Getting Ready Off the Layoff

June 1, 2020

With more racetracks getting ready to start running again, it is going to be a bit of a challenge trying to handicap. You have horses who have been off regular training since the beginning of March or even longer. The rest from the vigors of racing probably helps the majority of them. I’ll go one step further, it really helps to sound them up. It always helps their heads to be freshened up. 

Here is where the rubber hits the road, getting them back to racing fitness. When horses are running regularly you don’t have to do a lot with them. You just keep them healthy and happy. After a layoff, and when you want to get back in the starting gate quickly, you have get after them more than you want. Here is where a trainer needs to know his horses. Keep in mind when a horse looses a week of training, they loose two weeks of fitness. 

Trainers train horses up to certain races not knowing when they will be able to race again. They have to keep them half way fit by jogging them or training them ever other day. The problem with horses is they like to train and if you don’t do enough with them they can hurt themselves. You can only jog and slow gallop for so long before they crank up. A good trainer will progressively let them gallop further and faster. That usually takes the edge off them for awhile. 

Now it comes time to start working, aka breezing them. This can get tricky and you don’t want to crank up to soon because there isn’t any place to run. Generally a trainer will work them once a week to get some air in them and stretch those legs. The trainer will eventually work them further. Depending if the horse is a sprinter or a distance horse, will dictate how far and fast. If you have a barn full of older horses they have a way of keeping themselves half fit. So when you know what race you’re aiming for, you adjust the workouts . When a barn has a lot of young horses, meaning 2 year olds, they have to get into a rhythm and keep it until they start working. With all that being said, there are trainers really good getting them ready off a long lay off. They actually excel at it. You have others who would like to run them into shape or fitness. This is where and why you have to know your horses and that’s what makes you a trainer. 

This has been a time when horses haven’t had a chance to earn purse money. So there are trainers, myself included, who would probably run instead of keep working them with the hope to make some money while you are getting them fit. Remember, a race is worth about 4 workouts. If they are three quarters of the way fit, they can earn while progressing and if spotted correctly can even win.. 

Handicapping the race isn’t easy. Here are a few hints that might help you. When you are looking at a horses past performances, they will tell you a lot. See how well they ran off a prior layoff. Generally, if they ran well off a layoff they will do so again. When you see they have needed a race in the past, it will show in the past performances and they will probably fall into the same pattern so tab them for improvement in the next start. They keep stats on trainers on how good tor weak they are coming off layoffs. So if you see trainers who have a good percentage off the layoff, it is a big help. Stats are facts and trends are friends. I use that analogy when I playing my football pools, but it’s true with trainers and horses. So if you like the trainers stats and the horses past performances, I say bet him. Chances are you are doing the correct thing. It will take a while for the majority of horses to gain their regular form back.

I hope that helps. Remember the old expression, I’d rather be lucky than smart.

See you at the races. 

Contributing Authors

JJ Graci

JJ was born in Philadelphia, Pa.  and attended Villanova University. He has vast experience in horse racing and broadcasting. JJ has been a fixture in...

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@jonathanstettin @bbopjz Fantastic writing, thoroughly enjoyable read.

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