The cliched “forgive run” is when you effectively overlook one poor performance on the basis that it was simply too bad to be true. Horses are not machines… they put in poor performances, just like humans!
The hard part about the forgive run, of course, is knowing when to apply it. Did the horse have genuine excuses for it’s poor performance… or was it simply not up to it? The answer to the question will have a major impact on how you assess and price the horse in future races.
Here’s a list of things to kick off your “forgive run” checklist. There’s more to it of course. But these are a great starting point in assessing whether you write a horse’s performance off.
This may sound obvious! But there are times when a horse suffers an injury during the race that means you should just forget they went around. They may have been galloped on, or suffered from cardiac arrhythmia or pulled up with traces of mucous. What looks like a terrible run in the form guide may actually have a genuine excuse.
Everybody appreciates that sprinters won’t be contesting a Melbourne Cup. But many horses have a peak distance range that is actually a lot narrower than most punters appreciate. For example, 1000m to 1100m horses won’t necessarily run a strong 1200m. This can particularly be the case of two-year-olds who aren’t fully developed yet.
Another example is that many 1400m horses can’t perform at the same level at a mile. They may be more of a natural sprinter who can stretch out to the 1400m and still look impressive. But that’s where they “top out”.
If you can confidently conclude that distance was the major reason for the failure, you can find good value when the horse returns to it’s favoured range.
Something as simple as the venue for a meeting can lead to a forgive run. Even before you take into account factors such as track conditions and bias, the racecourse itself can be a huge factor. They all have their own intricacies. The major metro tracks in Melbourne are a great example. A 1400m Listed Handicap on a Good 4 track at Moonee Valley is very different to a 1400m Listed Handicap on a Good 4 at Flemington. The Valley is a small, tight turning track with a very short straight: often bigger horses with longer strides can’t get right into their groove there. Flemington is enormous by comparison. It has huge, sweeping turns and an extremely long straight that allows horses to wind right up. “Track specialists” definitely exist.
Many punters believe that “a wet track is a wet track” and that there isn’t much difference between slow and heavy. Most professional punters would strongly argue that there is a big difference between soft and slow, or slow and heavy. There is even a significant difference between a Heavy 8 and Heavy 10. Yet many would just mark both of those down as a heavy track run.
Well-equipped professional punters have their own methods by which to measure the track conditions, which can vary from the official ratings. But anybody can start by paying attention to those official ratings It’s much better rather than simply marking a track as ‘wet’ or ‘dry’.
This can be overplayed at times, so be careful. It can feel like every punter on social media is screaming about bias and forgive runs when it occurs. But it still can help find value at times.. If you’re reviewing the replays together with the sectional times and horses simply didn’t make up ground all day, be prepared to forgive certain horses if they weren’t in the right lane..
What happens late in a race is often a direct result of what happened early. So be forgiving of horses that have to get out of their comfort zone and go hard early to make position. A hot early pace can lead to a horse running tailed off and beaten a long way. But next time out – with a more reasonable tempo – these horses can surprise the market.
Likewise, a very slow early speed can turn a middle-distance or staying event into a “sit and sprint”. Horses with the best turn of foot in the straight take advantage. It won’t suit horses that are more “one-paced”, but are genuine stayers who can maintain their effort for longer. You might be able to forgive that if an upcoming race maps as a true staying test.
This is related to race pace. Horses have a natural racing profile. For example, they may have a naturally high cruising speed that allows them to race on the pace. Or they may have a big late kick, so they’re typically allowed to relax early before finishing off with their dynamic turn-of-foot.. Changing this natural style very rarely works: leaders like to lead while backmarkers like to relax before unleashing late. If you see a horse ridden in the opposite manner to its normal pattern – or “ridden upside down”, as the saying goes – you may well be able to mark it as a forgive run.