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The Man Speaks

I'm the proud owner of a Robert Saunders Dowst tome (He got some help from Jay Craig - see the cover). It was published by the Sun Dial Press of NYC in 1940. The copyright is dated 1934. Copies are hard find. Start with EBay. The book ranks amongst the top five of all the horse racing books and magazines I've collected, some of which go back as far as the 1800s.

So, I want to talk a bit about Dowst's approach to class and a few supporting factors. (As you might remember, I'm not much with the conventional class thing. I am much more with the pace ability and final time thing, though - not some inherent mumbo jumbo "class" that lives outside of the boundaries of said abilities. In other words, pace ability and final time rapped in a form cycle represents class, period. There's nothing mystical about it like the old "look him in the eye" saw that's become ensconced in the horseplayer's handicapping lexicon.). Anyway................

What did Mr. Dowst's have to say about Thoroughbred class and the supporting factors. Read on............

Handicapping Ratios


If horse not in claimer this year, rate 1
If horse in claimers and non-claimers, rate 2
If only in claimers, rate 3


If horse has won 70-100% of races this year, rate 1
If 40-70%, rate 2
If 20-40%, rate3
If less than 20%, rate 4
If horse has run in the money, including wins, 70-100%, re-rate 1
If 40-70%, re-rate 2
If 20-40%, re-rate 3
If less than 20%, re-rate 4


If horse is carrying 5 pounds less than higher weight of field, rate 1
If among higher weights of field, rate 2
If carrying 5 pounds more than higher weights of field, rate 3


If horse's last races good or fair, rate 1
If definitely questionable, rate 2

After fixing these ratings, and setting the figures down on the past performances of each horse in a race as given in a racing-sheet, each entrant will have five figures, one for class, two for consistency, one for weight and one for form. They are added, and the horses with the lower totals will represent the real contention of the race, apart from accident or upset, the horse with the lowest total being presumptively winner.

(1) Two-year-olds in sprint races cannot be handicapped successfully by these methods; they must be figured along speed-lines if at all.
(2) These methods will not work when applied to races with platers of less than $2000 valuation—or $1500 at the least. Such horses lack the two factors of class and consistency on which the method depends.
(3) Figures on a horse based on performances in sprint races mean nothing in races over a distance of ground and should not be relied on, nor should figures based on performances over routes be relied on in sprints.
(4) Aged horses—animals over six years old—are too erratic and uncertain to be sound selections; if these figures indicate such a one as winner he should not be played but the race passed. The strain of flat-racing on hoofs, bone, tendons, wind, circulatory system and disposition is such that most aged horses are unsound physically or temperamentally.
(5) These figures, if based on performances over fast tracks, will be indicated a winner in the mud.
(6) No horse known to be unsound should be selected even if indicated.
(7) No chronic quitter, as shown by the past performance charts, should be selected even though indicated by the figures.
(8) In handicapping route races, after setting down the figures on each horse, it is wise to consider, before selecting him, theprobable winner's ability to stay within striking distance of the half-mile and six-furlong pace that reasonably may be expected to be set in view of the apparent degree of early foot possessed by the other entrants. Route races sometimes are won by a horse which comes from far back off the pace, but more usually they are won by an animal which stayed snugly behind and close to the pace until called upon in the stretch run.

—I'm sure you know that Dowst made a lot of dough playing the races. Presumably, you now have the key to riches—-

Well, the class part of the equation is easy enough. Nothing to discuss there. I suppose consistency is easy enough too. Weight!? Well, I'm not so of sure that one but if you think 5 pounds is going to make a difference with 1100 pound animals that are cycling through form and pace match-ups then have at it. As for me, I'll pass on that one. The form part of the equation is rather vague so let's put a finer focus on it: Here are some ideas that James Quinn articulated in Recreational Handicapping © 1990. A rating of 1 could go to a horse that was in the money last race or raced up close at any call at a higher level last race or has been up close at the stretch call against the same or lower level. Any other performance would be considered questionable. So we have briefly covered class, consistency, weight, and form.

Now for the amendments.

-No two-year-olds, please.

-The second amendment might be adjusted up to $5000 and less for today's valuations.

-Next Dowst tells us not to mix sprint figures with route figures.

-And then we're not going to play horses older than 6, which means forget about playing River Downs, Thistledown, Figure Lakes, Penn, and all the other C class tracks - for the most part anyway.

-And don't go mixing off track figures with fast track figures.

-For some reason Dowst thought to include unsound horses. If you know they're unsound don't play them. I can't image who would but there you go.

-Layoff the quitters. Maybe he was thinking about one dimensional early pace horses that didn't get the lead and quit like crybabies because they didn't get their way. Maybe.

-And lastly......Robert Saunders Dowst mentions pace! Hallelujah. Here's a clue, stay close to the pace for a better chance of winning. It's good idea no matter if it's a squirrel race, a turtle race, a dog race, a human race or a horse race....the closer to the pace the better your chances of winning. Now you don't have to pay $14.95 to know that early speed is powerful.

So there you have it. Straight from the Man, Robert Saunders Dowst. Now you have no excuse not to bring home the 1934 bacon. Maybe.