Anyone who has tried to make sense of trackwork times in Australia will know for a fact how difficult it is to relate trackwork gallops to winning performances.

Sometimes you can take a 'fastest gallop' and strike a winner by backing this horse next time up. Yet, more often than not, the horse that registers a blistering morning gallop on the Thursday, comes out and loses on the Saturday.

We do, though, continue to take trackwork very seriously. The Sportsman devotes an entire page, in small print, to trackwork gallops and times in its weekend edition. The gallops of hundreds and hundreds of good, bad and hopeless horses are documented. But to what end?

Let's look at a recent issue (December 30, 1988). The 'fastest' star workers are listed in bold black typeface. They are put forward as the cream of the morning gallopers from each area in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide.

Kiskin was recommended for Epsom. He subsequently was unplaced in a Welter at Caulfield. Under Scrutiny was tipped for Caulfield. This one lost next start. Ideal Score was the Rosehill bestit lost at 13-2 next start. There were other losers, and one winner, Tierra Rist, nominated as the best trackworker from Randwick (price 2-1).

This gives you just some idea of the problems inherent in attempting to back winners by following the horses which are regarded as the super-quick of the trackwork gallopers. Often, they leave the brilliance on the training track and simply fail to reproduce it on raceday.

There is a case to be made out for indepth study of training methods, where you do not simply latch on to the fastest trackworkers, but look instead for those horses which have been 'set' for a race by the use of various trackwork techniques.

In other words, you become a Sherlock Holmes and you start to pry into a horse's private history. Pick a recent winner, and work back on his trackwork efforts and see how he was prepared. Maybe you can then start to check the trainer's other horses? Is there a pattern in his training buildups? Does a certain trackwork time indicate that a horse in this trainer's stable is ready to win?

Let's take Tierra Rist as an example: He won on Monday, January 3, taking out the Tatts Club Cup (2000m). On the previous Thursday at Randwick, he had run 51s, the fastest of the morning, over 800m. On the Tuesday, he had been sent over 600m in 39.5s.

The race buildup pattern is clear here: A pacy 600m on the Tuesday, followed by a slick 800m on the Thursday. The previous week, on the Tuesday, Tierra Rist had covered 1200m in 1m 23s, which was five seconds outside the best time of the morning. On the Thursday, he had rattled off another 800m gallop, again in 51s.

These four gallops should be studied closely when examining other Bart Cummings-trained horses:

1200m in 1m 23s 800m in 51s 600m in 39.5s 800m in 51s.

Now, we'll look at a Colin Hayestrained galloper, Grandiose, which won first~up after a letup in the 1200m Standish at Flemington on January 2. This sprinter was not mentioned in the Tuesday trackwork for Flemington on December 20, but on the Thursday, December 22, was noted as having run even time over 800m on the woodfibre track.

There was no mention of Grandiose in the Tuesday trackwork for December 27, but on the Thursday, December 29, he ran the fastest 1000m on the Wood Fibre, registering 1m 7.5s, the last 200m in 13.76s (in company with Baronia, which went on to win next start). Grandiose had not been mentioned in the previous week's Flemington trackwork (week ending December 17), so, if we assume that the clockers picked up all gallops, this fellow was sent into the Standish on just an 800m gallop on December 22 (in evens), and a speedy 1000m hitout on December 29.

He was produced magnificently on the day, and won running away by 1.5 lengths. Here, then, was a sprinter freshened up beautifully and who could be sent into a big sprint on a very light preparation, having obviously been kept pretty much up to the mark in the fitness area since his last run, back on November 12.

Grandiose's preparation may provide clues to the possible first-up wins of other Hayes-trained gallopers, especially those, like Grandiose, who have been off the racing scene for less than two months and who are known as good first-uppers.

Now another Hayes-trained winner, Grey Tribute. This one scored at Caulfield on December 31, after having his previous outing on December 21. After that run-a good effort for 2nd in Welter company-the only reported gallop for him at Flemington was a 600m sharpener in 39.5s on the WoodFibre on Thursday, December 29.

He would, of course, have had other easy work which was not reported, but for trackwork students the only known work was that one 600m hitout. So here's another aspect to remember: a Hayes horse runs a big race on December 21, is raced again on January 2 (a gap of 12 days) and has only a 600m gallop between times that is recorded in the form guide.

Why not look for the pattern again? It shows that Grey Tribute was considered as fit as hands could make him, and needed only a top-up gallop to have him fit as a fiddle, and in winning mood, for the January 2 run.
Now we look at another December 31 winner, the handy mare Damzelle, trained by Rob McGuinness at Caulfield. She scored in a 2000m race for Fillies and Mares, but was obviously fit in the previous weeks. There was no mention of Damzelle in the trackwork for Tuesday, December 27, but on the Thursday she covered 1200m in 1m 24s, about 7.5 seconds outside the best of the morning.

it was all she needed to have her cherry-ripe for the Saturday race. The message is clear, then, that a galloper doesn't have to run fast times to be fit and ready to produce a winning effort, so don't always be swayed by the fact that (a) a horse has produced a blistering 800m dash or (b) has worked in what seems to be a pretty slow time.

Each gallop has to be carefully analysed, and an attempt made to decipher the trainer's modus operandi. If you work out the various winning formulas that leading trainers use, you will be well on the way to making some big hits at the races.

Sometimes a light preparation is all that needed, with maybe one fast time recorded, and sometimes all a horse needs is a comfortable, though relatively slow, 1200m or 1600m gallop to ready him.

By Martin Dowling