Imagine the following scenario.
You're the jockey in a route race. The front horse showing the way (a very decent runner) opens up by 15-20 lengths. You're toward the rear of the field.
What challenges go through your mind that aren't obvious to racing fans?
I asked this question to our Riders because from the fans perspective, it's these oddly run races where it seems anyone has a shot when the front runner peddles back to the field.
Fortunately Kyle Frey and Trevor McCarthy were willing to share their perspective.
Kyle Frey: At what point in the race did they open up like that?
Frisco Bash: From the first to second opening quarters. So by the half-mile, they're up 15-20 lengths.
Frisco Bash: For example, the 2009 Breeders Cup Turf (G1).
Kyle Frey: In this example they didn't even need to move. The race was so far, the pace softened him up. Kind of sad to watch, since he didn't get beaten by much at all, considering his pace. He basically came back to them, which if I notice, I'm not changing pace and going into the far turn— he's coming back to me. I'm giggling because I know I'm going to run him down.
Kyle Frey: If I have the horse obviously.
I then asked a question which was later pointed out to me by Shawn Drupp, how common such a question was (Shawn has been given the answer to my question 1000 times), but hopeless case that I am, I asked it anyway!
Frisco Bash: Do you rely on listening for the fractions on the big speaker or do you just observe with your eyes? Also, are there other challenges in getting position over other jockeys by the time the horse comes back? Since probably many are thinking the same thing.
Kyle Frey: I count between each pole. I generally trust my own internal clock. I'm deaf as hell so I can't make out anything they say on the speaker (laughing), to make sure you're in a good spot.
Kyle Frey: So on the back side, you'd try to smoothly push a horse out if need be. If not, you're going to be stuck and have to follow the other horses after they move from your outside, which doesn't work a lot of the time, because of the horses behind them already.
The same scenario was put forth before Trevor McCarthy, asking what he would do if you're at the rear in a route race, and the front horse opens up by twenty lengths.
Trevor McCarthy: My mind is "Let's go!" or be patient. He will come back or to pick it up little by little, and find that rhythm, and keep faith that you will get there.
I went back to Kyle Frey with another question.
Frisco Bash: How much are you paying attention to the leader who opened up to a big lead, versus the jockeys around you. I imagine the point when to get aggressive.
Kyle Frey: Honestly I'd be more worried about the riders behind and to the outside of me more than the leader. The inside horses are easier to intimidate and the leader is most likely going to slow down the last quarter. Majority of the time. But mostly you're worried about getting headed on the outside.
We'd like to thank Trevor and Kyle for their answers. Next time you're handicapping a race where a tough "run-off" type, or even a "rabbit", is competing, well, now you've got closer insight as to what may be going on in a jockey's mind.
Radar fans, if there is a race scenario you think is particularly worth analyzing, do tell! Please post them in the comment section of our Facebook Post of this article. I'll do my best to get them addressed.