Wrangler Racing Aces Page
The lowdown on training races and how the experienced runners keep going.
By Denis Blake and Martha Claussen | March 1, 2017
Understanding Training Races
By Denis Blake
Before you started working at your first job, chances are you received at least a little training. Maybe you watched one of those cheesy training videos with terrible acting or perhaps a manager showed you the ropes. Either way, you probably would not have performed very well on that first day without at least having some idea of what to expect and what was expected of you. It’s pretty much the same thing for racing American Quarter Horses. While they are bred to run – and to run fast – being loaded into a giant metal starting gate with a man or woman on your back and lots of noise and commotion is an unnatural and sometimes unnerving experience for an inexperienced horse. That’s where training races come in.
All horses will have at least a couple workouts before their initial race, but many will also have at least one training race experience. This wrinkle is different than in the Thoroughbred racing world in which training races are quite rare, and it can help give you an advantage when betting on Quarter Horses. Some tracks post videos of training races and/or gate workouts online, and these can be valuable handicapping tools if you know how to use them.
Remember that every horse in a training race (or workout) may not be there for the same reason and a trainer can have different goals depending on the horse. Some will be in there simply for the experience of breaking from the gate and running with other horses without great concern for its finish position, while a horse lacking confidence might be vigorously ridden in the hopes of finishing first and better learning how to compete and win. Paying close attention to the actions of the jockey in a training race or workout can help you understand how to judge that horse’s final time depending on how much the horse was asked to run. Keep in mind that there is no wagering and no purses in training races, so every horse is not necessarily running to win and sometimes that will be obvious by the way the jockey is riding.
So before you tackle the handicapping challenge of the 2-year-old maiden races and futurity trials this spring, do a little extra work and see what information you can glean from watching workouts and training races online. It will likely pay off!
Competitive Field Set for the Mesilla Valley Speed Handicap
By Martha Claussen
Saturday’s feature at Sunland Park is the $85,000 Mesilla Valley Speed Handicap (RG2) for registered New Mexico-breds. The 350-yard sprint drew an overflow field of sprinters, with two-also eligibles looking for a spot in the starting gate.
#1 Princess Jesse is the pride and joy of breeder, owner and trainer Vance Mikkelson. The 4-year old Jesse James Jr mare makes her 2017 debut fresh off three consecutive wins, including a game victory in the Lou Wooten and Sydney Valentini Handicap (RG2) at Sunland on December 31. She will break from the rail under Alfredo Sigala in pursuit of her eighth career win in her 14th start. Other than a bad break from the gate last August at the Downs at Albuquerque, this classy filly ran either first or second in her last ten starts; wow!
If this race was 400 or 440 yards, #5 Seeyalateralligator would be my top choice. The 5-year-old son of Winners Version is a true “classic” runner with back-to-back 440 yard stakes wins in the $85,000 Dona Ana County Stakes on January 29 and the Restricted Grade 1 Jess Burner Handicap in December. Trained by Wes Giles, the bay gelding has only won one of his five starts at 350 yards. He will reunite with L. Salvador Martinez, and no doubt will be closing for an on-the-board finish. No disrespect to the long-striding runner, who is the high earner in the field with $352,347 in his 18 career starts. Just prefer him with a tad more real estate!
If you don’t think too hard about the chilling finale of the Clint Eastwood movie Play Misty for Me, then you might want to root for #2 Play Misty Foreme. Also sired by Jesse James Jr, this 4-year-old gelding prepped for the Mesilla Valley Speed Handicap with a nice 350-yard allowance score here on February 10. He finished well under Jose Enriquez, who has the return call from Post Position 2. His career earnings of $147,838 don’t match up to the top two selections, but this gelding appears to be rounding into his best form in his 4-year-old campaign.
Hard to ignore any mount ridden by 2016 AQHA champion jockey Esgar Ramirez, so we’ll round out the top four with #4 Justified By Chicks. The 7-year-old son of Chicks A Blazin still has plenty of fire power. He ran second in the Jess Burner and has won six of his 33 career starts. The multiple-graded stakes placed veteran is trained by John Soto.
Sunland Park has revised its racing schedule so that the majority of the Quarter Horse races run on Friday. However, as the Mesilla Valley Speed Handicap was already on the stakes calendar, it will run Saturday, March 4, as the final race on the card.
Martha Claussen’s Top Four Selections:
#1 Princess Jesse
#2 Play Misty Foreme
#4 Justified by Chicks
Wrangler Racing Aces in March
Visit the Q-Racing page on Facebook or follow the Aces @AQHARacing 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, Louisiana Downs, Sunland Park, Turf Paradise and Remington Park, which gets underway on March 10.
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