The R. H. Mcdaniel Story: Theory on Claiming Interesting Keep Close Eye on Front Runners, Daily Racing Form, 1955-06-07


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* : f The R. H. McDaniel Story . Theory on Claiming Interesting First Judgments Usually Final Keep Close Eye on Front Runners Horses a Little Leggy Favored I 1 By Oscar Otis : This is the fifth of a series of articles on* the late R. H. "Red" McDaniel, Americas leading trainer from 1950 through 1954. In it Oscar Otis, McDaniels Jriend and confidant, gives the trainers background, his conditioning secrets and his philosophy of horse racing. CHAPTER V. The late Robert Hyatt McDaniel "was known in the West as something of a claiming wizard, .and his theories on the same we are sure will be highly interesting to everyone. McDaniel explained them to us in detail, and he said, "Contrary to widespread belief, I think it is easier for the average owner to claim a potential stake horse than to breed him. "Ive made some good claims in my life, horses which, like Stranglehold and Blue Reading, have won a lot of money and some big, important sweepstakes. My so-called secret of claiming is simple. I just watch all the races and look for horses who get out on the front end and die, but have breeding to indicate they should be stayers. I claim these horses and run them as their breeding says they should be, off the early pace. But a horse has to show me that he will run boldly at some part of it; otherwise I never reach in to buy him via the claim box." At times McDaniel was called upon to buy young horses for his patrons, and he explained that in this case he subjected the animal, usually a yearling, to a quick inspection and made up his mind within a minute as to whether or not to pass the colt or filly up, or stay for a more detailed j analysis. "I always check the breeding first," I McDaniel said, "and with me, first judgments are usually- final. I either like a horse or dont like him. My first impressions are usually best. If a horse is well conformed, is alert and has class, he usually will strike -your eye at once. When he walks he will show whether or not he has balance. And if he passes on that score, then you can get down to detailed faulting. Question of Balance "No horse is perfect, but anyone would turn down an animal with straight pasterns or with pasterns which are too long, with serious hoof defects like a club foot, or anything which throws him out of balance. "I prefer a type which others might not fancy, in that I like them a little leggy because I have a theory that, while this kind of horse will be more slow to develop than the blocky kind, as a rule they make the best horses and will race more soundly." McDaniel, once he had done everything within his power to get a horse to the post fit, in the right place, and with the best jockey available, then violated another time-honored rule ly refusing to give the jockey any specific instructions. "Inasmuch, as it is impossible for a ►jockey to follow orders in a race exactly, why should I louse up everything at the last moment for myself by giving detailed orders?" he queried. "Rather, I just tell the jockey how the horse runs best mostly, on the front end or from behind. I also warn him about any bad habits the horse may have, such as being nervous at the gate, lugging in or out, not to be telling him what to do, but just what the jockey might anticipate. But that is all. The jockey knows it is his own race — that he is on his own and is expected to use his own judgment at all times. Such tactics free a rider from pressure and allows him to ride his best as the race appears to him. When a boy rides a horse back for me, I dont bother to tell him anything, figuring, and correctly, that the boy knows the horse. My only exception to this is when a long period of time, say, a few weeks or a month, has elapsed between rides, and then I only go over the ground as a reminder. "As most every Western turf fan knows, Ive had awfully good success with Willie Shoemaker. Willies phenomenal success as a rider is due, I believe, to two things: his head and his hands. He is an exceptional judge of pace and can wait with a horse as few other riders can. Hes always got something left for that time in the race, wherever it may be, when he asks the horse to go his utmost for the money. "Shoemakers hand are something special. He can keep horses straight and from lugging without resort to real pressure like sawing away at his head. He doesnt try to force the horse, but rather coaxes him. Shoemaker has been marvelous with some of my horses. Take Apple Valley, who won the 00,000 Maturity for me. For most boys Apple Valley was a problem bearing in and out, just heavy headed. Shoe had no trouble getting him to run straight just by using his hands as a guide without any pressure whatsoever. I dont know how he does it, either, but he does. To Be Continued. Note: At the end of Chapter IV, part of the-last two paragraphs was omitted. They are printed herewith in their entirety: A speedy cut, we might explain, is a flaw in motion which sees the hind hoofs graze the front legs at the exact moment of stride when often four, and quite generally at least three, feet either are on or just a fraction of a second off the ground. A scalping is just the reverse, i. e., when, at this moment of gaining momentum, the front hoofs scrape the hind legs. "Changing the shoes to aid a horse in getting the proper balance in stride and motion is the only cure," added McDaniel, "and while this is often a delicate process, a good blacksmith usualy has the answer with a little experimenting."

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