SOME THEORIES ON WINTER RACING
By Don Bielak
Now that winter has descended upon us,
it seems like the perfect time to discuss winter
racing from a handicapping aspect. The
theories are many and varied, and some of
them can improve one's chances of success
in the winter months.
Sub-freezing temperatures and harsh winds
have an effect on the outcome of races.
For example, a horse racing uncovered
into a 20 m.p.h. headwind when the
temperature is 20F faces a wind-chill
factor of nearly -30F. Under this scenario,
pacesetters and first-over horses have
the worst of it. This leads us to theory #1.
Theory #1: Added consideration should be
given to horses that were first-over or cut
fast fractions under harsh weather conditions.
Under this theory, horses that seem to
have quit first-over have legitimate excuses.
Although it is difficult to predict which
horses will race uncovered in advance,
a look back at a horse's last race can give
valuable insight into why he was unable
to race well due to weather conditions.
Generally speaking, the faster and longer
a horse had to race uncovered, the greater
excuse the horse had. Also, a horse that
was able to race well DESPITE being
uncovered in harsh conditions deserves
even more consideration.
Theory #2: Geldings should get preference
over mares and horses in cold weather. The
theory behind this is that geldings, because
they are less affected by hormonal changes,
can adapt better to the fluctuations in
temperature. In some way they are "desensitized"
and less likely to suffer adverse effects
from the cold.
Theory #3. Down-under horses race better
than their American counterparts in winter.
The basis for this theory lies in the
belief that because Australian and New Zealand
horses come from a land that has seasons
that are opposite of ours
(our winter-their summer, etc.), they
handle winter weather better because of some sort
of "climatic memory". In short, from years
of racing in warm weather during our winter
months, their bodies are somehow able
to handle cold weather better.
Theory #4: Some horses benefit from, and
therefore race better in, the cold. This theory
is fueled by the knowledge that some horses
with breathing problems have an easier
time in colder, drier air than they do
in the warm, moist air of summer. Also, some
horses benefit from the cold air on their
race-weary legs. It acts as a natural
anti-inflammatory, cooling and tightening
sore joints andtendons.
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