- I saw a couple of races from Woodbine tonight, and it was readily apparent that there was much less kickback on the new Polytrack surface then there was at Turfway, where it seemed to become more and more of a concern as the meet went on. At least one horseman there agrees: "It doesn't seem to have anywhere near the kickback that they had at Turfway," said trainer Ian Howard. [Daily Racing Form]
The results seemed fairly typical. Though there was only one winning favorite on the seven race card, four of the other races had winners of 9-2 or less. Two races were won by longshots, and the last race produced a triple of double digit runners that returned over $4,000.
Steve Crist in the Form suggests, as many have done before, that the industry is jumping into the changeover too soon and based on too little evidence. With Keeneland introducing Polytrack this fall, important races including the Blue Grass, a key Kentucky Derby prep, will be run on the synthetic surface next year; Crist wonders what will happen when California is due to host the Breeders Cup. Is the sport ready to have most of its championships decided by a day of synthetic-track racing?
Polytrack is included in at least one of the bids for the New York racing franchise.
One tantalizing tidbit to emerge from the Jockey Club Round Table was the announcement that the New York Racing Association's bid for a renewal of its franchise will include a plan to convert two of its surfaces to synthetic footing. Officials say they are prevented from disclosing bid details, but the two surfaces widely believed to be candidates for such change are not the racing surfaces at Belmont or Saratoga but the training track at Belmont and either the main or inner track at Aqueduct.- I was at the harness track last night and saw a horse in the past performances named Lovely Artist K, who recently went off in a race at odds of 522-1, the biggest win price I've ever seen. Based on the usual total win pool of $2500 - $3000 (no, I didn't leave out any zeros), I'd say that she must have had $5 total wagered on her in the win pool. I wonder what she had in the place and show pool? She didn't even run bad that day, finishing 4th by 5 lengths. Her next race? She won at mere odds of 52-1. Last night she was 12-1, and ran last, so you can expect her to be a good 250-1 or so the next time out.
This seems like a sensible way to proceed. Trainers at Belmont could use either the main dirt track or synthetic training track as they please while learning more about it. Winter racing at Aqueduct might become a lot more interesting - one-turn miles in February! - if a winterproof synthetic main track offered a wider variety of race configurations. Conversely, replacing the existing inner track with a synthetic one would be a modest and controlled experiment. [Daily Racing Form, sub. and print edition only]