Everyone has a bad day every now and then, and sometimes that rough day can lead to an extremely nice day in the near future.
The lesson here is that one bad effort should not be reason enough to discount the chances of a horse who had been in solid form prior to that, especially if the odds are right.
Sometimes, there’s an obvious reason for that surprising loss. Perhaps a bad trip or fractions that worked against the horse. Other times a poor outing can be a sign of downward spiraling form cycle and sometimes bad efforts just happen for no apparent reason.
Choosing between those two can be tricky, though there are often some noteworthy signs that a better race is on the horizon.
As an example, let’s look at Rain in Spain in the first race at Gulfstream Park on March 10. In four straight starts, she had a win, two seconds and a fourth. Then, while facing similar company as she had in the past, Rain in Spain wilted and finished sixth, beaten 17 ½ lengths at 7-2 odds on Feb. 4.
More than a month later, Rain in Spain returned in the March 10 race at the same $16,000 claiming level. This time, she was listed at 6-1 in the morning line, a fairly appropriate price considering her last race.
The challenge for handicappers was deciding whether Rain in Spain would reign or poor, pardon the pun.
In this case, there were some signs indicating she was poised for a better performance. One was a sharp workout on March 3 when Rain in Spain was timed in 48 2/5 seconds during a four-furlong workout on turf. It was the ninth fastest of 26 works at that distance on that day.
In comparison, Rain in Spain’s final work before the Feb. 4 race was also at four furlongs on the turf, but this one was timed in 49 3/5 seconds and was only the 26th fastest of 33 at the distance.
Reading into the March 3 work, trainer John Kimmel wanted to shake up Rain in Spain and see if she was ready for a better try in her next race, and the improved time was a sign that the 5-year-old mare was poised for a bounce-back effort.
Kimmel also switched jockeys, opting for Edgard Zayas to ride Rain in Spain.
Seeing an improved workout and a new jockey made Rain in Spain an interesting longshot possibility, and she became intriguing when the odds stretched to 10-1.
As mentioned before in this space, value is the key element in wagering and getting 10-1 on Rain in Spain made her playable as opposed to taking 7-2 odds and having the risk exceed the reward.
Of course, as you might guess, Rain in Spain did indeed win that opening race on March 10 by 2 ¼ lengths, paying $22.40 to win for her backers, and illustrating a valuable lesson - how some “Rain” can wash away concerns about one bad effort.