Layoff Horses, What To Do?

A frequent question i am asked by horseplayers is what do i do with a horse that has been off?

Well there is no simple answer to that question, there are however clues to look for and factors that must be taken into account to tell if a horse is ready today. Firstly, look at the horses past performance line. Has he raced off a layoff before in his lines. If so check what distance he ran at and how he performed. This is probably the biggest single clue as to whether he can handle a layoff or not. Another big factor is the trainer, betting low percentage winning trainers with horses returning from layoffs is almost always a bad bet.

Keep in mind that classy horses (particularly allowance and stakes level) are often times lightly raced. They make big money in their efforts, so they don't have to race every week to pay the bills like say a claimer does. Class horses in particular usually can run well off of a layoff, especially if they have a solid trainer caring for them.

The next factor to look for is workouts, this can often tell the tale of a horse being ready or not. The kind of works I look for are gate works, denoted by a little g in the running line.

Breezing works are usually better than handy works as this means that the horse did it easily and under his own power, he was not whipped or used hard to get the time. An example of a good work would be 4f 48 2/5 bg. This means he worked 4 furlongs, in 48 2/5 of a second and he did it breezing from the gate.

Any 4f workout under 49 seconds breezing is solid, any 5f work under 1 minute is very good as well. Also look for a few works such as a pair of 5f works, this tells me that the trainer is looking to send his horse ready today.

The next factor is distance, horses returning from a layoff seem to do especially well at shorter distances. I would be skeptical of any horses returning from a layoff that is going over a mile in distance. A horse just cannot usually be ready off works alone going in a route race. Horses returning at say 6f however must be respected as they often times win or perform well.

Look for the amount of time the horse has been off also, 2 to 6 months is the optimal time for a horse winning off of a layoff in my opinion.

If a horse has been off  more than 6 months it may have been due to an injury or other factor. Horses off say 3 or 4 months may just be getting a needed rest by their respective trainers.

So lets recap, factors to look for in a layoff return are

A: Look at the horses running lines and see how he has performed off a layoff in the past.

B: Look for trainers with high win percentages as they are the most dangerous with horses returning from a layoff.

C: Class horses (allowance and stakes level) often can run well in layoff returns.

D: Look for solid gate workouts, especially breezing ones. Look for a series of works at 4f or 5f.

E: Make sure the horse is running at a distance that suits him. Generally stay away from horses returning off a layoff and going a distance of over a mile at first asking.

F: Horse returning from layoffs between 2 to 6 months usually run much better than horses that have been off more than 6 months.