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Old 12-31-2009, 11:53 AM   #1
markgoldie
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Handicapping Tips: The "Z" Pattern

Thought I might share a couple of handicapping tips for our forum members. This tip involves what I dubbed many years ago the "Z" pattern. (I realize others have used the term "Z" pattern to mean other situations, but this is my use of the phrase).

A Z pattern comes about when a horse is newly returning from an extended layoff, such that the horse has been "let down," rather than having remained in training for the layoff period. Since we can never be 100% sure that this has been the case, we will use an arbitrary number of three months as a minimum layoff (between the horse's first activity which will usually be a qualifier and his last previous race).

It is nearly impossible to train a horse into complete, maximum race tightness. So the idea here is to wait until the horse has regained his maximum tightness through racing before wagering on him. But the WAY this maximum tightness is achieved is very important. We are looking for a gradual, safe tightening, followed by a punctuation to complete the process.

Therefore, we create the following rules:

(1) The horse must have been inactive for at least three months.

(2) In the horse's qualifier, he must have been raced FROM BEHIND, and he must have shown either POSITIVE or NEUTRAL movement through the stretch, OR a faster last quarter than third quarter (this last stipulation is important because if a much better animal is in the qualifier who posts a very rapid last quarter, it is possible for our target horse to have actually lost lengths in the stretch, despite a decent acceleration.

(3) In the horse's first mutuel start back, he again must have been raced from behind with forward progress in the late stages.

(4) We PREFER, but do not demand, a second mutuel start with the same closing pattern of the first.

(5) This is the key tightener race. The horse must leave for the front and spend at least a quarter mile cutting the pace. The longer on the front end, the better. For value purposes, we also prefer that the horse gets tired late in the race and fades out of the money. However, he must have been beaten by a normal, "representative" distance. I won't get overly specific here because there are too many variables which may come into play regarding the "representative" distance of defeat. For example, track size, track speed bias on the given night, and severity of all pace fractions will factor into what we may consider reasonable or representative. What we're really trying to avoid is a situation where our horse has suddenly developed a bleeding or breathing problem which may cause a bad performance in the upcoming race. So while we expect that this front-end trip will cause fatigue, it should not cause complete staggering late in the mile.

(6) The horse is ready to bet as a "Z" pattern horse in his next start, the theory being that the horse was prepared for his front-end attempt well- that is, he had a sufficient "foundation" such that the front-end attempt should not cause a "gutting," "corking," or "bounce". However, it should yield a topper to the race-tightening process. Interestingly, this next race has a very good chance to be the animal's best effort in the current race cycle, but such things are determined by a variety of factors, such as age, physical infirmities, and the training schedule that led to up to this effort.

(7) This is not a qualifying rule, but a preference: It is better if in the target race (the one where we are betting) the prospects for a cover trip are good. That is, we prefer our target Z-pattern horse to come from behind, rather than cut the mile. Naturally, if we are to come from behind, we would also prefer a race in which there was sufficient pace contention to make closing a good option AND a nightly track condition that at least allowed closers an even chance to succeed.

So that's it. Be on the lookout for these types of horses because they often light up the tote board. All comments or questions are welcome.
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Old 12-31-2009, 12:19 PM   #2
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Cool

Quote:
Originally Posted by markgoldie
Thought I might share a couple of handicapping tips for our forum members. This tip involves what I dubbed many years ago the "Z" pattern. (I realize others have used the term "Z" pattern to mean other situations, but this is my use of the phrase).

A Z pattern comes about when a horse is newly returning from an extended layoff, such that the horse has been "let down," rather than having remained in training for the layoff period. Since we can never be 100% sure that this has been the case, we will use an arbitrary number of three months as a minimum layoff (between the horse's first activity which will usually be a qualifier and his last previous race).

It is nearly impossible to train a horse into complete, maximum race tightness. So the idea here is to wait until the horse has regained his maximum tightness through racing before wagering on him. But the WAY this maximum tightness is achieved is very important. We are looking for a gradual, safe tightening, followed by a punctuation to complete the process.

