How an Equipment Change Can Lead to Big Improvement

Fans cheering home their pick at Saratoga. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

Sometimes a small change can bring out a big difference in a young, inexperienced horse.

While past performances do not include statements about a trainer’s intentions, they do provide some clues that you do not need to be a Sherlock Holmes or Lt. Columbo – pick your favorite genre – to decipher.

To start off, one of the remedies for a young horse who has yet to reach its potential is to add blinkers so the equine athlete will be more focused on the task at hand.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t it.

Is it a coin flip? Or a guessing game?

It doesn’t have to be.

The key in this instance is to find a clue that the trainer has already dabbled with something and it generated an improved effort.

For example, let’s look at Readyforprimetime in the second race at Saratoga on Aug. 25.

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The 3-year-old colt trained by Linda Rice was making his fourth start in the 5 ½-furlong grass race for maidens.

In his three first starts, he was third and then second and then fifth in his most recent start.

What was different this time? Blinkers were being added.

Would they make a difference? There’s no sure way of telling by studying past performances, but as mentioned, there are clues.

Here, you could see a workout on Aug. 20 when Readyforprimetime zipped five furlongs in a quick 1:01 1/5 and was the sixth fastest of 17 workouts at the distance. In comparison, his previous work at five furlongs was on July 17 and the son of More Than Ready was timed in 1:02 4/5, which was the fifth fastest of seven works at that distance.

Did the blinkers bring out more speed in Readyforprimetime? There’s no telling based on looking at the past performances, but there are clues, and one of them is that he wore the blinkers in the workout and they appeared to help him focus on running faster.

It’s a gamble, of course, but when a horse like Readyforprimetime is pegged at 7.10-to-1 odds, it’s a very worthwhile gamble.

That did indeed pay off.

Wearing blinkers for the first time, Readyforprimetime was indeed ready for some prime-time exposure at the Spa. He scampered out to the early lead and never looked back as he maintained the lead to finish line and recorded a two-length victory, paying $16.20 for a $2 wager.

And to collect, all that a handicapper needed was to figure out the clues.

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