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Handicapping - The Freshness Factor: Look for Horses Coming Off a Short Vacation

News and Results > Top Racing Headlines > 2023 > Handicapping - The Freshness Factor: Look for Horses Coming Off a Short Vacation

Handicapping - The Freshness Factor: Look for Horses Coming Off a Short Vacation

September 22, 2023
By Jennifer Morrison
Handicapping - The Freshness Factor:  Look for Horses Coming Off a Short Vacation

It's the fall season and, in horse racing, with it comes plenty of major stakes races that have championship implications.  

It also means that a number of horses are getting a break from racing or heading to warmer climes with their trainer. Similarly, there will be horses returning from a summer vacation to get ready for fall or winter races. 

As a bettor, casual or regular, this is a profitable way to sort out your list of contenders in a race.  

Horses coming off a short break are fresh and often sharper than horses who have been racing since the beginning of a racing season without a break. 

For example, at Ajax Downs Quarter Horse track on September 20, four of the seven winners on that card were coming off short layoffs of at least four weeks or more, with one of the winners paying over $14.00 to win.

The summer is hot! 

Many trainers will put their horses away – send them to a nearby farm for instance -  for the summer if they know they are not comfortable racing in the heat.  

Thoroughbreds are essentially cold weather animals so when the heat is on, some cannot run to their potential. When you see a horse in the entries this fall that has been off for a few months, that may well be the reason. 

Other times, a horse may only race a couple of times in the summer and his races are spread out. A look at the horse's past races in the summer versus the fall can give some clues.  

In November 2022, the top filly Il Malocchio, trained by Martin Drexler, won the Maple Leaf Stakes (Grade 2) at 9 to 1 odds after a series of races through the summer in which she lost as favourite. 

Following her Maple Leaf victory, which was just her second race since early September, Drexler said, “Some days, she struggles in the heat a bit. This weather and the type of track we had today, I think she enjoyed that...she’s enjoying the cooler weather for sure,” 

Looking Ahead 

Perhaps a horse was given some vacation time in mid-season if the plans for him include racing right to the end of a meeting, such as Woodbine's long 133-day season which ends in mid-December.  

With many horses leaving for places in the south for the winter, the competition becomes a bit easier for those horses who stay to the very end. A horse may have also been given some time off in mid-season if he had a minor ailment or got sick. 

Occasionally, you may see a horse making his first start of the year in late summer or early fall as he may have needed extra time to get into top racing fitness.  

It is always a good idea to take a look at a horse's workout lines, to ensure there is a steady string of preps every 7 to 9 days if they are coming off a layoff. 

Not all of these horses will be ready to win right after their time off, but certainly in their second or third race after returning, they are ready to move forward in their form.  

Be sure to use the trainer statistics at the bottom of each horse in the track program or Daily Racing Form.

Take a Look at These Horses This Weekend 

Woodbine - Saturday, September 23 – Race 10 

#9 FRIENDS FOR LIFE (10 to 1) comes into this turf race for fillies and mares fresh off a layoff since July.  

Trainer Stuart Simon gave this filly plenty of time following her attempt in the tough Woodbine Oaks.  

Her three recent workouts include a bullet move on the Tapeta in 59.60 on September 15 and note that Friends for Life won her career debut when fresh and was third in her 2023 opener. 

Consider including her in your wagers in the final race on Saturday. 

Woodbine – Sunday, September 24 – Race 8 

#2 – LADY MOONSHINE has not raced since early July when unplaced for the second consecutive start. This mare's four wins last year included two in the autumn season. 

Woodbine – Sunday, September 24 - Race 10  

#5 – RELOAD'S RASCAL was last seen overcoming trouble to finish fourth in the Pink Lloyd Stakes in June.  

He has been away since then and reappears with a new trainer. He has had steady workouts and is a fresh face in this field. 

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