Therefore, we create the following rules:

(1) The horse must have been inactive for at least three months.

(2) In the horse's qualifier, he must have been raced FROM BEHIND, and he must have shown either POSITIVE or NEUTRAL movement through the stretch, OR a faster last quarter than third quarter (this last stipulation is important because if a much better animal is in the qualifier who posts a very rapid last quarter, it is possible for our target horse to have actually lost lengths in the stretch, despite a decent acceleration.

(3) In the horse's first mutuel start back, he again must have been raced from behind with forward progress in the late stages.

(4) We PREFER, but do not demand, a second mutuel start with the same closing pattern of the first.

(5) This is the key tightener race. The horse must leave for the front and spend at least a quarter mile cutting the pace. The longer on the front end, the better. For value purposes, we also prefer that the horse gets tired late in the race and fades out of the money. However, he must have been beaten by a normal, "representative" distance. I won't get overly specific here because there are too many variables which may come into play regarding the "representative" distance of defeat. For example, track size, track speed bias on the given night, and severity of all pace fractions will factor into what we may consider reasonable or representative. What we're really trying to avoid is a situation where our horse has suddenly developed a bleeding or breathing problem which may cause a bad performance in the upcoming race. So while we expect that this front-end trip will cause fatigue, it should not cause complete staggering late in the mile.

(6) The horse is ready to bet as a "Z" pattern horse in his next start, the theory being that the horse was prepared for his front-end attempt well- that is, he had a sufficient "foundation" such that the front-end attempt should not cause a "gutting," "corking," or "bounce". However, it should yield a topper to the race-tightening process. Interestingly, this next race has a very good chance to be the animal's best effort in the current race cycle, but such things are determined by a variety of factors, such as age, physical infirmities, and the training schedule that led to up to this effort.

(7) This is not a qualifying rule, but a preference: It is better if in the target race (the one where we are betting) the prospects for a cover trip are good. That is, we prefer our target Z-pattern horse to come from behind, rather than cut the mile. Naturally, if we are to come from behind, we would also prefer a race in which there was sufficient pace contention to make closing a good option AND a nightly track condition that at least allowed closers an even chance to succeed.

So that's it. Be on the lookout for these types of horses because they often light up the tote board. All comments or questions are welcome.

All new bettors should apply this strategy to their arsenal when wagering their money.

Their are different variations of the layoff angles that have worked over the years continually too.Horses popping with first, and even second time solid speed trys,or up close to the pace trys have been witnessed time and time again throughout the years.I will sometimes look for a horse up to six or seven races deep after this type of layoff or longer and still see these patterns be winning one's.
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Old 12-31-2009, 01:07 PM   #3
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The evolution of the harness horse towards an animal which increasingly looks and acts like their thoroughbred cousins has created some new changes in layoff patterns as well. In past years, a very strong performance first-out after a layoff was virtually always a good sign of things to come. However, this is no longer the case as harness horses are bouncing more and more like thoroughbreds. For example, consider the new meet about to open at the BIG M. Horses who have been laid off and who come right out with a huge effort, particularly cutting miles or racing first over will very often regress sharply in the next outing. This effect is a bit stronger on younger horses than the old veterans, but its a good strategy to bet AGAINST these horses in their next out, particularly if they are the favorite.
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Old 12-31-2009, 01:54 PM   #4
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Thanks Markgoldie for "sharing" that most valuable way of looking at "fresh-horses"....

I too am always alert to a fresh-horse, in fact it has become one of my "mainstays" in handicapping-harness races....I believe if you really want a shot at beating this game in the long run, one must understand "fresh horses" better than the competition....

It's funny and so co-incidental, that you use the name "Z" pattern, as somewhere along the way, I started using that same "name" for this type of scenario....I think I got that idea from some handicapper that I had read at sometime, somewhere along this way.....

