Controlling the form cycle

 Posted by at 8:16 pm  General
Apr 182018


Kudos and high praises for our recent blossoming at the BTB offices.

Good writers and good articles are proliferating at a happy rate. This veteran reporter would like to join the recent trend toward articles outside the normal framework of race previews. (Although, the previews always have been and always will be our best contribution to the game.)

It seems like there are a fair amount of new players these days, and as such I thought maybe I would offer some basic lessons I have learned after running a modestly sucessful, small operation for 20 years in the Sim.

The first and most basic advice I can give a new player is this: Your basic job as a Sim trainer is to learn what your horse wants in terms of class, surface and distance. There is a good reason that class is listed first.

Unless you enjoy repeated beatings about the brow, you have to race your horses where they can win. You can set everything up perfect for a Sim horse and still get beat. If you ask a horse to compete at anything other than its prime conditions, you increase your chances of missing the board. If you see your horse getting beat bad in consecutive races, you have limited choices. You can drop in class, or you can send to the farm. There is a confidence factor in the game and if a horse keeps getting beat it loses all confidence. Conversely, if you can somehow win a few in a row with a horse it is easier to keep going.

An ancillary point becomes featured here: Get in control of your horse’s form cycle. If a horse you think has earned another chance goes bad, the best way to give them another chance is to rest the horse. Then, maybe the first race back is just an easy race. You may even tinker with the effort. Second race back, horse starts to show some life. As a trainer, you may now fairly anticipate that your horse is sitting on a big race.

This writer has witnessed top Sim trainers use this strategy to huge success in big spots over the years. They know when their horse is ready to give its best.

Conversely, you may ultimately begin to anticipate when your horse is about to go over the top. You will know ahead of time when you may consider backing off on a horse.

Resting horses became much more convenient in the new Sim, with the ability to send a horse to farm. Very often, when I find myself shopping the claimers, I see a horse that I know just needs a long rest. The back class is there, and too many races have taken their toll. While Sim horses may indeed be machines, they are not machines without damage from overuse.

Other points to consider may be:

– If you are unsure how much rest to give a horse, err on the side of more rest.

– When you go shopping for horses, whether in claims or at auction, give extra consideration to 4yo horses. This is the year in which many Sim horses experience their most significant improvement. They also become physically mature and ready to withstand the hard rigors of racing. When you are shopping for runners, also give extra consideration to horses that have not tried a certain surface or distance yet. The most obvious example is a horse that never tried turf, or never tried dirt. (I now agree with my friend Chicago Nextbonus Bill who says poly tracks are a farce and should be eliminated.)

Ideally, you may hold an opinion on a horse as to what it will want. You may look at a horse and say to yourself, “this looks like a horse that would want two turns on the turf.” And, you notice it has tried turf, but only sprinting. So, your appraisal of the horse fits an option with the horse.

I believe it is true that the new Sim is tougher. There are a lot more fast horses than there used to be. Speed figures done blowed up, yall. But you know what that means? That means the castoffs run faster, too. You can find good horses in claiming races. The crumbs that fall off these table are more appetizing than they used to be.

– If you have a question, look for people in chat and ask away. There is a long, long tradition of veteran players helping new players in the Sim.

So, here is to tradition!!!




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  23 Responses to “Controlling the form cycle”

  1. Very well written article as always. Definitely agree with the class angle – I’ve earned plenty of BPs over the years with solid claiming/starter horses that couldn’t hit the board to save their life in an allowance race.

  2. Just my two coppers – I don’t think rest matters in the new SIM. In fact, I think you are much better off striking when the iron is hot. No matter how much you rest your horse it isn’t going to be good after 25 races anyway (or at least 80-90% of them won’t). So when you are in a “hot” zone, now is the time to go after the races – let the race schedule determine where you enter not your training time. Of course as you can probably tell different people believe different things. And while you can’t hurt your horse by resting too much, you certainly can miss out on opportunities. The whole subject is fairly complex and I apply it differently to different classes of horses.

    • THIS

    • That has been my thinking up to now but I haven’t had much luck. I’ve been playing for about 4 years and barely won my first stake race in the last 15 months (I was soooooo excited!). Some I’ve even entered into hot races in the same week if they were sharp, but I think they were ‘false sharp’ since they didn’t do so well. I think I’m just now starting to learn. I’m finally getting better at breeding but I’m not really great on entering my horses where they belong :-/ That all being said, I’m still going to run my cheaper horses more frequently.

