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|What is campaigning?
|Campaigning is a term often used to summarize the process of training a horse and guiding it through its racing career. Although campaigning is often misunderstood and overcomplicated, it is actually very simple! In short, if you are caring for your horse each month and entering it into the best fitting race available, when appropriate, you are campaigning correctly! There's nothing mysterious about it, although this page will offer a few tips and tricks to help you up your racing game.
|Two Year Olds
Before we get too far into things, it's important to note that campaigning may look slightly different for horses of different ages. Two year old horses are the most noticeably different, as they're all making a fresh start and will have much more limited race offerings throughout the year.
However you choose to prepare your young horses, there are a couple rules of thumb to remember:
Peak is a critical component in determining how successful a young horse will be. Horses who peak slowly are usually not good candidates to race (competitively) at a young age.
Maturity is important if you want to avoid injury. Breeding for better Development will ensure your horses are ready to race safely.
Speed-dominant (or versatile distance horses) make better two year old prospects as they will have more races available, including series races for all breeds.
Intermediate distance and Stamina-dominant can skip the early sprinter series races and aim for Gold Cups and World Championship Festival, or International Stock Horse Championships (depending on breed), but preparing can be a little trickier.
If your juvenile is peaked, mature, and speed-dominant it's probably a good candidate for campaigning through juvenile series races. If it's peaked and mature but not speed-dominant, either train it for sprint distances or aim for the end-of-year series races that run on longer distances!
A step-by-step guide to training and campaigning young Thoroughbreds can be found here. If you have other breeds, there's still some information you might find helpful.
|Three Year Olds
Three year old horses also usually have limited racing options. Typically, they can either enter 3yo+ races with older horses or they can prepare and enter series races for their age group.
Since they are usually entering fields with aged horses, it is advised you do not race unmaxed three year olds unless preparing for Trinities or another series race. Outside of campaigning for series races, your horse will benefit more from spending extra Energy on training, maxing out their stats (and Courage/Consistency) faster so that they are better-prepared to race once they turn 4.
Three year old series prospects still need to meet the same basic criteria as two year olds, though Stamina-dominant horses are more desirable series candidates for Thoroughbred and Goldblood at this age due to Trinities.
As a 3yo, Potential and Consistency/Courage matter more than they do for 2yos, although 3yos do not by any means need to be maxed in any of those things to be successful. Also, as a general rule, 3yos who participated in juvenile races perform better than those that didn’t race as a 2yo due to some Experience carrying over from the juvenile races and the fact that their highest juvenile PR will boost their PRs in 3yo series races. Horses who didn’t race as a 2yo can still be competitive in their 3yo year, but it’s recommended to start preparing them in races as a 2yo if at all possible. None of these factors are deal-breakers -- a horse can still do well even if they are lacking in an area!
|Choosing the 'Best' Race
If you're thinking about campaigning your horse, you've probably set your sights on either a series race or Year End Awards - perhaps both! In either situation, you want to enter your horse in the best races possible. The best race for a horse is the one in which it will score the highest Performance Rating (PR).
When deciding which race to enter, you should keep in mind all of the factors that help a horse's PR. Look for races that meet any or all of the following criteria:
• Stellar race
• Favorite distance
• Home track
• Largest field
• Rainy weather (if your horse likes mud)
You should also avoid races where your horse may suffer significant penalties to their PR:
• Rainy weather (if your horse dislikes mud)
• Open sex (if your filly has low Filly Power)
• Out of region (especially if your horse dislikes travel)
On top of the above factors, you'll also want to enter your horse when they are at their best so they are prepared to run the highest PR they can. There are a few traits you should keep an eye on:
Assuming your horses are ready to race and you focus on picking the best races available, you should be well on your way to prepping your horse to achieve your goals!
|Favorite Distance vs. Familiar Track
Entering a Stellar race, when available, seems like a no-brainer. But you'll often find yourself forced to pick between favorite distance and familiar tracks...and this is where things fall into a grey area. Which is better? There's not a single correct answer, but there are some ways to make an educated decision.
First, check your horse's distance aptitude genes. If they have Excellent or Outstanding for both Speed and Stamina, they are most likely not as picky about distance. Although they will still run better at favorite distance, their PR will not drop as much if they enter 1-2 furlongs (100-200 yards) away from it. If your horse is intermediate (favors neither speed or stamina), favorite distance becomes very important and should almost always be prioritized.
Second, check your horse's Intelligence. If they have Excellent or Outstanding Intelligence, they most likely travel easier than horses with lower Intelligence. This means they won't suffer as badly when racing at unfamiliar tracks, even outside of their home region. On the flip side, horses with a bad Travel gene will have a lower PR when racing away from home (especially if they don't have some level of familiarity at the track they do race on) and they will also lose more Energy and Rest.
You should also keep an eye on your horse's track familiarity table. Although they have a primary track set, they may actually have high familiarity with other tracks, broadening your options for entering. They may also have low familiarity at all tracks, including their primary track, in which case it won't make much difference to their PR either way. That said, a horse’s Travel gene does have some bearing in this (as mentioned above), so in cases where all tracks have low familiarity, Travel is something to keep in mind.
If your horse falls somewhere in the middle for both distance aptitude and Intelligence, you may have to try both options to see which works best for your horse. If all else fails, look for Stellar races (when appropriate) or try to enter favorite distance as much as possible.
Rest is absolutely critical if you want your horses to run high PRs and see success in series races. If your horse is G1 level, it's advised you only enter them when they have a blue Rest star - perhaps yellow in a pinch. Entering with Rest below those levels will usually result in substantial declines in PR, which isn't helping your horse get anywhere.
During racing season, you should plan on resting your horse for the entire month before series races as well as any time their Rest declines significantly. In a 'rest month' you should typically Pamper your horse and then, if Rest is still low, perform a buddy workout if you believe it will benefit your horse to do so (consider how long ago their last buddy work was as receiving a "Lackluster" penalty will lower Rest). Another option to improve rest if desired is Gleam. Each of these improves Rest and will help your horse recover faster (in addition to the improvement just from taking time off). In some cases, you may find that Pampering alone is enough to bring yellow Rest back to blue - at which point you might choose to enter a race.
During off season, your horse is likely already taking a break and will regain some Rest simply because they aren't racing outside of certain Series races. Instead of racing, you can use this time to perform some beneficial training. For 2 and 3 year olds, performing Track or Trail Ride will increase Maturity and Peak and will lower Risk. There is also a chance they may gain Longevity. For 4 year olds and older, Track or Trail Rides may boost Prime or improve Courage and Consistency. In addition, Track Rides will improve Experience and Trail rides will improve Rest, so they can be useful for those reasons alone. You can also add in a buddy workout to your horse’s routine to improve Rest and help maintain a little Experience.
That said, if your goal is to improve Prime, instead of doing Buddy Workouts you might instead want to focus on Track or Trail Rides, both of which have better chances to improve Prime than Buddy Workouts. Trail Ride is the most likely to improve Prime, though if your horse needs Experience more than Rest, Track Rides are the next best option.