There were a number of horses racing second-up from spells at Eagle Farm on December 5. All lost. At Sandown that day, there were 11 horses in that category. All lost. At Rosehill, there were six. All lost.

This tells you something about horses racing second-up from a spell, doesn't it? But it's not the whole story. One of the fallacies of racing is the theory, accepted by many, that you should never back a horse having its second start from a spell.

Now, this-like so many things in racing-is correct, but it cannot be applied all the time, or you'll miss good winners (witness Indeed I Do which won first-up and then, at good odds, won second-up from a spell in November last year).

Backing a horse second-up depends on the evidence which can be deduced from his first-up performance, also the length of time between runs, as well~ as his subsequent trackwork. If a horse is given a hard race when not properly wound up, and is then sent out again for a second run too quickly, he can definitely be a betting risk. Such a horse could have been flattened by his initial race and requires time in order to pick up and regain his zest for racing.

Most second-uppers are in this category~ We also must remember that many horses racing second-up are just being given conditioning runs-they are usually stayers racing in sprints. You can spot them easily enough. The second-uppers that cause the worry are those that (a) race really well first-up, perhaps winning or placing, or (b) race ordinarily first-up and then go into a quick second race.

If a horse is produced in near top quality condition for his first run, shows good form and then works well, there is nothing to stop you backing him again at his next appearance. Trainers are not fools. If a horse has been flattened after a race, and does not please in the stable, you won't find a good trainer stepping him out for fast work against the watch.

It's not easy for the off-course TAB punter to be certain of any horse's fitness. The best thing to do is to study a horse's past form pattern. Some come to hand quickly, others may require as many as six races before reaching their peak. Trainers know what their horses require and most of them will always work to the established successful pattern.

You should always be very wary of the horse which shocks connections by running a big race at long odds first-up and then goes up in weight and down .., price. More often than not, these horses will flop second-up.

If a horse comes from a non-betting stable, the 'up in weight and down in price' theory is not so important, providing the horse shows all is well with him. The risk though, is still there. Always be careful of horses from big betting stables which surprise connections. If a heavy gambling stable has a runner 'come home' unexpectedly on it, then the trainer will not be happy about having to put up extra weight at a shorter price next start. Chances are that the horse's programme will be altered before a coup is planned.

It does not pay to be too suspicious before any race, but there is usually a pattern of predictability about some men, and most horses. My advice is to make use of it whenever you can. Lastly, always bear in mind the following sensible advice: WHEN IN DOUBT, STAY OUT.

Now I'll look at some of those second uppers from December 5 and give my comments:


R2: Tap The Till. Won first-up after a 4-month spell on November 18. Given 17 days to recover. Ridden by top jockey Jim Cassidy and from Brian Mayfield-Smith stable. OPINION: Each-way chance. FINISHED: 4th 3-1. Stablemate, Cruising 9-4, won the race.

R4: Heroic Blaze. Ran 11th first-up after nine months' spell. A 2000m-2200m horse and not suited over 1500m. Had only 14 days to recover from first-up run. OPINION: Not fancied. FINISHED: 12th of 14 at 200-1.


R2: Lady Coban. Ran 3rd first-up November 23 after 5 months' spell. Given 12 days to recover. Failed in the city twice last campaign. OPINION: Definite risk. FINISHED: 6th of 13 at 33-1, beaten seven lengths.

R2: Enchanting Rhythm. Had eight months' spell then resumed with 25 lengths' last of 15 at Ballarat on November 19 in Maiden class. No form in total 2 runs. OPINION: No chance. FINISHED: 12th of 13 at 200-1.

R3: Cliff Man. Finished 13 lengths' 15th at first run from a 4 months' spell on November 25. Given 10 days to recover. Best form in past over 1600m and longer. Now in 1600m race second-up. OPINION: Risk. FINISHED: 9th of 11 at 100-1.

R4: County Court. Had 6 months' spell then at first-up run was dead-heat Ist Ballarat Maiden on November 18. Given 17 days to recover but up in class in city. OPINION: Very rough show only. FINISHED: 8th of 13 at 20-1.

R4: Angry Had one run in April, spelled, resumed with 8th Sandown on November 25. Given 10 days to recover. Inexperienced and in unknown stable. OPINION: Big risk. FINISHED: 12th of 13 at 100-1.

R6: Brandy Slipper. Poor form last campaign, had 5 months' spell, resumed for 9th Ballarat Progressive on November 18. Given 17 days to recover. Up in class. OPINION: No chance. FINISHED: Last of 17 at 100-1.

These are just a few examples of how you should assess second-uppers. Take into consideration their past form, what they did first-up, and how much time they've had to recover. Then try to analyse their form compared with the race field they are facing. You should quickly be able to eliminate all the no-hopers.

Of the above, only Tap The Till could be given any real chance of winning. It lost, but didn't run too bad a race.

By Jon Hudson