After watching one nasty political advertisement after another at this time of year, it’s hard to believe that something other than an election involves mud.
Like your neighborhood postman, horse racing takes place rain or shine and handicapping on those days when an umbrella is needed is an experience that can get messy without the proper insight.
As obvious as the difference between a wet and dry track may be, predicting how a horse will handle the surface falls into a gray area.
The first stumbling block is that mud is not a singular phenomenon. The mud a horse might find at Saratoga Race Course is not the same as the slop at Belmont Park because of the different texture of the main tracks. Belmont Park has more sand in its track than Saratoga, creating a different composition when excessive amounts of water are added to the mix.
Some horses can handle either dry or soggy going, but certainly there are no guarantees.
That’s why when raindrops start falling on your head, it’s best to look at the mud lines in a horse’s past performances. In a set of standard Daily Racing Form PPs, that info appears at the far right with the heading “Wet”. After that you’ll see how many starts that horse made on a wet track and how he fared.
That should give you a basic idea of how a horse can handle a wet surface, though you can wager with more confidence if you can find a running line on a wet track from that particular track.
Immediately after that “Wet ” in a Daily Racing Form past performance, you’ll see a number in parenthesis which is a Tomlinson wet track number. That figure can fill in some of the blanks for horses that have never raced on a wet track. Based on a horse’s pedigree, these figures can give off a hint about how well he or she might fare on a wet track. The basic rule of thumb is that the higher the Tomlinson figure, the better the chances of that horse being a mud lark.
Remember, though, parents do not pass along everything to their offspring as illustrated in the spotty basketball career of Michael Jordan’s son.
There is a built in safety valve as in most cases horses that flounder in mud will be scratched by their trainers, but that alone should not be viewed as an indication that there’s confidence in the horse’s ability. Sometimes a trainer will not scratch simply because of the prospect of a small field and a better chance of bringing home purse money than in a bigger field on a dry track.
All in all, as complex as handicapping mud races may seem, it can present excellent wagering opportunities. When you find a horse with proven ability on a wet track, the inherent conditions could compromise the chances of several competitors and make things easier for your pick.
Senator, you’re not the only one who should relish mud.