Considered by many to be the more ‘natural and pure’ harness horse with its ‘stately’ gait, I have also found over the years that a tremendous handicapping angle exists that has ‘stood the test of time’! The angle is the fact that trotters, especially young ones seem to hold their form much better than pacers, unless of course you are talking about the stakes colts, etc.! It is not out of the ordinary to see a young trotter come out and break his maiden (win his first lifetime race, for the new harness fan), then reel off one, two even three wins in a row as it moves up the conditioned classes. Likewise too, I have found that older trotters, in a lot of cases seem to reinvent a new life as they become more mature, in fact on several occasions I have witnessed some of these performers who had been toiling in mid level claimers, reel of several wins in a row, working their way up the ladder to the top preferred or free-for all classes!
I became a racing fan during the 60’s, and being from the South Western Ontario area originally, although growing up at Greenwood Racetrack in Toronto, LOL, I did frequent as it was called back then, Western Fair Raceway in London occasionally. One of the trainer/drivers who was a regular back then was Bill Habkirk, who knew a thing or two about trotters, having taken the $350 purchase Camper to becoming recognized as one of North America’s best trotters of his day. Camper could be considered an early day example of a young trotter that just seemed to continue to hold his form well over a long extended period of time. For him, he leant his initial trotting steps at Western Fair, then transferred his good form over to Greenwood, and eventually as a three-year-old, defeated some of the top trotters from the United States, when he won the Civic Holiday Stakes at Greenwood. I overheard Bill say to someone one night, that he believed that trotters have a natural progression in their careers, that when they find their stride they seem to retain it, and in many cases, one win can be followed up by another, and so on. He also was a believer that trotters, with their more natural and stately gait, were a lot easier on themselves, and to this day is probably one of the reasons why you see many trotters still racing at the high end of the class scale when they are seven, eight, nine or older. Several come to mind!
Coming full circle now, the whole purpose of this article is to point out a tremendous handicapping angle that exists on the harness side, and it can be summarized as follows:
When you are perusing the harness program the next time you are at your local race track or simulcast location, look at the several trotting races that are part of that day’s card, and look for the following; young horses (two and three-year-olds), trotters that won there last race and are moving up to the next class, older trotters who happened to take a new lifetime mark in their last race which obviously was a win, and finally aged trotters that won their last race in a high end claiming race and have stepped up to the Preferred or Junior Free-For All class. With the latter if you peruse his or her race lines and notice a few starts back that they were was toiling in maybe a $15,000 claiming race, and have moved up the class ranks to threatening the big boys, he or she is certainly a horse on the improve and perhaps worth a play tonight. If the last race was a new lifetime mark, it makes the play even ‘sweeter’!
In any case, you will find this to be a very significant handicapping angle over time!
The Racer’s Edge
A Handicapping Primer by Larry Simpson, Publisher, PONIES 24-7
It’s All About The Trotters!