Bruno With The Works: Who Let The Dogs Out

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TwinSpires Staff

February 5th, 2014

The Dogs (d) out designation on a set of PPs is an often overlooked handicapping factor in determining a workout’s quality on any surface—dirt, synthetic, or turf—as handicappers have to play Sherlock Holmes to make sure they have to have accurate data and details to form a proper opinion.

Dogs out simply means a temporary rail or cones were placed a distance off the inner rail to preserve a fresh strip of grass or dirt for afternoon racing, or to allow some of the grass to get a respite from daily pounding.

Dogs are primarily used on turf courses, but can be also be placed on a muddy or drying out main track in an effort to save the inside part of the track from being chewed up during morning training hours.

Dogs out is universal notation in your workout lines listed as (d), however, the (d) does not tell you how far the dogs were out from the rail.

In California, the inner rail may have already been placed 36 feet out, then the dogs may be another 24 to 36 feet away from the inner rail; making the final distance about 72 feet from the actual rail.

Palm Meadows (PMM)—the very popular training center for South Florida racing—has grass training five to six days a week, on any given day the (d) can be placed from 6 feet to 120 feet out.

For handicappers to accurately assess grass works around the dogs, they need to know how far the dogs are out. Obviously, if a horse is traveling around the dogs set at 120 feet he would return a far slower time than a horse traveling around the dogs set at 6 feet.

That’s elementary, my dear Watson.

Horse #1 worked on the turf over a period of 4 weeks; training on a turf course with dogs up:

Time               Dogs out in feet

:51.70             (d) 56
1:03.30          (d) 108
1:03.00          (d) 72
:48.30             (d) 12
1:02.00          (d) 25

Horse #2 worked at similar distances over a 4 week training period, also on a turf course with dogs up:

Time               Dogs out in feet

:37.55              (d) 12
:49.55              (d) 12
:54.75              (d) 120
:54.45              (d) 120
:48.35              (d) 48

If you looked only at naked times you would be missing a key ingredient to the works. Horse #2 twice worked around the dogs at 120 feet and you can see how slow the times were.

I know the first question that comes to your mind, why can't you adjust?

Simply put: you can’t!

Trainers instruct riders to move at different speeds through the turn depending on the distance dogs are set; horses also differ in how they travel through a turn at different dogs’ placement and expend different amounts of energy. Adjusting times cannot be done with any kind of accuracy. Also, time doesn't mean everything on turf -- it's a how they accomplish the move that’s important.

Horses running with the dogs set at more than 25 feet go exponentially slower through the turn, as much as 3-plus seconds or 30-32 lengths slower. Traveling at the top of the turn, more than 100 feet out from the inner rail can be a very taxing experience whereas traveling around the dogs set at 25 feet or less allows horses to use centripetal force to their advantage and accelerate through the turn, thus having faster times.

The work of horse #1, running 1:03.30 at with the dogs out at 108 feet was quite an achievement. Handling the extra distance and the torque of running so high on the crown of the banked turn still put together a very respectable time for the distance.

What if horse #1 faced a horse in the same field that showed a 5f work in 58.60(d) on the grass? The popular assessment would be that the :58.60 work on the grass was better than 1:03.30 of horse # 1; but what if you knew that the 1:03.30 was achieved with dogs out at 120 feet, and the :58.60 work was around the dogs set at 6 feet? Big difference in distance covered and most likely price on the board.

Palm Meadows is one of the few training centers in America that offers training on grass for all levels of horses: maidens, allowance, claiming, etc. If it has four legs and is stabled at Palm Meadows, it can work on grass. Payson Park and Fair Hill most likely are the same. However, none of them publish how far the dogs are out.

At Gulfstream, the situation is a little different, as only stakes horses are allowed to train on the grass. Grass works are allowed only at the top outer ring of the turf course, approximately 72-108 feet out from inner rail and may also have dogs out from that highest rail setting to make it even a more daunting task, but that's not all:

Jan 22, 2012 GP 5f 1:02.90(d) Work Comment: ~ On our watch: 55.3 from the half-mile pole to the wire in one of the easiest turf moves we've ever seen with the rails out 108 feet and further outside the cones. Making this work essentially on the outside fence; he was having fun with the rider by switching leads every few strides because he wanted to do much more than he was allowed. His ears were flicking back and forth and he just loped along easily to the wire, then galloped out all the way to the 3f pole. Phenomenal.

Jan 15, 2012 GP 5f 1:00.45(d) Work Comment: ~from the 5f pole with the rails out 108 feet and further outside the cones in 26.4, 45.3, and to the wire in 1:08.1. Came home for the final in 22.3, galloping out easily 6f on the outside fence in 1:24.3. Very nice.

These two works took place at Gulfstream Park. Note we highlighted how far the cones were out and what was on our watch. The January 22 work we timed in 55.3 for a half mile. Note the final time given.

Again, look at January 15 work and note our time from the pole: 26.4, 45.3 for a half and 1:08.1 for five furlongs and out 6 furlongs in 1:24.3. We loved the work and how the horse did it visually. Then, look at the official final time in one-hundredths!

The works belonged to a developing young turf horse in 2012 for Dale Romans named Little Mike, who won the Sunshine Millions Turf on January 28, 2012.

About these works on the Gulfstream Park Turf:

Feb 19, 2012 GP 5f: 59.7b (d) Work Comment: ~ last to work over the lawn (about 108 feet out between the rails and the dogs): walked to the front stretch and stood his ground (almost refusing) for several minutes before the outrider came over and served as a tow-truck. Once he did break off from the 5f pole, it was nothing more than a leg stretching maintenance move - as the trainer intended - on our watch in 14.1, 27, to the wire in 1:07.3, galloping out in 1:26.1.

