Watch Out for Those Bouncing Horses


By GREG MELIKOV

Horseplayers often argue about the Bounce Theory involving thoroughbreds. Some say it’s practical, others say that’s bunk.

Basically, a horse than bounces simply suffers a negative reaction to his previous outing. Many handicappers, like myself, believe that usually happens after a runner exerts a strenuous effort. Others have their doubts.

To illustrate the theory, say a horse’s speed figures have languished in the lower 70s until winning a route on the grass, posting an 88. In the next start, the thoroughbred is most likely to bounce if the runner is:

Racing on the dirt. Grass is an easier surface where horses can string together more consistent trips.

A front-runner. Pressured pacesetters are susceptible to fading.

Entered in a sprint. Pace is faster in shorter distances, taking its toll on horses. Routes have more even pace figures.

Coming off the comeback race within three weeks or less. According to Team Valor racing co-partner Jeff Siegel, “A trainer’s patch-up job after a very fast, very hard race becomes undone.”

A claimer. Cheaper animals tend to regress more than stakes horses, who get better handling and more rest.

A filly. Females have a tendency to bounce more often than males.

Horses usually bounce off a big move forward that might be triggered by first-time Lasix, a new trainer or jockey, switching to a new surface, changes in equipment, etc.

Reasons for the big move forward likely will have an impact on the possible bounce. Past performances can be your guide. But consider each case individually.

Not all believe in the bounce theory, including Steven Crist, publisher of the Daily Racing Form: “True bouncing probably does occur in relatively rare instances where a big-figure race was genuinely a taxing one, and is more likely to occur when a horse returns on short rest or has been racing frequently and is starting to tail off.

Just because a horse happened to run a career-best race doesn't automatically mean the performance can’t be repeated.”

That’s especially true of young horses when they’re developing en route to becoming stakes contenders. If the price is right, a bet is worth the gamble.

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