Most likely the "early-horse", in this "Z-type" scenario that fades dismally as the race progresses is the most prodigious producer of Monster-Mutels, but I also use other variations as well...

I also like it, if a horse had shown some really good first-two fractions, and then gets shuffled and stays even or closes a bit late in the race....I think that this strengthens this "angle", as it shows that the horse was very "well-meant" in that early speed tightening race, and more importantly shows that the horse can finish his mile as well...I like that added benefit, as it helps me keep confidence in his ability to run better the next week...Tho the price will come down more so in this type of scene...

Also, in that speed tightening mile, I will like a horse, that has run an even type of race with a hint of early speed and somne solid and almost all the same fractions in "all" of last mile splits....ie;...28 28:1 28:3 28:4....I like to see this "pace-pattern" with a "fresh" horse....This what I refer to as a "compressed pace-pattern", and as Cary Fotias had pointed out in his book "Blinkers Off", horses with a compressed "pace and final time" often will "explode" in his next outing or two.....

Or, I will like a horse such as Markgoldie's (BPQ) type horses with at least one solid (swift for the class) early split, and better yet, back to back BPQ type early splits, and then followed with a gradual, or even abrupt deceleration from that point on....then, if after losing many lengths (looking dismal at that point) after those first two powerful splits, doesn't appear to lose any more lengths/postitions from that point on, going to the wire....ie;.his splits.....27:3...28....29:4....30:2.....running line....7 2o 2 5-41/2 7-71/2 8-81/2

There's more to this Z stuff and fresh horses, just can't think of them at this point....

Good luck "all", in implementing MG's great strategy..... In time, your game will only get better, thinking this way....

best,
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Last edited by LottaKash; 12-31-2009 at 01:59 PM.
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Old 12-31-2009, 04:20 PM   #5
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Great little something right there. Thanks for that, and thanks for your input aswell LottaKash, both were interesting reads for me.
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Old 12-31-2009, 08:10 PM   #6
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An assist with equipment....

I meant to give you my take on what I use as "meaningful" equipment changes, along with assessing a horse's chances when he is a "fresh-horse" or a BPQ-PP horse....I just got sidetracked, is all.....
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Most of the time it isn't ez to get access to any equipment changes that may have been made to a particular horse, so this is a tough issue in that regard... At some tracks they have a little endless "banner" going on on the bottome of the tracks's monitor thruout the card, and they will declare any new or different equipment addditions or changes....It pays to know what tracks give you that info, because there are several equipment changes that I "religiously" look for when I try to spot a live horse, one that is on the improve and hopefully gets this "very-positive" trainer's signal in the process....So, since we are on the subject of fresh horses and BPQ horses, "equipment-changes" are a good way to, perhaps, get into a "trainers'' head a bit more....

Hopples.....It was taught to me that, when a horse gets a hopple-length increase, that a trainer is telling us that his horse is able to extend a bit more, and by letting out Approx 1-3/4' to 2-1/2 inches, it will allow the "improving" horse a realistic chance to show more tonite.....Of course, most times, but not always, tightening the hopples by about as much decrease in length, is a signal that a horse is having a tougher time fully extending, and is ready to hurt himself if left unchecked....
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Bridles....Bridles are another way to perhaps get into the trainer's head as well...When spotting those live ones that are on the improve or have another "serious" trainer's-angle going for him, a "bridle-change" may be a key factor in all of this....When a horse goes from a "Blind-bridle" to an "Open-bridle", this is often a signal that this horse will not be leaving tonite, and perhaps he will be a grinder or late closer in tonite's event......On the other hand, when a live horse gets a "Closed-bridle" coming from an "open-bridle", this is often enough, a signal that they will be sending this horse tonite, and right to the front or close to it, and alertly at that.....I love this bridle change the best (going to a closed-bridle), as often enough, this improving horse will be very "well-meant" tonite....
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Lasix.....I think "1st-time lasix" may be good for some horses on the first try, but usually when I find an improving horse, It means more to me on the 2d or 3d GO.....Mostly when you see a horse that is improving and he is just coming up a bit short in his most recent race or two, 2d-3d time lasix may be just what the Dr. ordered, especially if he is fresh or a BPQ horse, and if you combined that with a bridle or hopples change....Watchout !....

