The True Bullet Workout Angle

By Nick Borg

Experienced handicappers will claim that one of the most slippery slopes regarding Thoroughbred handicapping is the subject of workouts. We all know that the logic of a horse being in a sharp state of conditioning as judged through a quick workout time doesn’t always coincide with a horse’s performance in its ensuing race. We have all come to realize that the quickly timed workouts don’t always carry through into a race.

And as handicappers there are always instances where we look for a little more insurance before deciphering if we are to put our money on a horse in a particular racing situation. So, we’ll look deeper as to how a horse has been working leading up to today’s race. One of these most common handicapping puzzles occurs when we face a horse that is coming back from a layoff.

For instance, let’s say a horse is given off for a few months. For his comeback race he is eligible to run almost anything. We all know this horse does not necessarily have to follow the form he displayed prior to being rested. In fact, he can possibly come back even better compared to how he went out prior to layoff. Further, he can even come back with a terrible performance, showing that he possibly needs a race or two to cycle back to his better form and performances.

Of course, there’s a profile each horse creates through his past performance history, and in weighing and judging each horse’s abilities and weaknesses, one can get a good read as to the quality of the horse and the probability of how he might perform first time back from his layoff. However, as we all know, this horse sense does not always fully work.

I guess what I’m trying to say is too much can get misread or misinterpreted regarding the quality of a horse’s morning workouts leading into a race and as we all have experienced, a horse’s workouts can be very misleading.

Now let’s go back to consider a comeback horse that turns in a couple of bullet works prior to his upcoming start. It becomes clearer with bullet types works that this horse is at least race ready. But do we just use less caution since the work is marked to be a bullet? Does the bullet indicate that this horse is ready to fire a big race? And what if there were two such types of runners in this same layoff situation in this same race? And what about the horses that are already in a sharp state of current condition and they also turned in bullet works headed into today’s race?

In trying to find a logic or common ground to use in helping to try to separate workouts and finding some leverage in weighing just how good a bullet work was turned in, I came up with an angle I like to call The Bullet Workout Angle.

Basically, all bullet workouts are not the same. Let us suppose Horse A works 5 furlongs in :59 seconds flat and that being the fastest work of the day for that distance/surface, Horse A then earns a bullet rating. Let’s say later on this day the second fastest work for that same distance/surface was timed 5 furlongs in 59.20 seconds, which is second best by .20 of a second and doesn’t earn a bullet.

Therefore, Horse A earned a bullet running just .20 of a second faster than the second-best time for that day/distance/surface.

Now for comparison, let’s say on another day a different horse, Horse D works 4 furlongs in :46 seconds flat. The next fastest horse for that day/distance/surface worked in :48.20 seconds. Horse D earns a bullet for having the fastest work for that day/distance/surface. However, the difference in Horse D’s earned bullet is more than 2 seconds faster than the next best-timed rival, where in our prior example Horse A earned a bullet by working just .20 of a second faster than his next best rival.

The difference in the quality of these two bullet type works between Horses A & D is clearly not the same. The bullet that Horse D earned seems to be a lot truer given the difference in the gap between the next best work times.

This angling gave me the idea to chart works for a while to see if a pattern develops while noting bullet works and how much faster were the bullet works compared to the next fastest timed works. And while investigating over a 6-month span, I have discovered that when a horse works and earns a bullet ranking on a particular day/distance/surface, and that workout is at least one full second faster than the next horse that worked that same day/distance/surface, this type of bullet earned workout horse wins 23% next time out. It’s a matter of discovering and highlighting horses that earn higher quality bullet works!

For 6 months I went over the work tabs for 3 tracks that I follow where I do my primary handicapping. I looked over each distance worked for that date and surface and noted any horse earning a bullet that was at least one second faster than the next recorded work time for that same day/distance/surface. If the work was at least that much faster, I then took note of that horse and listed him on my Horses to Watch List. I then got notified when this highlighted horse was making his next start.

Below are the results of 6 months’ worth of charting worktabs for three different tracks.

Raw Stats:

  • 94 starters
  • 23 wins = 24% win return
  • 15 places
  • 14 shows
  • 42 outs
  • 52 in the money = 55%

The True Bullet Workout Angle:

This angle exists when a horse earns a bullet type ranking on a workout that is clocked to be at least one full second faster than the next ranked worker for that same day/distance/surface. This top bullet earner then becomes listed as a Horse to Watch, any distance, any surface. I add this horse to my watch list, so I am then alerted to when this angle horse is entered to make its next start.    

6-Month Findings: About 24% Wins and 55% in the money!! And this stat is without any handicapping at all which makes me reason that if one applies some of their own basic handicapping skills and experience to this workout angle, such as going over some basic handicapping principles, then the Win percentage of this angle could logically rise, which can make for some sweet tickets to cash!

Good Luck to All!!