The signs that a horse is ready for a winning effort are not always obvious. On occasions it’s the subtle signals that can produce a solid return at the betting windows.
For instance, there are comeback efforts.
The obvious performance would be a winning effort or a narrow loss off the bench, signaling that the horse was not negatively impacted by the time on the sidelines. Of course, those horses are generally heavily bet in their next start.
What can provide a boost at the betting windows is a different type of performance in a comeback race. In this instance, let’s look an effort in which there’s a belated rally. The horse comes off the shelf and has some late kick, but starts rolling too late to have a big say in the outcome.
That may sound disappointing, but there are times when that kind of prep can be a highly useful effort that puts a horse on edge.
As an example, let’s look at the seventh race at Churchill Downs on May 25.
In that 1 1/8-mile turf race for maidens, Kid Lemuel was making his second start after an eight-month layoff.
In that comeback race on April 17 at Keeneland, Kid Lemuel started in eighth and did not make much of a move until the stretch. He was sixth at the eighth pole and wound up fifth as he crossed the finish line. That may sound disappointing, but in that final furlong, while Kid Lemuel passed only one horse, he made up a nice chunk of ground. He was 5 1/4 lengths behind the leader with a furlong to go and wound up only 1 ¾ lengths behind at the wire.
It was a subtle move which could be viewed as a sign that Kid Lemuel picked up some needed exercise and conditioning and would move forward in his next start.
Also helping on that front were some nice blowouts for the race and that his trainer, Eddie Kenneally, was off to a hot start at the meet, winning six of 19 starts (32 percent).
Put it all together and at 8-1 odds Kid Lemuel was an interesting wager.
So interesting that he was bet down to 6-1 at post time, yet those odds were still attractive. Especially when Kid Lemuel kicked into gear earlier than in his comeback start and rolled to a 1 ¾-length victory.
The payoff for solving that puzzle was $14, which was anything but subtle.