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Track Tracts

Part 11: Predatory Handicapping/Nuances
and Jockeys, Jockey Agents and Grooms
by Joe Takach

No treatment of Nuance Handicapping would be complete without the inclusion of the person that is responsible for seeing a desired end reach fruition.

Every jockey sends subtle signals before the start of each race that are both positive and negative. Any outward clue offered, is done so either with purposeful intent or it is a subconscious reaction to what is about to happen or what the jockey anticipates is about to happen.

I�m sure that if you frequently visit the paddock, at one time or another you�ve seen a rider walk out of the jockey�s room just bubbling with positive emotion almost to the point of cockiness. And not coincidentally, that rider happened to be sitting on a very �live� horse in that upcoming race.

That jockey was sending a clear message to all that he positively knew that he was on a �live� horse. He thought he was going to win, or at worst thought he had a very good chance of winning.

So where�s the nuance?

The nuance comes about from watching that same jockey beginning with his first mount of the day, assuming that he had multiple mounts that afternoon. If he is riding a loser in any race and knows so, when he exits the jockey�s quarters, it is easy to see that there�s no zip to his step. He might not be standing or walking erectly with definitive purpose. He is more or less nondescript or ho-hummish, drawing little attention while blending into his surroundings.

The time to employ the �live horse nuance� and maximize your potential is on days when you like a specific horse in a later race and your jockey in that later race has earlier mounts. For example, you love �so and so� in the featured 8th race this afternoon and his jockey has 2 other mounts in races 3 and 7 before he rides your choice in the featured 8th race. For the sake of illustration, we�ll assume that his 2 earlier mounts are certain losers.

What you want to do is take multiple mental snapshots of this rider as he leaves the jockey�s room in races 3 and 7 and walks over to his losing mounts. Compare those images to his posture and attitude when he exits the jockey�s quarters for his �live horse� in the 8th race. More likely than not, his body language will have done a �180�!

Suddenly he walks with verve. He could be smiling or joking with everyone as he strolls over to his �live� mount. Both he and the trainer might look like giggling frat boys ready to engage a couple of good-looking coeds at a Saturday afternoon college football game.

There is no need to beat this to death, the only point to be made is that they are both �enlivened� because they know that their horse is �about to run a big one.�

Once you fully recognize the �live horse� nuance in each of your local riders, you�ll be able to add many variations of it to your repertoire. Some jockeys are less obvious than others and require closer scrutiny when on a �live horse,� but they will still tip their hand when they believe they are sitting on a potential winner.

One variation is the rider who comes out of the jockey�s room looking for his friends. He scans the sea of faces around him and when seeing a deserving one, offers a smile or a gesture resembling a sign from a 3rd base coach. He�s quite easy to spot, as he won�t be talking to fellow riders or a valet while walking to his mount. He�ll be noticeably looking all around the immediate paddock area at fans on the outside to make sure he hasn�t missed signaling anyone about his anticipated victory.

Here�s a very subtle jockey nuance that I discovered when living back east. I used to get agitated by this top jockey that from time to time would fail to exit the jockey�s room until the last possible moment and only after his mount was completely tacked up and in the walking ring. There were even times when his tardiness would last a minute or more past the normal time for the cry of �riders up.� The paddock judge often said something to him about his tardiness as he scurried over to his mount and was immediately given a leg up by the trainer.

Strangely, he was never given any suspension for his repeated lateness. I guess it was because his delays only occurred with 1 in every 4 or 5 mounts. One would have to assume that his ranking as a top jockey did, in fact, have privilege. The reason I got irritated was because every second he made others wait in the paddock area was time that they could have been warming up in the pre-race and increasing their potentiality to win.

After putting up with this aggravation for 6 months or so, my hamster �got back on his wheel.�

It finally dawned on me immediately following a tough and very costly �beat.� This tardy jockey nosed me at the wire to complete his riding triple for the day.

He had 4 prior mounts that day leading up to his 5th and final mount in the 8th race. Twice before that afternoon, he made everybody wait until he was damn good and ready to come out of the jock�s room. But both times he made everybody wait, he ended up in the winner�s circle just as he did after making everybody wait again in the 8th race before beating me and grabbing his �hat trick�.

Did I mention that with both of his losing mounts that he exited the jockey�s room on time and with the other riders?

I wasn�t 100% sure at that point of exactly what I thought I saw, but decided to mark down the finish position of every one of his mounts in the future whenever he failed to walk out on time with the rest of riders.

I was literally �floored� after 2 weeks of note taking.

Nearly every time he was late exiting the jockey�s room his mount won, or at worst hit the board while seriously attempting to win. Whenever he came out the jockey quarters on time with his fellow riders, his horses ended up as also-rans. What a discovery! It paid healthy dividends for many years.

Copyright �2003 by Joe Takach.  All rights reserved.
Joe can be contacted through his website at

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