EN Today: Decoding your OTTB’s race record

To the untrained eye, a racing chart might look like gibberish–but there is actually a method to the madness. Lauren Nethery shows us how to unravel the mysteries of your ex-racer’s past.

Top photo: An imperative pre-race proceeding: The Horse Identifier checks Batoff Mountain’s tattoo.

From Lauren:

Hold on to your hats, Eventing Nation!  It is almost February.  Where does the time go!?  Rolex is barely three months away and it is already time to start scribbling down shopping lists and putting money in the piggy bank (as well as searching for cute khakis for the vet box crew, which are surprisingly hard to find, and stocking up on shovels and knee pads for the Flower Crew). This week, I bring you the conclusion of my little mini-series on OTTB investigation.  Do not despair if you have not received a reply to an OTTB question that you sent recently.  Next week will being the return of the Q & A that you have come to know and love.  This week, however, put on your thinking caps and I will try to simplify the chaos that is a racing chart.  Hold on, it may be a wild ride.

Okay, so remember guys, BEFORE YOU EVEN GO TO LOOK AT AN OTTB, you need to have done the following:

  • Ascertained his or her Jockey Club registered name
  • Gone to PEDIGREE QUERY and scrutinized that horse’s breeding.
  • Gone to EQUIBASE, accessed, and stud ied that horse’s profile.

Once you have taken the above listed steps, you will inevitably find yourself clicking on the little green squares next to the races listed in your prospective OTTB’s race Results tab and staring at the PDF’s that appear with your head cocked sideways and your brow furrowed.  When it comes to understanding what you are looking like, it is sort of akin to becoming fluent in a foreign language.  Let’s start at the beginning, I will highlight the most important bits of information that can be garnered from a chart, and I will touch, at least briefly, on every inscrutable number and symbol found on those tiny little lines of text.  For purposes of this exercise, we will scrutinize the results of ATOMIC SPEED, the horse in the trailer behind me as I type (I’m not driving, don’t worry!  I’m simply along for the ride as an OTTB appraiser).  Mr. Speed is the current OTTB prospect for Alison Wilaby, a well-loved member of the extended EN family, and has a short and sweet race record that is perfect for basic analysis.