That's it, I am going to get slightly "wasted" tonite.....Happy New Year to All-"dark-siders".....

best,
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Old 01-01-2010, 12:52 PM   #7
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Your info is pretty good here, Kash. Just allow me to make a few minor adjustments. Hobble length: Unfortunately, there is little of value that can be gleaned by a change of hobble length one way or the other. The old saw that a longer hobble allows a horse to "stride out" longer is mostly a myth with no basis in reality. That's because, with the exception of ridiculously severe cases, a too-tight hobble will result not so much in a shortening of stride, but a a "sliding up" of the hobble, higher on his arm so that he can get his arm further "under" the hobble so as to maintain his normal or preferred stride. This sliding up of the hobble will generally cause "burning" (which is a rubbing-raw of the front arm about midway up in the area where the hobble normally rides. This is an indication to the trainer that he should loosen the hobble a bit.

The too-long hobble that is shortened may be a positive as well as negative factor. That's because any uncertainty in the animal's gait will lead to a lack of confidence out on the track and consequently a tentative effort. Pacing is a power game and without the confidence to cut loose to the maximum power, the horse will never achieve his full potential. One of the reasons that we have NEVER seen a great champion pacer without hobbles is that they provide the support necessary for the horse to have the confidence to "let it rip" for maximum brush. So a horse who is a bit fumbly may actually benefit greatly from a shortened hobble. On the other hand, as you point out, some trainers tighten the hobbles as a reaction to unsoundness. So there's really no way to know just on the basis of a shortened hobble what's going through the trainer's head. My recommendation here is to view the horse on the track before wagering. If the horse seems bad-gaited or "nodding" due to lameness, it's probably a good bet the the shorter hobble is just to try to get the horse around the track.

Second or third lasix: What you say has a great deal of truth to it. I agonized for quite some time over why the application of lasix to a bleeder should produce a better effort in subsequent races following the first application. The only logical explanation I could come up with is that the bleeder is a horse who races chronically "short". That is, due to the bleeding problem, the horse is never able to go fast enough to produce maximum fitness. Therefore, on first application of the lasix, the horse is still racing "short". However, that first somewhat improved effort provides a good tightener for the second-out performance. Also, once the trainer realizes that he has a bleeder on his hands, when he trains between races, he will almost always train on lasix. Thus the training effort becomes more useful since the horse can go fast without bleeding.

The flip side to this coin is that trainers are usually able to get non-bleeders on lasix through a process which I will not detail here. However, there is no reason for a non-bleeding horse to be "short" and therefore the addition to lasix to a non-bleeder will produce maximum effect right out of the box. Unfortunately, there is no way to know if or how bad a bleeder a horse was prior to having lasix administered. This, of course, leads to the question of whether lasix will improve the performance of non-bleeders and there have been sufficient controlled studies to determine that the answer is "yes". The improvement has been documented to be highest on geldings and the researchers who carried out this research had no explanations for this. However, I think I know the answer but since this post is getting absurdly long and probably boring to most people reading it, I won't bother to explain this effect. Unless someone has an interest and requests it.

Bridles: You are right on the money here. However, a switch to an open bridle may actually help a horse as well because the ability to see the driver can motivate the horse. Also, if the horse has been difficult behind the gate, the calming effect of the open bridle may actually enable the horse to leave better because the driver doesn't have to fight the animal before the word "go"s given. The great driver Herve Filion often requested that trainers take the blind bridles off of the horses he drove. His feeling was that he wanted the horse to see him so he could show the horse the whip and this he felt led to better tactical ability, whereas a horse in a blind bridle is more or less a scud missle on a mission. When leaving, he felt that showing the horse the whip and tapping him led to as much early acceleration as a blinker and it's pretty hard to argue with a man who's won like 13,000 races. Also, blinkered horses can't see other horses coming up on them, so in the deep stretch, any natural gameness that the horse might have is negated by his inability to see an approaching animal.

