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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Keenland A Truer Polytest

- Mike Watchmaker points out that the results of last Saturday's Kentucky Cup races at Turfway were not the kind that gives him confidence that Polytrack races are reliable indicators of form when it comes to Breeders Cup preps (though apparently the winners were not all a surprise to the Form's Dan Illman). The winners went off at 15-1, 25-1, 12-1, 17-1, and 12-1!

This is not meant as a knock on Turfway Park. Heck, Polytrack is a perfect fit for a track like that, which races under harsh winter conditions. But when it comes to a surface on which to prep for a major race on a conventional dirt track, it has yet to be proven if Polytrack is a viable way to go. Of course, the level of horse that will compete in the BC preps at Keeneland on that track's new synthetic surface will be higher than seen at Turfway on Saturday. But until a majority of tracks that host important BC prep races adopt a Polytrack-like surface, or until a Breeders' Cup actually takes place at a track with such a surface, it will be natural to doubt BC preps run over artificial surfaces. [Daily Racing Form, sub. only]
No disagreement there, though I'll emphasize his point that Keeneland will be a far better test, starting with the overflow 14 horse field for the opening day Alcibiades on Friday. Nobody was mistaking any of the Turfway races as significant BC preps with the arguable exception of the Kentucky Cup.

And sometimes you have to question the betting public when seeing such prices. For example, UD Ghetto, the unattractively-named 17-1 winner of the Juvenile, sported the highest Beyer in the field. In the Juvenile Fillies, the 12-1 winner Cohiba Miss was one of just two runners in the race who had won around two turns; and the fans instead bet a filly coming off a win against NY-bred maidens, and Kauai Calls, an expensive filly who looked most ordinary to anyone who saw her two wins at Saratoga.

But on the other hand, Ball Four is clearly a horse who prefers this surface, and the other winners were not as easily explained. So, all eyes will be on Keeneland starting Friday, when we'll see for the first time how form holds up for some serious racehorses in some serious races. But even if the results are still dubious, I think we have to keep in mind that the artificial surfaces are likely to become the norm rather than the exception; and that any growing pains involved are for the long-term benefit of the horses, and by extension, everyone else involved in the game.

1 Comment:

dave said...

Well, with such a small sample size, it's hard to really pick out any trends anyway.

It's quite likely that the BC will be held on some sort of "all weather track" at some point -- most likely, whenever it's held in California next. it's only booked through 2007, so 2008 could be the earliest. that'll be quite interesting, to say the least.