Handicapping Workouts

by | Last updated Jul 12, 2022 | Horse Betting

Betting horse racing: Workouts : Understanding the Past Performances
By Kenneth Strong

Understanding the workout line in the past performances

In order to get fit and stay fit for racing, horses have to perform fast work in the mornings. While this work is not usually performed at full racing speed, it is faster than a horse’s normal daily maintenance exercise such as jogging and galloping.

Morning workouts are compiled on a daily basis at every track and stored in a database. They then appear in the racing form, track program and other racing publications. All workouts at a track are printed in a special section of the racing form on a daily basis. They also appear at the bottom of the past performances for each horse on race day. Up to six recent works are listed for horses that have raced before, and up to 12 works are shown for first time starters.

Each different work in the workout line includes the date, track abbreviation, distance of work, track condition, time, and ranking of the workout among other works that morning at that track for that distance and surface.

Example Workout: Mar4 GP 4f fst :48.1 Hg 3/5

The above example workout tells you the horse worked on March 4, 2006 at Gulfstream Park going four furlongs over a fast track in 48 1/5 seconds. The horse worked handily (H) from the starting gate (g) and the work was third best out of five recorded works that morning at that distance and surface from the starting gate at Gulfstream Park.

An “H” following a workout indicates the work was accomplished in handy fashion, meaning the horse was basically doing it on his own with some mild urging from the rider. The symbol “B” after a work indicates the horse was “breezing” – going very easily and possibly even under a hold during the workout. A fast work accomplished while “breezing” would indicate a better performance than one that was accomplished “handily”. A rare “D” indicates the horse was driving or all out under strong urging during the work.

A bullet symbol preceding a work indicates that the workout was the fastest at the track at that distance that morning. A (d) following the “H” “B” or “D” indicates the horse was working well out on the track or “around the dogs” (pylons set up on the track to keep horses off the rail). Times for workouts around the dogs are generally slower than those for regular works, simply because the horse must cover more ground around the turns. A “g” following the “H”, “B” or “D” indicates the horse worked from the starting gate.

Some racetracks have different courses such as training tracks and turf tracks, which horses can work over in the morning. If a horse works over a training track it might appear as “tr.t”. Different courses are sometimes slower or faster than the main track and this must be taken into consideration when judging workouts.

An example workout line in the past performances might appear as follows:

WORKS: Feb26 GP 5f fst 1:01.4 Bg Feb21 GP 3f fst :35.1 H Feb16 GP 4f fst :48.2 B

On February 26, 2006 this horse worked at Gulfstream Park, five furlongs (five eighths of a mile) over a fast track in one minute, one and four-fifths seconds breezing from the gate. On February 21, 2006 the horse worked three furlongs at Gulfstream Park over a fast track in 35 and one fifth seconds, handily. On February 16, this horse worked four furlongs at Gulfstream Park over a fast track in forty-eight and two-fifths seconds, breezing.

Different tracks have different rules and regulations regarding workouts. Horses coming into a race off a layoff, and first-time starters, are generally required to have a certain number of timed works to be eligible to race. In the case of horses that have been racing regularly, workouts can occur as frequently as every three days to as far apart as months.

Workouts can help a horse maintain a certain fitness level (hold its form) and can also used by sharp trainers to manipulate a horse’s running style. For example, a fast work or series of works from the gate can be used to put speed into a first-time starter or add some zip to an otherwise dull plodding type.

In general, when races are spaced more than three weeks apart, it is good to see between one to three works below the past performances. A horse coming into a race off a layoff of more than 30 days with no works requires a closer look. Cheaper horses will not normally work as often as classier horses between races, but a lack of works between races may still beg the question – why hasn’t this horse worked? For example, a $5000 claiming horse that hasn’t run for three weeks may not need a work, whereas a stakes quality horse might have three or more works. Again, it depends on the horse – and the trainer.

Workout dynamite at the betting windows

While workouts may not be as important as some bettors think they are; they do have their place in the handicapper’s arsenal – especially when used in conjunction with self-compiled trainer patterns. This is because despite the fact that horses are individuals and should be conditioned differently, many trainers follow the same workout patterns when getting a horse ready to perform to the best of its ability.

A study of a trainer’s winning races correlated back to workouts will show trainer-workout patterns not available to the public. These winning patterns will give you a definite edge on the crowd and can produce some dynamite payoffs at the betting windows.