Anyway, just some New year's day ramblings while we await the Big M opening card.
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Old 01-01-2010, 01:55 PM   #8
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Lasix in harness to me has always been one of the most interesting handicapping questions out there. Right to the drug itself (many trainers swear it does not do a thing), and to the intent of the trainer and driver.

1st lasix is sometimes second time lasix, as a trainer will school a horse on it first and get scoped afterwards. For the first start the trainer has confidence to tell the driver to send the horse. Other times, 1st lasix is an experiment, so the connections are cautious 1st time out and then send the horse second time when he scopes fairly clean.

There are a lot of other natural things to use for bleeding too, so first lasix is usually accompanied with some vet work, blood work (I think bilirubin shows some bleeding) so the connections do more first start than just first lasix. Sometimes the horse is fine tuned more than we think first time.

On the sinister side, lasix gives a buffer on the TC02 test. I think 42 mmols are allowed in Ontario with lasix, and 38 without.

It is one of the most odd, difficult things to look at in harness, imo, because we do not have perfect information and there are so many extraneous factors.
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Old 01-01-2010, 02:28 PM   #9
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Dean:

I don't think that the addition of lasix and the slightly relaxed standards on the TCO2 test that it allows is a factor at all. Two reasons: (1) The TCO2 test is stringent and the penalties so severe that routine and normal addition of baking soda to the horse prior to a race has been all but dropped by trainers. Translation: Milkshaking is dead. In some jurisdictions, like Pa., they even warn trainers when the TCO2 levels of their horses are high-but-legal. The warning goes something like this: "Your horses' levels are high but legal. However, we are watching you like a hawk and the first time you go over the limit, you'll never race another horse here- EVER!" And (2) lasix does indeed elevate TCO2 levels, so the extra wiggle room doesn't exist.

The ELISA test is super-sensitive and can detect quantities of ANYTHING unusual and once found, even though the agent may not be immediately identifiable, with further testing it can be. With the addition of steroid testing and EPO/Aranesp testing, I laugh at people who still think there are tons of illegal performance-enhancing drugs out there that trainers are giving. There just aren't and personally I think it's time to give the high-percentage trainers some credit for what they legitimately do.
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Old 01-01-2010, 02:33 PM   #10
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I did not say anything about trainers by name, just that lasix does and can mask things, and the increased thresholds via Tc02 are there for a reason. There is plenty of tubing going on, just go to your local track and look at folks who warm horses up one race before the race itself. I will leave it at that.
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Old 01-01-2010, 03:21 PM   #11
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I'll name one . The great Ken Rucker. This guy was a low level trainer is Illinois. Then he became a good trainer overnight. Right. He has received more positives than I can count, but continued to put Stafford, Farmer and other names down and rolled along. He branched his game to the Big M where they finally had enough and threw him out. Then they let him back. How did he do last meet? I guess he honed his skills while being suspended. In all areas of sport there are people that are one step ahead of the testing and always will be. The next time that a Rucker horse runs forever with a bad trip and catches you at the wire your laugh may just turn to a sobering frown.
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Old 01-01-2010, 05:37 PM   #12
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Dean and Stick: All I'm saying is that the testing procedures are pretty good. Yes, some guys may be ahead of the curve. If they are and they get away with it? Well, we're all big boys and we understand how the world works.

The late great film director Sidney Pollack loved a line so much that he used it in about a half-dozen of his films. The line is: "You people think that not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth." And the CIA agents, politicians, and businessmen all seemed to respond in the same way- well?? What else??

And so it goes in horse racing as well as almost all businesses that deal with government regulations, local, state, and federal. What's the answer? There is none unless you want to be like China and have the state hire the trainers so they're all zombies following the government procedure.
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