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Handicapping 2-year-old runners.

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Hemps Jumpn Lajolla.
PHOTO: Coady Photography

Schooling Races This Friday at Louisiana Downs
By Martha Claussen

The first schooling races for 2-year-olds will take place this Friday at Louisiana Downs. Friday's races are for horses eligible to run in trials for the Mardi Gras Futurity (RG2); another round of will be run on February 5 for 2-year-olds eligible for the Harrah's Entertainment Futurity (G3).

One trainer who believes strongly in the value of schooling races is Louisiana horseman Miguel Rodriguez.  He's won the earliest futurity of the year, the Mardi Gras Futurity, twice in the last three years. Rodriguez feels that the races are invaluable in preparing horses for the race day experience.

"Racing is new for these young horses," he said. "Schooling races give them a chance to get familiar with the environment they will face on race day."

Horsemen get valuable insight from the warm-up to the load to the break, and of course, the manner in which they finish.

Rodriguez won the $281,514 Mardi Gras Futurity last March with Hemps Jumpn Lajolla, a son of Jumpn that he purchased for $7,200 at the 2013 LQHBA Yearling Sale. He clearly remembers the gelding's first schooling race.

"He didn't leave out of the gates; he was leaning backwards and finished third in his race," recalled Rodriguez.

He used a flipping rig in Hemps Jumpn Lajolla's trial, and his horse left better, running second. Raul Ramirez Jr. had the mount in the final of the Mardi Gras Futurity.

"In the final, he just flew out of the gate," said Rodriguez of his lucrative maiden-breaking score.

Owner/trainer Rodriguez received a check for $126,681 and racing fans who noted the improvement of Hemps Jumpn Lajolla cashed a win ticket for $25.80.

Guess you could make a case that schooling races might be advantageous for the horse, his connections and handicappers as well!

 
 A training or schooling race.

How to Use Schooling Races to Your Advantage
By Denis Blake

When it comes to handicapping 2-year-olds, having an understanding of training races can give you an edge over most other bettors. Remember, there is a big difference between trial races and schooling or training races. In a trial race, the connections of each horse are hoping to post the fastest possible time in order to qualify to the final. But in a training race, you will find a mix of horses entered with the intent of winning and others who are just in there for “practice,” since there is no purse in a training race. Essentially, training races are glorified workouts with multiple horses running together, instead of just one or two like a traditional workout. 

For a young racehorse, the experience of entering a monstrous, noisy starting gate and running in close company with other horses can be scary. Most horses need a fair amount of schooling in order to master how to load and, most importantly, how to break from the gate. Many tracks now post replays of these training races online, and it’s certainly worth the time and effort to use those replays as part of your handicapping process.

Be sure to observe how well the horse stands in the gate, how he breaks and if he looks comfortable with other horses nearby. Also watch the jockey and note whether the rider is vigorously encouraging the horse to run or just letting the horse run on his own. Also watch to see whether a horse maintains a straight line or zig-zags throughout. When you find a horse who runs in a professional manner and posts a solid time without being asked for his best, that can pay off big down the road.

The races early in the season for 2-year-olds are short, often just 300 yards, so a clean break and straight course down the track can be just as important at raw speed. Certainly a young horse’s pedigree and human connections are important handicapping factors to consider, but for the races this spring when most or all of the 2-year-olds are first-time starters the insight you can glean from watching training race replays can be invaluable.


Wrangler Racing Aces in January

Visit the Q-Racing Aces page on Facebook or follow them @HorseRacingAces on Twitter for timely updates on Quarter Horse racing across North America. The Wrangler Racing Aces are following the horses, jockeys, trainers and milestones at Los Alamitos, Hialeah Park as well as Louisiana Downs.