05/29/2002 12:00AM

Bounces don't adhere to strict rules


COLUMBIA, Md. - Some of these horses bounced. Some of these horses didn't.

Knowwhentofoldthem is a most obvious case. He ran a huge Beyer Figure of 88 at Delaware May 5 after a 5 1/2-month layoff, far and away his lifetime best. He came back three weeks later and, although he had a tough trip and ran gamely, he could only manage a Beyer of 74. A clear bounce.

Tenpins ran a huge Beyer of 113 after a four-month layoff in a Keeneland allowance. In his next start, he had a tough trip and ran only a 104 in the Schaefer on Preakness Day. But he won anyway. The old "bounce and win."

In New York, Drawing Away moved up from 75 to 77 to 87 to 91, the last a strong effort for a new lifetime best. Then he bounced down to an 84, finishing second, only two lengths back in a Belmont allowance May 19.

Kentucky J B at Pimlico had run 59-72-84. He bounced down to a 72 next time out. So, we need to know not just whether a horse will bounce, but how badly. Otherwise we can't decide if we should still use the horse or throw him out completely.

Personable Pete ran a tough, all-out effort to earn a 103 Beyer at Aqueduct - a clear new lifetime best. He came back only 17 days later, stretched out from seven furlongs to 1 1/16 miles and finished a close second. He ran a 104. He forgot to bounce.

At Delaware, True Passion moved up from 39-81-89, running a big race with a tough, dueling, draining trip - and a new lifetime best. In his next race he was the lone speed. Would he bounce under those optimal circumstances? He romped wire to wire, winning by 11 3/4 lengths and earning a huge 106 Beyer.

At Suffolk, Tracethecall had earned Beyers of 48-49-77 - a big jump up to a lifetime best in an all-out effort. Nine days later he returned. Did he bounce? He won by 14 3/4 lengths, earning an 81. He went off at odds of 6-1 as the top figure. Quite clearly, they don't all bounce - even when they return to the races with very little rest.

Quite Revealing jumped up from a 50 to a 74 at Delaware Park, But he had run in the 80's in the past, so he might still have room to move ahead. Instead, he bounced down to a 58.

On His Terms jumped up from 67-66 to an 83 when he was lone speed at Pimlico. Then he bounced badly to a 60.

So, what's more important? The size of the gap between the previous two races, or the size of the previous figure? Or both?

Or was it the trip that mattered most? Stormy Pleasure jumped up to a Beyer of 92 when he was the lone speed in a Calder optional claimer May 4. Then he bounced to a 70.

At Delaware, Rosecat was similar, bouncing from a perfect-trip 82 to a 63, while Gypsy Coyote fell from 69 to 24. As did Darn That Cat, from 51 to 44 at Philadelphia. Does it even make sense to call these bounces?

Rock Queen, a New York-bred filly, ran 62-69-78, with a tough trip. She bounced to a 66. Carly Pooh, an $8,500 claiming mare at Delaware, ran 36-47-77. Three weeks later she could manage only a Beyer of 51.

Brightest Star, a very low-level claimer at Delaware, improved from 19 to 23 to 46. Eleven days later he bounced down to a 28.

So, are fillies and mares more likely to bounce than colts and geldings? How about cheaper horses? Younger horses? Older horses?

But then there was the 3-year-old filly Joanie Jo at Belmont Park. She ran 39-64-77. Then she improved again with a 79 in her next start.

Or perhaps we shouldn't examine the problem in terms of categories, classes, or genders. Perhaps it's more a function of each horse's individual physical makeup. Some can stand up to big efforts. Others can't. Some can repeat big efforts if they have some time between races. Others don't need much time. Others might need months.

My Cousin Matt ran two big efforts on the turf at Aqueduct to pair up Beyers of 87 and 90 - both lifetime bests. He then bounced to a 74 at Belmont on May 25. Wildmaninflight ran 40-49-60-60 at Calder for a lifetime best. Then he finished fourth, but he still earned a 59. Are horses most likely to bounce after this so-called "double-top"? Are grass horses less likely to bounce?

This certainly does not pretend to be a scientific survey. But even this brief, highly selective look makes one thing very clear: Along with every other handicapping approach, bounce "theory" is a lot more complicated than we would like.

So we desperately need a big book on all this. It could be called "Regression: Theory and Practice." Or, "How High Will Your Horse Bounce?"

But I'm not optimistic. I'm afraid it would take a handicapping Einstein to make any sense out of it all.