  • Upon simple inspection, Atomic Speed’s race record is pretty abysmal.  A 5th in a Maiden Special Weight first time out is impressive at first glance, but let’s use this chart for analysis purposes and delve deeper.
  • The first line of the chart tells when and where the race occurred and what race number it was in the program.
  • The second line tells the condition of the race.  Maiden Special Weight is the highest class of maiden race.
  • The third line tells the distance of the race and the track record time, record setter, and record date.  Knowing information about the track record is help in establishing how difficult the track is to carry speed over (for example, if the record is fairly slow and fairly old, the track is probably fairly slow).  Also, keep in mind that there are eight furlongs in a mile and that each furlong should be run in twelve seconds or less.
  • The fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh lines tell the purse of the race, whether or not there is any added state money, the total value of the race, and the allotment of the purse money per place.
  • The eighth and ninth lines list the weather, the condition of the track, the time at which the gate opened, and whether or not all of the horses broke well.
  • Now down to the nitty gritty: the actually results of the race.  Beneath the ‘Last Raced’ in bold, you will find the date of the last race, the superscript number of the race on the card, the abbreviation of the track at which the race occurred, and the superscript number of where the horse finished in that race.  Dashes in this area mean that the horse has never run before.
  • The bold abbreviation PGM and the numbers below represent the saddle cloth number and post position of the horse during the race.
  • The next column lists the horse with its jockey in parenthesis next to it (also, not that the DQ next to the name of the horse than ran first in this race indicates that the horse was disqualified).
  • The bold abbreviation WGT and the numbers below represent the weight that the horse carried.
  • The bold abbreviation M/E and the letters below it represent the MEDICATION and EQUIPMENT that the horse ran on or in.  This gets sort of complicated, but in a nutshell, you may see any of the following abbreviations to indicated medication or equipment:
    • Medication: A (Adjunct Medication to further inhibit bleeding), B (Bute), C (1st Time Bute), L (Lasix), M (1st Time Lasix). Obviously, not all medications are claimed in the program.
    • Equipment: A (Aluminum Pads), B (Blinkers), C (Mud Caulks), F (Front Bandages), G (Goggles), K (Flipping Halter), N (No Whip), O (Blinkers Off), Q (Nasal Strip Off), R (Bar Shoe), S (Nasal Strip), V (Cheek Piece), Y (No Shoes), X (Cheek Piece Off), Z (Tongue Tie).  It is important to note that, obviously, not all equipment is listed here and even equipment the horse is wearing may not be noted in the program.
  • The bold abbreviation PP indicates the post position of the horse.
  • Beneath the word ‘Start’, the order in which each horse broke out of the gate (not their assigned saddle cloth number) is listed.  The superscript beside that number indicates by what margin that horse achieved the listed placing.  In this race, ¼ mile into the race, the 6 horse was 4 lengths ahead of the 2 horse and Atomic Speed was 2 ½ lengths ahead of the last placed 3 horse.
  • Beneath the fractions ¼, and ½, the position that the horse ran in one quarter-mile and one half-mile into the race is listed.  The superscript beside that number indicates by what margin that horse achieved the listed placing.
  • The bold abbreviation Str indicated the position that the horse ran in during the stretch run.  The superscript beside that number indicates by what margin that horse achieved the listed placing.
  • The bold abbreviation Fin indicated the position in which each horse finished the race and by what margin the bested the next lowest placed horse.
  • Beneath the word Odds, you will find a decimal conversion of exact odds at post time.  The favorite will be denoted with an asterisk.
  • Beneath the word ‘Comments’, one to four words will describe the overall impression of the race for each horse.  I will write another article soon about what all of these comments can indicated.
  • Also, note that ABOVE the ‘Comments’, there may be a blue link and image of a video camera that will provide a race replay.
  • Moving on below the results of the race, the bold phrase ‘Fractional Times’ indicates the times in which the race was run and separated by ¼ mile.
  • The final time indicates the actual time the race took to run.  Times should be nearest to 12 seconds per furlong depending on the class of the race.  Example: a 6 furlong race should run in 1:12 or less.  A mile race should run around 1:36.  A mile and a quarter race should run around 2:00.
  • The ‘Split Times’ are the amount of time it took to run each furlong or quarter mile depending on the length of the race.
  • The ‘Run Up’ distance indicates the distance (in feet) from the starting gate to the point where timing of the race begins. A short run-up distance can lead to a slower opening quarter-mile time. The run-up distance is listed in superscript after the distance of the race in Equibase past performances and in parentheses after the distance of the race in result charts.
  • The bold terms ‘Winner’, ‘Breeder’, and ‘Winning Owner’ indicate the winning horse, its color, sex, immediate breeding, date of birth, and state of birth and well as the names of the breeder and owner.
  • Disqualified horses and scratched horses are listed next.
  • The bold phrase ‘Total WPS Pool’ indicates the total amount of all bets in the win, place, and show pools.
  • All of the payouts for each individual horse and all exotic wagers and their pools are listed next.
  • The Past Performance Running Line Preview is very similar to the fractional times listed above but varies in that the SUPERSCRIPT indicates how far from FIRST PLACE a given horse was.
  • Trainers and Owners in order of finish place are listed next.
  • Footnotes are listed at the end of the chart and give a more detailed description of how a horse ran than the ‘Comments’ at the end of the chart.  These are helpful in discerning why an OTTB you are interested in may or may not have run well and whether or not the horse appeared to bleed or was injured during the race.

I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with information.  I will try to summarize the last 3 articles in an upcoming piece and, as always, please ask any questions that you have!  I also encourage you to send any further, horse-specific or general-knowledge questions to me via email ([email protected]) for more in-depth and on-point answers and am certainly happy to help you read any charts that you simply cannot translate from racetrack gibberish. Go Eventing and go gallop a former racehorse.


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