Jan 8, 2012 GP   6f: 1:11b (d) worked five furlongs in 1:06 flat around the dogs plus rails at 72 feet. Worked well and we were sitting with the connections. Rajiv Maragh was on board and he loved him.

The above horse referenced was UptownCharlybrown for trainer Eddie Coletti.

Gulfstream has a policy to adjust times using a standard formula for grass works. A 106 five furlong work was adjusted to 1:11 flat on January 8. The February 19 work was a 1:07.3 for five furlongs adjusted to 59.7.

Now, understand, because of the slow times with horses running so far off the inside, the works may not fit the criteria in the Equibase Workout Databse; and may not be publishable. The system won't accept a 6f work in 1:24.3; but on the other hand adjusted times can be grossly misleading to a horseplayer.

Here are grass tabs from Gulfstream and Palm Meadows

Gulfstream, Sunday January 26

Four Furlongs Surface: Turf (dogs out 96 feet plus dogs) Track: Firm

Kingston Bay (KY)    Orseno, J.  46.68  b

Partyallnightlong (NJ) Broome, E. 47.09  b

Five Furlongs Surface: Turf (dogs out 96 feet plus dogs)

A P Elvis (MD)    Campitell, J.      1:00.56  b

Dashing David (IRE) xxxx   1:06.46  b

Six Furlongs Surface: Turf (dogs out 96 feet plus dogs)

Mystic Love (MD)  Campitelli, J.    1:12.44  b

Pretty Fast times at Gulfstream Park on the grass. I don't know if the time for Dashing David from Ireland, 1:06.46 around the dogs, is adjusted or not. I find the reported times a bit confusing.


Three Furlongs   Surface: Turf (dogs out 72 feet) Track: Firm
Great Cross (KY)   Contessa, G.    40.05  b

Four Furlongs   Surface: Turf (dogs out 72 feet) Track: Firm

Bird Tap (KY) Wilkes, I                     :53.00  b
Coexist (KY)     Tagg, B                    :49.95  b

Dukati (KY)     Penna, A.                    :54.00  b
H Town Brown (KY)  Kenneally, E.   :51.40  b
Pink Nightie (FL)   Kenneally, E        :51.25  b
Sayaad (KY)    McLaughlin, K.,          :51.90  b
Theros (KY) McLaughlin, K.             :51.90  b
Thomas Hill (KY)   Contessa, G.       :53.25  b
Tie Dye (KY) Kimmel, J.                   :49.95  b

Five Furlongs Surface: Turf (dogs out 72 feet) Track: Firm 
Aussieaussieaussie (KY)  xxx          1:04.05  b
Cantinero (PA)    Ward, W.                1:04.05  b
Cuppa Joe (KY) Lynch, B.                  1:02.30  b
Dido (KY)    Motion, G.                        1:06.05  b
Ellie's Prince (KY) Lynch, B.             1:02.30  b
Hobson's Choice (NY)  Toner, J.      1:03.25  b
In His Kiss (PA)   Motion, G.              1:06.05 

Interpol (ON)                 1:03.90  b
Queenie's Song (KY) Motion, G.      1:03.90  b
Spring Again (KY)  Ward, W.             1:04.05  b
That's a Kitten (KY)    xxxx                 1:04.20  b

Tiz Sardonic Joe (KY)   Kenneally, E.  1:03.40  b
Unhedged (FL)     Bush, T.                    1:04.05  b

When comparing naked times of these horses when handicapping, the first gut instinct would be to pay close attention to the Gulfstream Park turf works. Some of those GP horses worked fast, and on paper it looked like they love the surface. How is one supposed to like a horse going 1:04.05 on the turf at Palm Meadows?

If you don't know that one horse has an adjusted time and the other was working around the dogs at 72 feet, a naked time with no adjustments, you would make the wrong assumption and decision 

I am not saying that Gulfstream is wrong and Palm Meadows does right; all I am saying is that because dogs/cones distance from the rail is not disclosed publicly for every work, and turf times at Gulfstream not announced as adjusted, it gives the false impression to players that Palm Meadows turf course is deep and lush while Gulfstream is fast and hard.

In reality, that couldn't be more wrong. Palm Meadows is as firm as any turf course I have seen. The difference is the placement of the dogs.

The same can be said about times on the Oklahoma turf course at Saratoga. Horseplayer must have access to dogs out each and every day of turf works. Some horses at both Palm Meadows and Oklahoma turf at Saratoga work inside the cones on the rail on the same day that horses are working outside at 48 feet on a given day. 

So, you could have one work in 58.4b on the turf and the rest would be in 1:04 range. The crews at Saratoga's Oklahoma track and at Palm Meadows are excellent at giving you the (d) up on the ones around the dogs. So, the horse inside the dogs gets a 58.4b only, the one outside the dogs receives a 1:04b(d).

One fallacy of this practice is that the horse inside the dogs will get a bullet as the workout rankings do not differentiate between dogs or no dogs; again, a misleading piece of information.  

Again, this is no knock on anyone, Gulfstream's works on the turf are computer program friendly for the distance, thus, an adjustment is made, but if taken at face value can be damaging to a horseplayer’s decision making process. One thing, I don't understand, since I am not privy to the formula is how some people can rattle off splits, like 12.3, 23.4, and 34.4 on a work on an adjusted time. Maybe I am not that smart.

Turf works can be a big mystery to some but if you get your magnifying glass out and find the right place you can get how far the dogs were out on a given day, you too, can say it's elementary my Dear Watson.

Note: BrunoWiththeWorks and Racingwithbruno publish every turf work with approximate distance dogs are out per each and every turf work. Access this powerful report daily for tracks coast to coast.