How Distance Changes Affect a Horse’s Chances at Success

Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing

It’s sort of like TOE-may-to or TA-ma-to.

Take your choice.

Some handicappers like turnbacks. Some prefer stretchouts.

There’s even some who like both of them.

But for the confines of this lesson, we’re going to discuss how horses turning back in distance from a route race at two turns or a mile or more to a sprint are worth a long look while handicapping a race.

Let’s start with analyzing what comes into play in these instances.

Usually it involves a horse who has been sprinting - and losing. To shake things up, a trainer might decide to enter that runner in a race covering two turns or at a distance of a mile or more, hoping the added distance will result in a winning effort.

If it doesn’t, then a benefit could be derived from the extra effort that went into running a longer distance. It just might give the horse some additional stamina that may come in handy when it returns to a sprint.

As a case in point, there was the Doinwhatshelikes in the fourth race at Saratoga on Aug. 2.

In her previous four races, she ran three times in a sprint and finished second, then fifth and fifth. After that trainer Jeremiah Englehart dropped Doinwhatshelikes in claiming price but also entered her in a race at a mile and a sixteenth distance.

Doinwhatshelikes finished an improved second that day.

Afterwards, Doinwhatshelikes was once again entered in the same $20,000 claiming race, only this time she was turned back in distance to 6 ½ furlongs.

And this time, strengthened by her previous race at a mile and a sixteenth, Doinwhatshelikes kicked into high gear in the stretch. She surged past the 4-5 favorite, Northern Screamer, leaving the eighth pole and pulled away to win by 5 ¼ lengths.

Best of all, she went off at 9-1 odds and handicappers who followed the turnback angle received $20 for each $2 they wagered. A very tidy sum that can pay for a lot of TOE-may-toes or TA-ma-toes – your choice.

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