Barrier Trials: Trial tease or future star?
Barrier Trials: Unexposed nuggets of gold or over-rated myth?
The phrase ‘dawn warrior’ aptly describes steads that do their best work in barrier trials or jump-outs. This ‘type’ of horse certainly exists, and they can be costly for those who analysing and betting off barrier trials.
A few dawn warriors that have robbed my wallet in time include; Zeletto, Black Diamond Girl and Nordic Empire – horses who would likely towel up Black Caviar in a track gallop but munch money on race day. Godolphin’s Exosphere and Robbie Laing’s flying Danreich colt, Lord Of The Sky are two more notable warriors of the modern era.
However, the dawn warrior is rare. Barrier trials and jump-outs are readily available online to the modern punter, providing great insight into how a horse is travelling ahead of a new preparation or before their debut.
So, how does one identify a money-making trial?
Sadly, there’s no one answer. No doubt plenty of high-quality judges would have contrary views to mine, but below are a few key factors I focus on when analysing trials.
Times. Times can be so varied from heat to heat in trials and jump-out. For official trials it’s advantageous to access sectional times to help break down how the trial was run. Comparing the overall times on the day will give clarity as to which heats were stronger than others.
How a horse is ridden out. At the end of the day a trial is just that: little more than a leisurely hit-out. If a horse is bring hard-ridden throughout while those around aren’t under much pressure, than this isn’t a horse to be following. Conversely, a horse under little pressure, running time, is the one to be black booking.
A clean getaway from the stalls. If a horse is prone to missing the kick in trials or jump-outs then he/she will likely take that trait to the races.
A recent example is the 3YO gelding Esperance (James Cummings), a boom horse in his first campaign after smashing the clock at Echuca. However, coming back for his second racing preparation it was evident the horse was having barrier issues. Not only did he have three jump-outs across two months (suggesting some sort of issue) but he was slow to jump on each occasion.
His most recent jump-out prior to resuming can be seen here (blue jacket): https://www.flemington.com.au/racing-and-events/jumpouts/runners#?date=2018%2F3%2F16&track=Flemington&heat=1
Tractable racing style. Barrier trials are generally run at a moderate tempo and it’s a good chance to see if a horse has a tendency to over-race. Similarly, horse may hang out or lay in during a trial and that trait will be carried through to race day. The reality is racing is competitive and backing horses with poor racing manners isn’t a strong long-term play.
These are just a few points in what is a deep subject. Over the coming weeks and months The Race Club will touch on many aspects of barrier trial and jump-out analysis. Keep an eye out for our barrier trial reviews which will highlight the key black book triallers across Australia and also those who trial ‘below’ expectation. Avoiding a short-priced loser because it trialled poorly can be as profitable as backing a winner.