A Dark Day For Racing
The Needle & the Damage Done
Definition of a Handy Workout
Definition of a Breezing Workout
Rolling with the Wiseguys
Mucho Trabajo, Poco Dinero
The Day the Music Died Biography
A handy workout (58H) is defined as a workout that fully extends a horse's legs, muscles, shoulders, and lung capacity by exercising him at rapid rate of grab and go striding over a distance of ground. That distance is far enough to reach one of three standard objectives of working handily:
1. To at least maintain a thoroughbred's current level of racing fitness
2. Snap him up to a new plateau or
3. Getting a betting tool racing ready if a horse is coming off a holiday or is a maiden firster by exerting him HARD, e.g. the rider leaning forward in the irons with his knuckles pumping along the thoroughbred's neck reaching and pushing for full extension. The exercise rider smells the mix of sweat and shampoo on a horse's mane. In a handy workout you won't see the bottom of the exercise riderís boots as one would in a breezing movement. But the rider will draw his whip.
An extreme handy workout can hurt a clocker's eyes and test his ability to evaluate. Some trainers will break a horse off at a pole quickly and start the workout by asking for speed, having the horse rolling through rapid interior fractions (21-4, 33-4) so by the time the worker hits the wire in front of the clocker's stand at the end of a five panel movement, if the worker isn't a stakes horse he'll be rattling a bit.
A trainer monitoring and familiar with all his horse's morning and afternoon movements would say after observing and clocking a horse working handily between races that he has:
1. Benefited greatly from his last race and moved way up (betting time), usually indicated by a sub-24 second final quarter.
2. Stayed about neutral (stalled); just use him to fill a race or,
3. (Gone south) -Over 25 seconds for the last quarter mile while drifting out a bit. That last race took something out of him. One more workout like this and we'll call the vet to check and scope him. Meanwhile, watch him closely as he cools out, watch his feed tub and check them legs for heat.
A thoroughbred who is coming off an extended holiday (90 days or longer) or is getting ready for his debut will usually be subjected to 4 handy works of the roughly 10 workouts necessary to get him racing fit. The most important handy work is usually the 8th or 9th workout either the distance of his next race or an 1/8th of a mile longer.
The three criteria that would be spun after that key handy workout by one who has observed and timed all the morning movements of a returning or debuting steed are,
1. (GLOW) - Track kitchen coffee never tasted so good. I've seen trainers walking away from an impressive handy workout with their feet off the ground.
2. (DAY MONEY) - Our runner is stuck in neutral,let's run him the same distance next time or let's enter him and maybe a race will bump him into a higher zone of awareness and fitness.
3. (TELEPHONE LIES) - We are sliding backwards. Check his feed tub and legs tonight. Maybe we should shorten the distance of his next work or lengthen the days between works. Christ! Who's going to talk on the cell phone with the owner?
The absolute best person to consult about tagging a work as to whether it was handy (58H) or breezing (58B) isn't the clocker, trainer or owner but in this particular case the American hot walker of said horse (58H). We find him sitting amidst a swirling haze of straw dust on a tack box outside the thoroughbred's stall, awaiting his return from the track. When he hears the chatter of the exercise rider directed towards the workout horse's groom (who stirs a new straw bedding in the racehorse's stall) usually, they are both speaking Latino. The American will understand nothing of the chatter and it just reminds him of the loud verbal banter that rises and follows Jockey Angel Cordero's departing for the racetrack at Belmont Park when horses leave the paddock and head for the tunnel under the grandstands.
If he hears nothing as the horse approaches his stall to have his bridle removed, it was a jockey up for the workout or an American born female exercise rider (ever increasing in number on the backside for that reason: silence).
Being the only American in the barn that works on the ground besides the trainer, the hotwalker has become accustomed to living in a world were only Latino is spoken. The American hotwalker went his whole first year at work without ever hearing English spoken except when the trainer's daughter came to work for the summer and the trainer gathered all the males in the crew around him saying he knew nobody would touch his daughter, but if they even tried to make a date with her he would cut their penis off. Everybody understood.
A returning, handily worked horse is given a short drink from his water bucket (one has to pull his head out) on his way to the rubber-bathing mat at the back of the barn. There, if he has been fully extended, his nostrils will be flaring and he will be snorting mucus on the hotwalker. He will be deeply blowing/pumping air in and out, and his rib cage drum will be heaving. He will also be a bit wild eyed, churning the bit as if re-living the workout again and again in his mind. All this physical commotion is still going on a full fifteen minutes since he crossed the finish line completing that workout (58h).
Remember, a thoroughbred only travels at high speeds about 60-80 minutes spread over 30-40 jolts (workouts and races) during their entire racing career of 2 to 3 years, so high speed striding over a distance of ground always brings on a mild shock to their system.
He doesn't seem to feel the water being thrown on him or the flies buzzing around him. But he is looking to move, to stride out as if both his physical and mental gas pedals are still pushed to the floor. He looks toward that walking ring where his water bucket is located atop a wooden bench.
After the bath, he pulls the hotwalker towards the walking ring, dives into and has his head pulled out of his water bucket. Once in the rotation of the walking ring, he starts a powerful march, having to be halted with the shank to avoid walking into the backs of other horses strolling on the walking ring from an earlier set of workers who have cooled and slowed down.
The hotwalker will observe the time it takes for his workout horse to cool and slow down. Usually the heaving and marching stride and pulling towards the water bucket can go on for a good hour after a handy workout.
If your shoulder and arm hurt from holding and snatching the taut shank to gear down an animal that weights over a thousand lbs. and has been in a marching mood for over an hour dragging you around the walking ring then you know that it was handy workout.