You’ve spent time and energy handicapping a race, you wait anxiously to see your choice set foot on the racetrack, whether in person or on television. To your dismay, and/or puzzlement, you notice the horse you wagered on, sports bandages on his front legs. Does this mean you immediately change your pick? Does it mean proceed with caution? Or does it mean nothing at all? One thing is certain: front bandages on thoroughbreds indicates that something might be amiss.
It’s not a great problem if you’re looking at rundown bandages. Rundowns are often used on the rear legs of sensitive Thoroughbreds on deep sandy tracks. The surface can irritate the fetlock, the joint that connects the long cannon bone to the shorter, sloped pastern that leads into the hoof. The abrasion that results is called “running down,” hence the name of the bandage. Rundowns, which consist of normal elastic bandaging tape covering a protective pad, with an additional stick-on pad sometimes added as a top layer, are so commonly used on hind legs that you’ll see races in which every horse has rear rundowns.
Much less common, are front rundowns. It’s rare for a horse to run down in front and it’s not ideal for a horse to need rundown bandages, since completely free motion in the fetlock enhances a horses performance. But the Vet-Rap tape that’s used is light and flexible and has negligible effect on the horse’s stride if it’s properly applied. Front rundowns may only indicate sensitive skin or some kind of minor sore on the fetlock, not necessarily unsoundness. This is a “proceed with caution situation,” if indeed the problem is a horse’s tendency to run down in front.
There are trainers who use front racing bandages as a precaution on a fully sound, well-conformed horse, but most trainers prefer the freedom and flexibility of an unfettered leg. Front wraps are rarely used unless there is a problem (or a belief that there might be a problem) with two exceptions: a trainer might bandage a sound horse to prevent him from being claimed or to increase his odds. A horse appearing in front bandages may be perfectly healthy, he may be unsound but fast enough to win anyway, or he may be too unsound to compete.
The bottom line on front bandages is this: they may or may not indicate a problem with potential lameness but they usually indicate that somebody is worried about it. Plenty of horses win with them, but as a casual racegoer or bettor you don’t know what’s going on in the trainer’s mind, making a front-bandaged horse a doubtful bet unless everything else seems correct.
The Daily Racing Blog hopes you found this information interesting as well as educational- at least from a wagering standpoint.