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Track Tracts

Part 7: Nuance Handicapping Continued
by Joe Takach

(Editor's Note: I'd like to welcome Joe Takach to Capper's Corner.  This is the seventh article in a series by Joe Takach, well-known physicality handicapping expert, but the first article by Joe to appear in Capper's Corner.  The first six articles in this series can be found in the Track Tracts Archive.  Joe can be contacted through his website at

After each specific nuance mentioned, I�ll offer you Walt�s very sound logic for employing these subtleties to his advantage whether actually wagering or passing a race.

Initially I found �nuance handicapping� quite confusing due to the occasionally conflicting signs or omens. And it�s probably good that I did because looking back now, it gave me an early appreciation of how other handicappers still feel to this very day when first entering my world of �physicality handicapping�.

Confusion has always been a �given� for me whenever I encounter anything new that I�m excited about. I�m like most handicappers and probably a lot like you. If I find something helpful that can translate into cashing more tickets, I want that knowledge �yesterday�! I also want guarantees as good as the ones the FDIC offers my bank that this knowledge will work reasonably well forever and a day if I honestly apply myself.

Perhaps that�s why in all of my writings over the years, I�ve always attempted to oversimplify physicality concepts by comparing the horse to a human and giving him human qualities. To this very day, I�m still trying to convince diehard �paper handicappers� that horses are not machines, but rather warm-blooded animals who like humans, can change from day to day.

Recognizing these physicality changes from race to race affords the ambitious handicapper �inside information� that is not only extremely profitable, but absolutely free. Or put another way, it is a win-win situation with all �upside� risk. All that you have to do is �look� at the horse either in person or via your satellite monitor.

You�ll find very few of these win-win situations in handicapping.

Well, guess what?

You woke up lucky this morning and you didn�t even know it.

You�re about to enter the world of �Nuance Handicapping�. You�ll be handed another very profitable handicapping �win-win situation� and another �freebie� from the Takach �bag of common sense�.

But before submerging you into yet another �world of handicapping� (as if the �physicality world� weren�t more than enough), Takach positively wouldn�t be Takach unless first offering you a sometimes annoying but always essential caveat that only serves to enhance enlightenment.

�Nuance Handicapping�, much like my own �physicality specialty�, offers no absolutes!

If you are looking for absolutes, try the local branch of your favorite bank. It is called a savings account.

However, moving to the other side of the coin, �Nuance Handicapping� offers predictable, recurring, and very profitable outcomes based on empirical observations.

Here we go!

Mr. Nuance offered me 5 areas on which to focus. These are the same 5 that I employ to this day--------trainers, owners, jockeys, jockey agents, and grooms. Walt watched all of them with the same intensity that I �work� the paddock before a race.

He missed nothing------at least �nuancewise�!


The first thing he mentioned to me about trainers was that it was always a good sign if they showed up in the paddock to personally saddle their horse. While at first you might see that as a �no-brainer�, I invite you on any afternoon to venture into your paddock and see which horses are actually saddled by their trainers. Mark them down in your program. Better yet, do this for a full week at your home oval using 5 different days------i.e., Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday----or any other combination of 5 different days. The reason for insisting on different days is so that you see the proper mix of both weekdays and weekends.

After the 5 days or week is completed, pull out all the programs. Add up the number of horses that won with their respective trainers absent from the paddock.

Are you shocked?

I sure was after keeping strict records every single day for 6 straight months in Keystone�s paddock!

The reason I suggested a week of your personal research at your home oval rather than 6 months is because what you�ll discover the very first week, also rings true the second week and every single week thereafter �ad nauseum�.

�No shows� by trainers are big time �no-nos�!

Mr. Nuance�s logic behind his �no trainer/no bet� subtlety was crisp and clear. If the trainer himself didn�t think enough of his horse to show up to saddle him, why should he bet him?

Do horses ever win when saddled by anyone other than the trainer himself?

In Southern California, the answer is �yes�, but a very weak �yes�. With rare exceptions, only a few of our very �best barns� win races with the trainer absent regardless of reason.

Bobby Frankel, Richard Mandella, Ron McAnally, Neil Drysdale and Bob Baffert win races when they are absent because they have the best �help� that money can buy. Most of their first assistants would be excellent trainers in their own right. You�ll also notice that the first 4 named Southern California trainers are Hall of Fame members with Bob Baffert the �lock of the century� to join them in the very first year that he�s eligible.

But here�s a sub-caveat!

Even the above mentioned Hall of Fame trainers win many, many, many more races when present than when not!

We at the SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HORSES TO WATCH literally tracked the trainer �no-shows� along with our many other paddock notes for over 8 years to gather empirical evidence to support the above statement. We offered this information as �standard fare� side by side with our �physicality notes� in our old weekly SCHTW edition. (In June 2002 we became a daily publication known as the DAILY SCHTW).

Okay, that�s your basic 101 trainer �nuance� and it most likely rings true on your circuit as well!

But wait-----there�s so much more to go on trainers!

As I mentioned above, nothing �got by� Mr. Nuance when it came to people and their peculiarities in the paddock anymore than I missed a horse walking with poor extension. He somehow mixed all his visual �intakes� and walked to the windows whenever the urge hit him.

His methodology though totally foreign to me at the time, slowly began to make sense and a lot of it. Much like the way that I sized up a horse�s overall physicality before a race knowing that the runner had the �backpaper� to win, he �sized up� every single member of the connections of every runner in every race. It didn�t matter if the next race was a bottom-feeding maiden claimer or an �uptown� allowance race. He watched knowing that when certain conditions were all present together, with the operative word being �together�, he could make a killing.

To this day it�s hard for me say what I�m about to and it almost pains me to do so were it not for the fact that �nuance handicapping� is so deeply ingrained into my own personal methodology. Mr. Nuance never �looked� at a horse. He never gave a single thought to the animal himself. �Physically ready� to run or �warmed up properly� were simply not part of his handicapping vocabulary. What�s more, he could have cared less about past performances of any kind and every other factor that today is accepted as the handicapping �norm�.

Would you like his explanation as to why he didn�t �look� at a horse, or why he failed to employ traditional handicapping methodology?

�That�s the trainer�s job, I just bet them�!

I loved that reply then almost as much as I enjoy it at this very moment-----�Rocket Scientry� at its very finest!

Those who have the misfortune of knowing me, are fully aware that when I was learning the finer points of �Nuance Handicapping�, I was drilling Walt like a dentist going after Mr. Toothdecay.

I had to get to the bottom of that �nuance� thing! He was continually cashing huge tickets while totally oblivious to the horse itself---with the operative word being �continually�.

Countless times he showed me tickets that I couldn�t have bought after the race was over!

I quickly became a �believer�.

And yes, at the end of our discussion on �Nuance Handicapping�, you�ll clearly see how this visual art is an essential part of becoming �predatory� in your personal handicapping and how it can be applied either on track or if wagering at a satellite facility.


Copyright �2003 by Joe Takach.  All rights reserved. 
Joe Takach Productions

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