For the last two weeks, we’ve focused on handicapping 2-year-old races.
So let’s stay on topic and address one other aspect of juvenile racing: turf races.
As 2-year-olds stretch out in distance, they’ll also find more opportunities on turf – and handicappers will get more headaches.
While horses can get a steady stream of revealing workouts on dirt before their debut in a race on the main track, most tracks give maidens limited or no access to the grass course for workouts.
So what’s the best way to proceed?
Certainly good races on turf take on added significance because they remove a great deal of the mystery out of the equation. In dealing with a horse who is making its first start, there’s the dilemma of wondering whether a) the horse has ability; b) the horse can handle turf. Meanwhile, you already have the answer to both of those questions when you have a horse who owns a good effort on turf, giving you more reasons to back that horse – until a few losses raise doubts over its ability to break its maiden without a class drop.
Of course, first-time starters are eligible to capture their debut in a turf race, and the key element in picking them out remains their pedigree. Breeding can play a major role in a horse’s ability to handle turf and knowing which bloodlines turn out successful turfers is a highly valuable tool.
To help in that regard, most handicapping services provide data or ratings about a horse’s pedigree and how it equates to its chances of running well. Those numbers alone can help in the process of finding contenders and tossing out pretenders.
It also pays to do your homework and learn which trainers excel on turf. In New York, for example, if Chad Brown or Christophe Clement enters a horse in a turf race for its first start there’s considerable reason to believe they are well-meant.
There’s surely a lot of guesswork involved in a juvenile turf race, but don’t forget the rewards are there as well when you land on the one who finds the grass to be greener.