Back Too Soon?

By Ray Wallin

Stretch RunHave you ever scanned through the past performances and seen a horse coming back to the races on less than ten days rest and wondered just how sharp it can be?  What was the intent of the prior race?  Is this horse worth considering today?

There are many reasons for a trainer wheeling his horse back so quick.  Maybe the last race featured a very troubled trip (horse broke poorly and never engaged, a large spill caused him to be pulled up early and he never had the chance to run hard, etc.) or the trainer used the race as a “public workout” and sent his horse out at a longer or shorter distance than the horse is proficient at (often, you will see a sprinter set the pace to the second call of a route and then quit) or over another surface than it has shown ability (dirt to turf or vice versa).  Regardless of the reasoning by the trainer, I decided to collect a sample of data and see what it told me.

I found 253 horses coming back to the races within the last nine days. Here are the overall results:

Win: 41/253 (16.2%), -9.3% return on investment (ROI).
Place: 74/253 (29.3%), -24.9% ROI.
Show: 106/248* (42.7%), -21.3% ROI. (*5 races did not offer show wagering.)

At first glance, these results are not encouraging at all — a low win percentage and a loss of about 10 percent on every dollar wagered (even though this is a better return than blindly playing the favorite, which results in about a 17 percent loss).

So, I delved further into the sample, breaking it down by days since last race:

Days Since Last Race Chart

Then, I started applying some filters to the data:

  • Eliminate any horses that raced less than 5 days ago.
  • Eliminate any horse that did not finish fifth or better in its latest start.
  • Eliminate any horse that was beaten by more than five lengths last time.

Win: 20/76 (26.3%), 43.6% ROI.
Place: 30/76 (39.5%), -10.5% ROI.
Show: 41/74* (55.4%), -8.7% ROI. (*2 races did not offer show wagering.)

Naturally, I am not suggesting that anyone bet the farm on an angle that has resulted in 76 test plays; however, this tells me that the angle warrants further data collection and analysis.  The bottom line here is that there is some merit to playing horses that are coming back within nine days of their last start — but under certain conditions.

These results are exclusive of applying any other handicapping to the race which may (or may not) improve the performance of the data.  As I collect more data to get a larger sample size I will provide an update in a future article on how this angle performs.

In future articles, I plan on discussing how you can use race conditions to develop your own angles and spot plays, as well as how to determine whether or not you have enough data to be confident in your angles and spot plays.


Ray WallenRay Wallin is a licensed civil engineer and part-time handicapper who has had a presence on the Web since 2000 for various sports and horse racing websites and through his personal blog.  Introduced to the sport over the course of a misspent teenage summer at Monmouth Park by his Uncle Dutch, a professional gambler, he quickly fell in love with racing and has been handicapping for over 25 years.

 Ray’s background in engineering, along with his meticulous nature and fascination with numbers, parlay into his ability to analyze data; keep records; notice emerging trends; and find new handicapping angles and figures.  While specializing in thoroughbred racing, Ray also handicaps harness racing, Quarter Horse racing, baseball, football, hockey, and has been rumored to have calculated the speed and pace ratings on two squirrels running through his backyard. 

Ray likes focusing on pace and angle plays while finding the middle ground between the art and science of handicapping.  When he is not crunching numbers, Ray enjoys spending time with his family, cheering on his alma mater (Rutgers University), fishing, and playing golf. 

Ray’s blog, which focuses on his quest to make it to the NHC Finals while trying to improve his handicapping abilities can be found at  Ray can also be found on Twitter (@rayw76) and can be reached via email at

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