Probably my most pleasurable pastime would be an afternoon at the track with fellow racing enthusiasts, exchanging views on the day’s racing and discussing the merit of one another’s selections over the odd cleansing ale or two.

Apart from the focus on the day at hand, these gatherings over the years have also become somewhat of a sounding board for a number of racing and punting theories proffered by members of the group.

The credibility of many of these theories that would supposedly navigate us a path to the riches of the punt have ranged from the ridiculous and bizarre to ideas which, ostensibly, appear to have great merit. The problem is, that nobody until now has been able to substantiate any of the  ideas with solid statistical evidence through rigorous examination.

I also vaguely suspect that proponents of many of these perceptions are guilty of selective memory, raising the issue when things fall into place and noticeably silent when they don’t, which in most cases forms the greater portion of the pie.

Needless to say, I’ve had more than my share of theories over the years, some which I’ve been quite excited about in the embryonic stage, only to be reduced to a state of mortification when ensuing results missed the set objectives by significant margins. There has, however, been one observation of mine that seems to have held its consistency over an extended number of years.

I named my theory based on those observations “The Replication Code” and the time had finally come to find out whether I  was in the selective memory brigade or whether in fact these observances held any real weight.  It had been noted over many years that horses that put in an astonishing performance to win a race are invariably beaten at their next start.

What I needed to do now was to ascertain if there was any relevance to these observations, and if there was, why this occurrence happened and finally whether as a punter, I could glean anything positive from it.

Let’s start by defining what I mean by an astonishing run. I have basically categorised this into four areas:

(a) Horses that run track records;

(b) horses that produce huge finishing bursts to win from the rear of large fields;

(c) horses that are forced to cover an enormous amount of extra ground in the run, but still come away to win;  and

(d) horses that overcome severe interference to go on and win.

In each of these cases, the horses are competing against animals of their own class. At this point, perhaps the word astonishing is a little too flamboyant and should be replaced with the word taxing, which is probably more appropriate. Performances as such in these listed areas would have to have a far greater taxing effect than normal on a horse’s energy reserve. 

I started to examine these areas in a little more detail and was somewhat taken aback by the results of the first area. I surveyed horses that had run track records over the last 10 years at all the major tracks in this country. Horses that were spelled after their record breaking runs were not included.

This left 117 horses who continued to race on, and of those 117 horses only 17 won at their subsequent start! By comparison, this area was relatively easy to interrogate; horses in the other categories were more a product of recollection than anything else, but from a person who has witnessed literally thousands of races, there were numerous entries in each area. Again, checking the subsequent runs of all the horses I had recalled, most had been beaten at their next start.

The big question now, was this: why were most of these runners beaten next time out after producing stunning wins? My personal slant on this is that if a horse produces one of the aforementioned categorised runs, then there seems to be almost a gross underestimation of the taxing effect they can have.

Gut busting runs as such almost certainly retard the recovery process to the point where extra rest time is required to offset fatigue at the horse’s next run. Horses not afforded this extra time seem to suffer from a residual fatigue syndrome which prevents optimum performance and hence the animal is beaten (the Americans often call it the bounce factor). Recovery time for racehorses can vary considerably between animals; some horses can lose more than 25kg in a single race, which equates to roughly 5 per cent of their body weight. A thoroughbred at peak fitness should put the weight back on within three to four days if all remains well with them.

In an effort to establish recovery time for individual racehorses I have formulated something I call a horse’s Recovery Index Figure (RIF), which is the average number of days a horse has been rested before producing winning form. I examined a runner’s career wins, ignoring first-up wins, then looked at the number of days’ rest before each winning performance.

The total rest days were then divided by the career wins to give the Recovery Index Figure. If for instance, at his career point now, Weekend Hussler has had a total of 76 days rest between his five career wins, this would give him a RIF of 15.2 days. Incidentally he was a beaten short priced favourite in the Emirates’ mile on the last day of the carnival coming off a seven day break.

After his Guineas’ win he dropped back to 1200m against older horses then jumped back to the mile at open Grp 1 company when he was unplaced. I think there at least is some sort of case as to the taxing effect of the last runs of his campaign.

Now comes the part where this all starts to gel. If we can accurately assess a horse’s performance to fit into one of the four categories of taxing runs and at its next start its rest period is not longer than its RIF, then this galloper is a distinct liability irrespective of price.

The greatest sprinting mare of all time in this nation, Miss Andretti, ran a track record at Ascot over 1200m in November ‘05 and also ran a track record at Moonee Valley also over 1200m in September ‘06. On both occasions she was beaten at her next start. On both occasions her recovery time was less than her RIF.

Her defeat in England after her brilliant first-up win had nothing to do with track conditions; she was backing up after only four days, after travelling halfway around the world. Her RIF is 16.36 days. Betfair players could have cleaned up; she was as layable as anything I’ve seen in recent times.

From the 17 horses out of 117  able to produce winning performances at their next start after recording track records, 13  had rest periods longer than their normal recovery period. 

Most form students look at days between runs from a fitness angle, not a recovery perspective. Who could forget Belle Du Jour’s incredible win in the 2000 Golden Slipper when she totally blew the start and almost bucked the rider off? Twice in her career she won off a five and seven day back up, but that Slipper performance was so taxing that 14 days’ rest was insufficient. She was beaten next start.

The great Super Impose who won the Epsom - Doncaster double in successive seasons was spelled after his initial win in the Grp 1 mile, but was beaten at his subsequent start after winning the next three, such was the taxing effect on each occasion coming from near last in capacity fields to win.

Gods Own was another in recent history who put in a phenomenal performance to win the Caulfield Guineas after being flattened twice during the running . . . but  his next start was in the Cox Plate and he just couldn’t get anywhere near them.

When horses produce a “wow, what a run”, performance they are not missed by the nation’s punting fraternity who heavily wager on these animals to replicate that performance at their next start, but most don’t, because they cannot produce optimum performance due to the residual fatigue effect these runs generate.

I have used some better credentialed horses as case studies here, and they are certainly not isolated cases employed to bolster some questionable supposition. This has been happening for as long as I can remember and as far as my research goes, is now validated by strong statistical evidence.

Hopefully for many this article is the unveiling of one of racing’s most unseen pitfalls. Although I have categorised four areas as set criteria for taxing performances beyond the normal, punters could also pay attention to the pattern of the number of runs in a horse’s preparation and when they show signs of training off. Again in this scenario the animal may need added time beyond its normal RIF.

The most important aspect or those wishing to put this into practice, is a horse’s last start winning performance must genuinely fall into one of the four listed categories. If it does and we have established the subsequent run falls outside the horse’s recovery rate pattern, then what we have is a bona fide liability.

Naturally there will always be the odd exception to the rule, but I firmly believe this is a very powerful filter or culling tool. If we can regularly remove 2.50 and 2.00 favourites out of the equation, we are left with very seductive markets which from a punting context. As they say in that well known beer ad “It’s all good”.

By Ken Blake