How Much Rest is Enough? by deltatiger
Thursday, February 16, 2006 at
How to Handle the Early Sharp
Even if you’ve only played the game for a couple of months, you’ve probably already had this happen to you: a horse that you were training for next week comes up sharp this week. Do you race it? Do you wait for the week you were training it for? Does it matter? What should you do?
Like most issues in the game, there isn’t a single right answer to those questions. There are three basic schools of thought (with an almost infinite number of variations on each of them) on how much rest to give your horse, and what to do if your horse comes up sharp before you asked them to. Each of these schools is perfectly valid and legitimate, and each has advantages and disadvantages. The schools are:
1. The “tbgifted” approach. It goes, “If the horse is sharp, run it. If that means running it 3 or 4 weeks in a row, run it 3 or 4 weeks in a row. There’s no reason not to race a horse if it comes up sharp.” According to this theory, you give your horse the minimum amount of rest that you can and race it as often as you can. Typically, a trainer following this approach will set the “train for week” to give their older horses only one week between races (2 year olds will get more time). Some will even get rid of claimers that don’t come up sharp every other week.
The advantages to the tbgifted approach are that you get to race your horses a lot (which is particularly good if you have a small number of stables) and earn bps quickly. It can also help if you are in a residency and want to be competitive in the trainer competition. The disadvantages are that wear and tear will start effecting you horse sooner, and it will be at its racing peak for a shorter amount of time. Also, if your horse is a late developer you may find that you have raced it heavily at 2 and 3, when it is actually going to be at its best at 4 and 5.
2. The “teatime” approach. This is the opposite extreme from tbgifted’s approach. Those who follow this philosophy believe that their horses run best if they get rest, and lots of it. A follower of this approach will tell you not to race a horse if it comes up sharp early and to wait instead for the date you actually set. They will give their horses 4 or more weeks rest between races, with 2 year olds getting at least 6 to 8.
The advantages to the teatime approach are that your horse is likely to be at its racing peak for a longer period of time, and have more seasons to race for you. Wear and tear should develop more slowly. The disadvantages are that you earn bps more slowly, and if the horse is an early developing type, you will get fewer races while it is at its best. It is also impossible to win a trainer competition with this sort of training style.
3. The middle path. If you ask someone following this approach if you should race your horse when it comes up sharp early, they will probably say “It depends. Is this a stakes horse, allowance horse, or a claimer? Is there a great race for him that he will draw into? How old is the horse? How many times has it raced?” A typical trainer following this path will set their horses “train for” dates to race every 3 weeks or so, 2 year olds every 4 to 6 weeks. If a horse comes up sharp early, they may race it if it is a claimer (or sometimes an allowance horse) and if they can find the perfect race for it at a nearby track. If they race a horse in back to back weeks, they will give it extra time off following the second race.
The advantages to this approach are that it allows you to be more flexible in your handling of your horses, treating them each as individuals, and makes it less likely that you will over-race your horses. Your horses are also more likely to come up sharp on the train for date than either of the other two approaches, although every approach will have a certain number of horses not come up sharp the week they’ve been trained for. Late developers are still apt to be over-raced at 2 or 3, though they should still be able to compete at 4 and possibly 5. You will also probably still have a hard time competing in residency trainer competitions if any of your fellow residents follow the tbgifted approach.
So, which of these schools of thought is the best one? It depends entirely on how you want to play the game.
If you want to breed a lot of horses in hopes of finding that superstar horse, if you want a lot of action, if you want to triumph in trainer competitions, if you find resting your horses boring, then tbgifted’s philosophy is the way to go.
If you tend to get attached to your horses, or breed lots of late developers, or you don’t have a lot of time to play the game, then teatime’s is probably the best approach for you.
If you feel that you have a little bit of each, then the middle approach is the one for you. Of course, that doesn’t give you a simple answer to the question of whether or not to run your horse, though chances are that it will still be sharp the following week if you choose not to race it this week. But it isn't certain.
That’s the joy and frustration of the game. There are no clear cut answers.