Understanding Layoffs: Why the Third Time Can Be the Charm

Fans enjoy the racing action at Saratoga in summer 2019. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

Handicappers should always remember that the third time could be the charm, and if they do, they just might be rewarded with a nice winning ticket.

In this case, let’s look at why three is the magic number.

We’ll start with a horse that returns from a layoff and turns in a solid effort. The best guess is that in its next start that horse will turn in a better effort, but sometimes that first race is exhausting and takes its toll in that subsequent start.

What happens next is that the second start is the one that moves the horse forward and has it ready for a winning effort – often at a better price than its previous start.

To better explain, take a look at the third race at Saratoga on Aug. 7.

Two starts earlier, Crack Shot returned from a six-month layoff and set the pace before giving way late and finishing second at odds of 25-1.

Off that highly promising race, when Crack Shot returned for his next start, he was bet down to 7-5 for what figured to be a step forward off his comeback race and a trip to the winner’s circle.

Unfortunately, this time the fatigue from his previous start caught up with Crack Shot and he faded to third in the stretch.

Which brings us to the Aug. 7 race. While his last race seemed like a step backward, if it was viewed as a reaction to a tough race off a layoff, it was excusable.

And so, this time at much better odds, there were reasons to believe that Crack Shot was finally ready for a winning effort.

And he did not disappoint.

Benefitting from his first two starts in 2019, he grabbed the early lead and this time, he held on, posting a victory by a head.

Best of all, unlike his second start of the year when he was 7-5, his odds at the Spa were nearly 5-1 as he paid $11.80 to win.

Yes, the third time was indeed a charm – one that could be converted into a winning ticket at the betting windows.

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