmistakable sign that their immediate release is needed for self-preservation.
The second way is through mild pre-race exercise. It takes about four furlongs or half a mile of light cantering for a horse’s spleen to release these needed red blood cells. Once merging into the circulatory system, they add to the existing red blood cells already at work carrying essential oxygen to wherever it is needed for optimum output.
This is the exact reason why I’ve been harping for over 40 years that the pre-race warm-up is one of the two most important parts of the ‘physicality’ side of the betting equation. The other physicality part is the overall paddock appearance and deportment mentioned above. When both physicality factors are acceptable and the runner has the best ‘backpaper’ in its field, I’ll repeat, with the risk of overkill, that there isn’t a better bet in the game!
And while many satellite players might be moaning that they can’t actually see the pre-race warm-ups as could an on-track observer, many pre-race activities are shown on the beamed in races from the post parades straight through loading. You get to see each and every runner two, three, four times or more after the post parade. If every time you see a particular horse, it is walking or slow trotting rather than in a light canter, it most likely didn’t get the four-furlong canter needed to release the essential oxygen-delivering red blood cells for the upcoming race.
Seems like a no-brainer that horses running with full tanks of oxygen after a proper pre-race warm-up consistently outperform horses with little or no pre-race warm-up and only two-thirds of a tank of oxygen. So, if you had not considered this an essential handicapping factor before, you had better begin to today!
In fact, if you’re not including all seven physicality categories before you wager, you are severely compromising your ability to win.
Always keep in mind that if consistent winning was only a matter of ‘crunching paper’ and properly interpreting past performances, IBM would have cornered the wagering market 50 years ago and our great game would be over.
Interpreting a horse’s ‘backpaper’ is surely an influential part of any handicapper’s selection methodology, including my own. But ‘paper handicapping’ by itself falls short because it fails to answer one mandatory question: What does the horse look like today and is it physically ready to run to its best?
See you in the paddock!”
Joe Takach and his staff have published Daily Southern California Horses to Watch since 1993. If you would like information about this service and other products, you can visit www.joe-takach.com. Joe specializes in Physicality Handicapping. And, if you have not been reading American Turf Monthly on a regular basis, you have been missing out on some of the best handicapping incites available in the industry. We recommend you take a look at www.americanturf.com
ALL-Ways Version 11 New Features
While ALL-Ways Version 11 was about a month away when we posted this newsletter, many of the new features were already completed and in Beta Testing. Here is a brief description of some of these features. Be sure to check the Frandsen Publishing Web site to check on the availability of Version 11.
Now, here is a peek at some of the new features:
By far, the most requested new feature appearing on the Version 11 Wish Lists we solicited from ALL-Ways software handicappers was to add the capability to view handicapping reports on-screen. Done! All ALL-Ways handicapping reports can now be displayed on-screen as well as being able to be printed.
Gap Deficiency Report
In Version 10, we introduced the blockbuster Gap Analysis feature in ALL-Ways software. This feature shows how well horses perform based on the size of their advantage (“Gap”) for 52 different handicapping factors. Performance is measured by win percentage, win return-on-investment percentage and in-the-money percentage. Now, new in Version 11, ALL-Ways software introduces the Gap Deficiency Analysis. This shows how the performance of horses declines based on the size of their Gap disadvantage for each of the 52 Gap handicapping factors. It is a great way to eliminate horses from consideration in your wagers.
Custom Card as a Track
One of the most powerful capabilities in all of handicapping was born when BRIS and Frandsen Publishing teamed up to create the special ALL-Ways software version of BRIS Custom Card. This special capability uses ALL-Ways Race Pace Shapes to let you designate the amount of pace pressure you want in the races making up your personal race card. For example, you can specify races with lone front runners that may run away from the field or races with lots of early pace pressure that may set the race up for high priced horses from off the pace. Another frequently requested new feature for ALL-Ways software has been to let ALL-Ways software handicappers build databases of all their Custom Card data files and have ALL-Ways software treat the database as a track. Done!
And, saving the best for last, Version 11 includes what may well be the most powerful computer handicapping capability ever introduced, what we refer to as “The Angle Assistant”. Please visit the Frandsen Publishing Web site at www.frandsen.com for details.
For ALL-Ways Handicappers
Want to add an ALL-Ways icon to your Windows Desktop? Here is how. 1) On your Windows Desktop, double-click on My Computer; 2) double click on your “Local Drive C”, or whichever drive you installed ALL-Ways software; 3) Double-click on the Franfile folder to open it up. Reduce the opened folder to a partial screen so you can also see your Windows Desktop; 4) Find the file named allways.exe, left mouse click on the file and hold down the mouse button while you drag the file onto your Windows Desk Top. At this point, you will see the ALL-Ways logo (icon). You can start up your ALL-Ways software by simply double-clicking on the icon.
Be sure to check the What’s New page on our Website for
the latest announcements and alerts."