- I read the comments by John and Walter regarding increased kickback at Keeneland on Saturday. I'd only been able to watch a couple of yesterday's races live, and that on the live feed from the Keeneland site, whose quality leaves a bit to be desired; so I hadn't noticed. So today I set up side-by-side windows, opened them to Cal Racing and watched two races simultaneously - one from Saturday, and one from last Sunday. And I think there's no question that those observations about there being a cloud of Polydust were right on.
You can see it in the stretch runs, and it's especially apparent in the shot at the finish line when the camera becomes stationary and you see the field crossing the line (with my selection probably trailing the field). So, perhaps the ridicule directed at the Blue Grass has inspired some kind of change (though I recall that last year's wire-to-wire romp by Sinister Minister was similarly dismissed as an aberration due to an unfair playing surface).
It was actually on Wednesday that commenter Brett marveled at there actually being a wire to wire winner. And Steve Klein, writing in the Form, said of Thursday's races:
There was an honest-to-goodness old-school Keeneland early and tactical speed bias in place on Polytrack. Apparently it is possible to enjoy the safety of Polytrack without the bizarre slow pace scenarios we saw during the first half of this race meet.Now, I think that Klein is a bit speed bias-crazy, and that he sometimes can see a bias like Bush sees progress in Iraq. But a look back at Thursday's races shows several front-running and close-to-the-pace winners, including The Cuban Hawk, who went wire-to-wire in a route race after going to the half in an uncontested 47.54 seconds.
Friday's and Saturday's results seem more of a mix of the familiar deep closers with some closer to the pace types. There were four routes other than the Lexington on Saturday, and they seemed to play logically. The first race went to the half in 51.42 and the two front-runners hung on. In the fifth, Great Point dueled for the lead in 48.74, and Barbican, who was a couple lengths back of the pace, was able to barely hold off two closers. The two other routes went to the half in 47 flat, and those were both won by deep closers. So it would appear that there's been some kind of adjustment, if not by the track maintenance crew, then by the riders. But the kickback, which really becomes noticeable on Saturday, would indicate that some kind of change has been made. When asked about it by Klein with respect to Thursday's card, track superintendent Mike Young said: "The cool weather makes it harder, so we might work it up a little more often, but I'm not sure if that has anything to do with it."
We've seen that kickback, and to a much larger degree, at Turfway and Woodbine, where there has been much less complaining in terms of track bias. Perhaps that cloud of dust is a price that must be paid to have the Polytrack play normally.