11/29/2001 12:00AM

Don't judge trainers by their stats alone


JAMAICA, N.Y. - Trainer Form has been at the bottom line of the past performances for more than a year, and by now Daily Racing Form readers have grown accustomed to the many statistical categories kept on trainers at all North American tracks.

Up to six of 29 available categories may be displayed, depending on the relevance to today's race. These stats, which cover the current year and the entire previous calendar year, have exploded many myths about trainers' strengths and weaknesses.

Even so, serious students of form realize there is still a need to augment the data with insights gained from practical experience in the real world.

For example, Bill Mott showed low percentages with 2-year-olds around the time Saratoga was getting under way. But those numbers weren't the last word on Mott's prowess with juveniles. They merely reflected the fact that his shed row had for years been stocked with long-winded, late-maturing turf bloodlines from the late Allen Paulson's breeding farm.

With the barn's focus changed this season, Mott became the leading trainer in New York in terms of wins by 2-year-olds. Players who applied some common sense and recognized the early stages of this metamorphosis got on board for some nice winners before John Q. Punter caught on.

Here are two other recent patterns of New York-based trainers that go beyond the numbers, and against the grain of horseplayers' conventional wisdom as well.

Todd Pletcher: When Balto Star comes onto the track at Aqueduct on Saturday for the Queens County Handicap, it would not be prudent to downgrade his chances should he be wearing front bandages for the first time.

Although the addition of front wraps is generally a negative sign, it is completely irrelevant in this specific case. In recent weeks, winner after winner from Pletcher has been equipped with front wraps, including Left Bank in the Vosburgh and the Cigar Mile, Graeme Hall in the Stuyvesant, Smok'n Frolic in the Tempted and Demoiselle, and a host of maiden and allowance winners.

"I put the front bandages on [Smok'n Frolic] because she nicked herself in the Alcibiades," Pletcher explained after she won last Saturday's Demoiselle by open lengths.

"It was just for protection. I'm running every one of my horses today in front bandages. To me, that's the most overrated thing in the world. No trainer is going to bring a horse over here with a broken leg and wrap a bandage around it and think it's okay."

Christophe Clement: Con-ventional wisdom holds that horses who return from layoffs with a strenuous performance are susceptible to a regression, or "bounce," when they race back.

There is no known stat kept on whether a trainer's horses bounce or don't bounce, but recent evidence suggests that Clement-trained runners often don't.

Absaroka had been sidelined since July 2000 when he returned Nov. 4 to win an entry-level turf allowance by a head after a prolonged drive. Instead of backing up off that race, Absaroka actually improved. He stepped up to a second-level allowance condition three weeks later and posted a repeat victory, this time at an $18.40 mutuel.

Similarly, the Clement-trained Revved Up returned from a 10-week freshening to win a second-level turf allowance by three-quarters of a length Nov. 2. Brought back again Wednesday for the second start of his form cycle, he handled the rise to a tougher condition and won again at 3-1.

There are plenty of numerically based assessments that handicappers have to make, and there is an ever-expanding arsenal of statistical information to do it with.

Just be sure to keep the numbers in perspective, because no number denotes the tremendous potential of analytical thought.