By Art Parker
If you play this game long enough you will find yourself making notes on all kinds of things. I think it is a healthy sign when a player starts keeping records and notes in an attempt to retain or retrieve knowledge. Of course one of the most common notes to make is a trip note, where a record is made of the events surrounding a horse in a race. Many serious players make trip notes to have information on what is commonly called the “troubled trip.”
Troubled trips can make the difference in selecting winners and losers, although using a horse because of a troubled trip in the last race should never be a selection tool by itself. If you get your selection down to a couple of horses after a diligent effort, then trip notes of past trouble may help you select one over the other. Many greyhound players call these “play backs” and I have heard several horse players use that same term. I think it is a bad name because nothing is a play back solely because of a troubled trip.
The notes on troubled trips can be an asset to your handicapping if used properly, but what of the untroubled trip? Most players look at me and wonder what I’m talking about when I use that term. An untroubled trip note is one you should make when a winner wins with circumstances that made the task much too easy.
Even though the large majority of winners do not win their next race, a winning race last outing is the best sign of form. After all, it is better that a horse win than get beat by 25 lengths. But horses that attempt to repeat victory in their next race are usually overbet. Many times they are overbet because the public doesn’t know they won with great ease or a perfect set up.
I categorize the easy victories via untroubled trips as follows:
Walk in the Park – This is the horse that is the lone speed from the gate and for the first half mile of a race. It is the horse that usually does battle in :45 and change and today he strolls form the gate, has an instant lead and yawns a half mile in :46 plus…all alone. He may have finished up the track with those faster splits in the same class but today, against similar, and with an easy and slow lead, he looks like a Kentucky Derby winner. These horses attract way too much money at the windows and the sad truth is that they are not near as good as players think because the last race is somewhat fraudulent as far as handicapping is concerned.
Meltdown benefit – An off-the-pace horse (aka closer) is given the great luxury of acting normal and does not contest the early lead. Others in the race engage into a prolonged suicide pace battle and when the meltdown begins, the off pace horse sweeps past the tired bunch that showed the way and wins easily, going away. Like the Walk in the Park winner, the victory is impressive both on paper and visually.
Classless victory – Regardless of running style, this type of winner gets the perfect lucky draw and faces an entire field that is much inferior. I have noticed this often when an allowance horse drops into a condition claiming event. For example, a horse that has run well a few times in a “non-winners of a race other than” and sports a single career victory. But today the horse drops into a $25,000 claimer for “non-winners of two lifetime” and faces nothing but horses that have run at that level or even lower.
What is important about these easy victories is that you keep the trip note not as a way to select the horse for a win, but actually to exclude the horse from consideration in a future race. However, just a like a troubled trip, you must first do your normal handicapping before you utilize the trip note in the selection process.