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Physicality Handicapping: Don’t Sweat It!

Magnum Moon (photo via Oaklawn Park).

It is the summer. It is hot and humid wherever you go. Call it global warming, call it climate change or just call it the hottest stretch of summer.

As I hang out by the rail at Monmouth Park to catch the post parade on a hot, July afternoon, I overhear some guy exclaim, “You can’t play the three-horse, he is too sweaty.”

It is at least 90 degrees and what seems like 150% humidity! Everyone is sweating — especially the horses. Is that a bad thing?

While Rail Guy was locked in on only one horse in the field, he failed to realize that the entire field was sweaty. The jockeys looked sweaty, the bugler looked sweaty, I was sweaty and, naturally, he was sweaty too. In fact, if you were within ten yards of this gentleman, it was a bad thing. His body odor announced his presence well before and after he graced you with his presence. No surprise that he was at the track by himself.

Horses generally prefer cold weather to the hot weather. One of my favorite angles is playing horses that ran poorly in the heat of Florida when are shipped to the northeast in March or April, provided they return to the races right away. It is like the colder weather wakes them up!

So, how much sweat is bad?

On a hot day, you have the extremes:

1) Horses That Don’t Sweat Enough

That’s right. If you see a horse in the paddock or post parade on a hot and humid day that is not sweating very much, this is sign that the horse may be anhidrotic. Some horses, and people for that matter, do not have the ability to sweat, thus losing their ability to cool themselves by evaporation. Often these horses are out without the slightest hint of sweat at all, actually appearing to be dry in relation to the rest of the field. Horses like this should be avoided on hot days. On cooler days, it isn’t such a big deal.

2) Horses That Sweat Too Much

What should you do when today’s racing is being conducted on a gorgeous, 75-degree day with low humidity and you see a horse that is very sweaty? This is a bit of a conundrum. Horses often sweat when they are nervous, afraid, angry or agitated. While you want them to be a little angry and nervous, you don’t want them to be scared. If you see other negative signs with sweat on a cooler day, such as a swishing or pinned tail, eyes with visible white, or the ears pinned back, you should probably be more careful in using this horse in your wagers.

3) Kidney Sweat

This is that thick, sometimes foamy-looking, white sweat that shows up on a horse. Often it looks like the horse has been lathered up with soap. A little kidney sweat between the hind legs is not a huge deterrent, however if it is foamy and dripping or if you observe kidney sweat on the back or neck, you need to reconsider your wager.

My late Uncle Dutch always told me to see the horse you were going to bet on. As he once said, “Horses are people too.” Some will sweat more than others, but if you are at the track often enough at your local meet, you can check your notes to see the characteristics of that horse.

In upcoming articles, I will discuss other factors to look for in the paddock and post parade before putting your hard-earned money down on a horse.  I can’t stress enough the importance of seeing with your own eyes what you can’t see on paper. Slight edges like this will keep you ahead of your competition and flush with folding money and, perhaps, making a living playing the races!

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