Many punters, and form analysts say you should always forgive a good horse one bad run. I don't completely subscribe to this theory.

What I do subscribe to is that we should fully investigate the below-par performance of any true contender in a race. If it has raced well below its form and ratings, then we need to know why. We also need to know if the run deserves to be forgiven. I place the emphasis on DESERVES in this matter. The old theory that we should automatically forgive a horse a bad run doesn't stand up.

Take the recent case of Activation. He failed badly in the Mackinnon Stakes and if we'd have followed the idea that the run should be automatically forgiven we would have backed him next start in the Emirates, where he failed again.

So, please, make a point of asking the simple question: WHY? Sometimes, all it needs is a quick look at the video replay.

The following are some of the reasons why an unexpected poor race might be overlooked (forgiven!):

  1. COURSE: The horse was racing at a track which was unsuitable. It may have been "new" to the horse or it may simply have found the course too small, too tight, too turning, too big. A check of its past performances might reveal factors like these.
  2. DISTANCE: It was competing at a distance which was unsuitable, either too long or too short. Or, perhaps the horse was coming back, or going up, too much in distance compared to its previous start.
  3. GOING: The track conditions were new to the horse, or were such that he had never raced on them to advantage in the past.
  4. WEIGHT: The horse was badly handicapped in relation to its rivals of assessed equal ability, or was carrying a weight well in excess of anything it had won with before.
  5. INDEX: The race was the horse's first after a break from racing of more than 21 days so he could have lacked top condition. Most winners have their pre-win race .not further back than 21 days.
  6. BARRIER: The horse was badly drawn at a starting position on the track where the wrong gate provided a clear disadvantage.
  7. RIDER TACTICS: There was a switch in jockeys to a rider of less ability than before, who rode badly. Or the tactics used by the regular rider or the new rider were different to those used before. Or the jockey simply rode a poor race.
  8. GEAR: Something went amiss with the horse's gear, such as a slipped saddle, jockey losing his whip, and so on. The horse may have resented blinkers, or not raced well after having them taken off.
  9. THE RUNNING: The horse was slowly away, or he was forced to cover extra ground, or he suffered interference from other runners or was held up (blocked) for a clear run, or raced too wide.
  10. THE HORSE: He was sore, or pulled up badly. He had lightened off in condition or had put on weight since his previous start so he just didn't look right, or perhaps he was off-colour that day.

There could be other excuses for a disappointing run. The ones I have put forward here cover a lot of them.

Basically, you the punter owe it to yourself to discover what was behind a surprise losing performance.

In fact, any losing performance has to be looked at, whether it was expected or unexpected. This is all part of the form analysis approach that sensible punters adopt when they are looking at a field of runners. There are not too many short cuts in this cruel game and accepting losing runs on face value is a short cut to backing a lot of losers. INVESTIGATE, INVESTIGATE is my strong advice. Leave no stone unturned.

By PB King