    • waremblem5..I tend to agree on how many races a horse has run.I bought a six year old at auction that had only ran six races but won 4 races in a row for me..Itch Thanks for posting the form cycle ..I have really enjoyed the comments..

  3. Great article itch!

  4. another question…Does anyone know the difference about how a horse comes back from a race ..some come back to the barn with a thumbs up and others come back to the barn groggy..does this say anything about how much rest the horse needs ??
    and then ever now and then one that comes back with thump up and you don’t put it back in training he will go the razor sharp in two to three days ??

    • Sure, if they come back groggy they are going to need a bit longer before being sharp for their next race — probably only about an extra week with a ‘groggy’ though.

      If a horse comes back thumbs up (RTG/ready to go) and turns sharp in a few days — (s)he’s keen to race — although some people might term it a ‘false sharp’ !! Either way, it doesn’t mean you have to race him/her straight away. If you set the training for later on, or enter a race a few weeks away, I don’t believe the horse will go off the boil.

  5. Itch ..thanks for the info..
    I have a question on resting or training new two year old’s before their first race…Does anyone put 2 year old’s in training and how long before their first race ??

    • Since newbreeds always seem to be sharp on arrival these days, I think it’s fine to enter them straight away. Having said that, I have pointed some new arrivals a few weeks down the line this year. I don’t think it makes any difference as long as the horse is sharp on running — although horses can run perfectly well on RTG in most cases as well.

  6. I just recently realized that I run my horses too often. I would be entering a race and seeing that my horse had double the races from it’s counterparts. That’s it! I thought and just now, I set all my 2 and 3 year olds to 30-60 days and my 4+ olds to 21-60 days. This year, a couple of 2 year olds who didn’t perform well on either dirt or turf, I put in the farm. They’ll stay there and be entered in easy races later on.

  7. Nice article :)

  8. Nice job itch, lots of great info here. I’be got a few months under my belt now and as you stated finding the right level of class for a horse is half the battle. SinceI started paying attention to that and not fearing losing horses through the claiming ranks I’ve beem hitting the board more frequently.

  9. Perhaps I have been misinterpreting the word rest in my first year in the game. If I race a horse and then following the race set his training at six weeks before he will race again, is this a period of rest? Or am I supposed to give him three weeks rest and then train him for three weeks prior to his next race? If it is the latter, what setting do I use while he is resting….flag him for entry?

    Clarification on this would be very helpful.

    Also any thoughts you can share on how to handle new Scratch Breeds would be helpful. I am just recently starting to get into Scratch Breeding and feel like I have made some good choices but have almost always been disappointed with my horses first race.

    Feel free to respond here to my questions or if you prefer send a PM.

    Your support is appreciated.


    • Dunn — ‘rest’ just means ‘not racing’, so setting training for 6 weeks is giving him/her 6 weeks rest :)

      • Okay so I am currently using six weeks for 2/3 year olds and five weeks for 4+,

        itch does reference sending horses to the farm also which I have had other people tell me also. Not sure how often this needs to occur.

        • I think you are in the right ball park area there Dunn — probably give the 2yos a bit longer (I give 7-8 weeks generally) and you can go shorter on 3yos (I give about 4-5 weeks) and 3-4 weeks for 4yo+ with the occasional longer layoff.

          Then again, if you have a stakes or graded runner, you might want to pamper them and treat them to longer rests, and low-class claimers you can probably run into the ground a bit more.

          That’s my take on it, anyway — others may look at it slightly differently :)

        • I’m not sure that sending a horse to the farm has any particular benefit from the form point of view, but if you are giving a longer layoff to a horse, it frees up a stable slot and costs less weekly.

      • denovo ..thanks for the answer on rest..

  10. This is excellent stuff for both veterans and rookies. Even us grizzled graybeards tend to need a reminder about rest from time to time. Youngsters, if you take nothing more from Itch’s remarkable primer, REST YOUR HORSES! It was always important. These days it is absolutely vital. There is no such thing as too much rest, only too little. My personal experience (18 years and counting) tells me a minimum of two and maximum of three is ideal. Your results may vary and each horse has its own preferences.

    Itch is a top tier trainer. He has purposely kept his operation small so he can devote more time to sex, drugs and rock-n roll. I expanded my operation exponentially when Mike introduced a much easier way to enter, train and select jockeys because I have no life. If you get bored because half your barn is resting, open a few more stables. YOLO. Just stay in your comfort area so you don’t burn out.

    Lastly, heed Itch’s warning about class. As a wise old trainer told me when I was much younger, “Keep yourself in the best company possible and your horses in the worst.”