Recency, meaning how recent or how long ago a race was run, is an important and controversial subject in horse racing handicapping. Studies show that horse who win races have usually run at least one race in the last thirty days or so. But as in most situations in life where there seems to be a rule that applies to most of the time, there are exceptions to the rule.
I find that you really have to look at the trainer and horse and take each case as it comes along. For instance, there are many top trainers who can bring a horse to a race after an extended layoff and win with the runner. If you can look back in the horse’s running lines and see that it won off a layoff before, especially with the same trainer, then it is a horse that must not be ruled out because of the layoff.
While the trainer and horse are important when deciding if a layoff will seriously compromise the horse’s chances of winning, you must also consider the class of the race or category. For instance, in the claiming ranks you will find horses that are old campaigners who can come back fresh and run a good race but quickly lose form because of nagging injuries and lameness. If a claimer has been allowed to rest and then worked into shape without too much stress, it often can beat a field of tired and sore platers.
Another situation that is difficult for punters to figure out is the maiden horse who has had a race or two and then was given an extended rest. Many times these horses needed more schooling or turned out to be too immature to win. A wise trainer may spot this and lay the youngster off for a while until it is more mature and also more physically developed.
One situation that often presents itself is the case where a horse suffers an injury in a race and then has a layoff. If you read a horse’s past racing lines and see that it was vanned off or pulled up in a race, I strongly advise you to wait and see what it will do before backing it. If it really lays over the field it may be wise to pass the race completely rather than bet against that one.
To sum it up, I don’t like making rules for handicapping, but do think that guidelines are helpful when dealing with a tricky issue like horses racing after a layoff.