Last week we got to see the first time in the short career of Maximum Security that he did not cross the wire first. To many, it was an unexpected shocker, but should it have been? We’ll look at that in the recent content of angles we’ve been discussing to help identify scores and bet against races alike.
We have recently talked about bank roll management, two year olds progressing past their earlier figures, and today, we will talk about a widely used but often confused term, “the bounce.”
While the stumble at the start didn’t help Maximum Security, he was ripe to regress. Knowing when a horse is ready to regress or bounce is a strong advantage or edge, especially if the horse is a favorite.
Maximum Security ran a very hard race while still inexperienced and lightly raced in the Kentucky Derby. He ran harder and further than he ever had before under less than ideal conditions. His trainer was noncommittal about his run in the Pegasus until he actually entered. He has even publicly said blood was drawn on Maximum Security as he was not quite right. These factors all point to a regression or bounce. Let’s define bounce. A bounce is when a horse goes backward or runs significantly worse than they have in their last start or even last few starts.
Most horses will regress or bounce off a race where they exceeded their previous top performance by a decent measurable speed figure or just flat out performance. You don’t need to use speed figures to spot a bounce, but they certainly can accelerate the process.
Sure some horses can regress and win, and Maximum Security certainly looked like he could be one of those in the field he faced in the Pegasus. That said, do you really want a short price on a horse that is not peaking or going forward when you have nicer price options on horses that are?
When looking for a horse to bounce, thus bet against at a short price, here are some things you can watch for:
1- A horse who ran significantly faster than ever before in their last start.
2- A horse who has strung together a series of faster than their norm races.
3- A horse who appeared to visually run hard or work very hard in their last start.
4- A horse who is coming back faster than they normally do, or that their trainer likes to do or usually does.
5- A horse who ran well last out but is now being asked to do something they’ve shown in the past they do not excel at.
Are there other indicators or tells, sure and you should pay attention to any you have learned to recognize. One thing to be careful of is the “easy win” not telegraphing a possible bounce. Some years ago, and I have written about this before, I watched a race with Bobby Frankel. His horse jogged under wraps with Jerry Bailey up and went really fast. Nonetheless, it was done handily, easily with ears pricked up. Bobby cursed. I asked what could possibly be wrong with that race?
He said plainly, “too fast.” Explaining further, “This was not the race I was pointing to, and now I have to worry about a bounce.”
I replied, “Why it was so easy.”
Here is where I was schooled and went into sponge mode and made many a score because of it. He told me when a horse runs fast, real fast, no matter how easy they do it, how it looks, or how they act after it before their next start, you always have to fear they will regress. He explained a fast race is almost always taxing regardless of how it may look to us. I never forgot that lesson, so to speak and it served me well many times.
The bounce is a real angle. It happens. Horses are not machines and form cycles last indefinitely very rarely. Looking for the bounce and accurately spotting it can land you on some nice winners and keep you away from some short priced losers. That’s a win-win right there.