one of the keys to backing a winner is betting on a
horse that you believe to be fit. It is one of the major
considerations in any method of assessing what does
and what doesn't constitute a "reasonable bet"
- that is, all things being equal, you have a reasonable
chance of success.
say reasonable and never certain bet or great bet because
certain and great should not exist in the assessment
vocabulary of anyone trying to win a few dollars. (Read
our series on X Factors elsewhere on this site)
In a study of nearly 24000
races in Australia it was shown that 77.1% of all races
were won by horses that had started in the last 21 days.
On the outer margin, 82.9% of races were won by horses
that started in the last 28 days. Doesn't leave a majority
of races for the others, does it? Yes, we all know about
the great first up specialists, the ones that "can't
be beaten first up" etc etc, ad infinitum, but
the reality is that in the long term there is very little
future in backing horses that haven't started i at least
the last calendar month.
It is one of the first
"elimination" rules that we look at in any
selection method. I'm blowed of I can see the point
of betting in to a 18% chance when I can bet in to an
82% chance - can you? I am very happy lo leave out any
horse that doesn't meet these criteria. Is there in
fact then a method of laying any horse that hasn't started
in the last calendar month, who does not have a good
"first up record" with the current
trainer and who is less than $4 on Betfair? Could be
an avenue for your further investigation.....
One of my friends who has
been a life long jockey and trainer assures me a horse
starts to lose fitness after 18 - 22 days of intensive
training. Why should I doubt that? He knows way more
about it than me and it bears out the previously quoted
figures. He has won with his horses against much better
performed animals, and ones with far more class, simply
because his were fit and the much better ones were coming
back from a spell and unfit.
A FIT HORSE WITH AVERAGE
ABILITY SHOULD ALWAYS BEAT AN UNFIT BETTER PERFORMED
Think about it - do you
really thing Keiron Perkins today would beat Geoff Heugel,
just back from the Commonwealth Games success? And most
people would reckon Keiron, if fit, would swim the trunks
off Geoff (with all due sincere respect due to Geoff!)
The other point to consider
is what is called "the bounce effect". This
is where a horse does not perform as well as it otherwise
might because it has not fully recovered from the exertions
of its previous race.......particularly if it has been
a "Herculean" effort at its previous run.
Most horses will need at
least a week to get over a race and if it has been a
particularly strenuous event because of the competition,
distance or going it could take longer.
In my trainer friend's
opinion fitness should count for at least 35% of your
weighted factors in trying to pick a winner.
Some points to consider
if you are at the track and can go to the mounting enclosure
and physically have a look at them. (or you may get
enough of an idea off, say, TVN. where they have more
time before each race than the Sky "sausage machine
1. Fit horses are less
likely to sweat than unfit horses.
2. A fit and healthy animal
will generally have a shiny coat.
3. A fit horse will generally
have good muscle definition.
4. A horse that walks around
the mounting enclosure with its head hung down, looking
listless, is probably not fit.
Note that we use words
like "probably" and "generally"
because this is not an exact science and some can be
Fitness normally improves
with physical exercise and an incremental, repetitive
training. However, many horses are raced too early in
their race preparation because they look ‘fit’
and win a trial, but in many cases, these horses are
probably 70% muscle fit relative to oxygen uptake and
it can take 2-3 races before they achieve a fitness
level which increases their chances of winning on a
Many gallopers are probably
not as fit as they could be after 10-12 weeks of training.
At the end of the day,
it is financial suicide to bet on horses that are NO
chance of being fit. The long term odds appear to heavily
favour a fit horse, and the ONLY way most punters can
evaluate that (without being closely tied up with a
stable) is to use the old 28 day rule.
Long term it is a worthwhile