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Aug 20, 2010

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

Ding dong the witch is dead, the wicked witch is dead! Well at least in California and at least for now. The synthetic surface that was forced upon all the tracks in California by the California Horse Racing Board has not worked out by a longshot. Santa Anita had to cancel racing many times because of the Pro-Ride track not draining properly. Frank Stronach, the chairman of Santa Anita announced this week that Santa Anita would be replacing its Pro-Ride surface and going back to conventional dirt before the winter meeting starts on December 26th.

            This is a huge announcement and one that has been a long time coming. Since the move to synthetics in California, there has been mixed reactions from trainers, jockeys and bettors alike. Some trainers like the surface and feel like it is easier on the horse while others feel like the horses are more prone to other injuries such as soft tissue and the like. The jockeys had to deal with the kickback from these tracks and the riding style had to change as the pace was usually much slower and generally favored horses coming from off the pace. The bettors also had to make a huge adjustment. Can these horses run over a synthetic track, if the horse is a speed horse, will the surface work against him today; all the years of work put into those tracks had to start over again.

            Another factor that the synthetic track caused was that when horses in from California were preparing for the Triple Crown they would try to get a race over conventional dirt to see what they had on that surface before moving on to the Triple Crown races. Now with conventional dirt back in the fold horses that wanted to winter out west or horses already stabled there will not have that problem.

            Although the Santa Anita meeting was supposed to start on December 26th, the Oak Tree Racing Association usually conducts their meeting at Santa Anita race course. However, with this new development The California Horse Racing Board denied a request from the Oak Tree Racing Association to conduct an autumn meeting at Santa Anita after representatives of the Thoroughbred Owners of California and California Thoroughbred Trainers told the racing board that their organizations wanted the meeting moved to Hollywood Park because of concerns about the safety of the Santa Anita Pro-Ride synthetic track. This now means that Oak Tree will have to find a different venue to run their meeting and Hollywood Park is the probable choice. This will give plenty of time for Santa Anita to make the switch to the dirt and should have many racing fans in Southern California and around the country very excited for the upcoming meeting. Now if we could only have Keeneland go back to conventional dirt everything will be alright with the racing world, well at least for a few moments.  

            Believe it or not but Saratoga is coming up on its highlight of the meeting when they run the “Midsummer Derby”, the Travers Stakes on August 28th. The race for three year olds at 1 and ¼ miles carries a purse of $1,000,000 dollars. Although the top three year old in the country, LOOKIN AT LUCKY will not be racing because of a slight setback after his win in the Haskell Stakes there are some very talented three year olds heading into the race and those that have the potential to improve. A LITTLE WARM will be back after a solid win earlier in the meeting in the Jim Dandy Stakes. He has a solid lifetime record and has the look of one of those three year olds ready to challenge the tops in the division. ADMIRAL ALEX who has one career start back on July 31st, the same day of the Jim Dandy is also expected to take a chance at the Travers. Obviously with only one start under his belt he gives up much seasoning but he does have talent and must be respected at what should nice price. Others that are exiting the Jim Dandy Stakes that must be given a look are AFLEET EXPRESS who was sent off at 5-2 in the race but finished a fast closing third after having some trouble early racing down inside. He should move forward and will be one to reckon with for trainer Jimmy Jerkens. Others that may also show up are FLY DOWN, ICE BOX and MINER’S RESERVE from the Nick Zito barn, FRIEND OR FOE, the New York bred who ran well for fourth in the Jim Dandy; possibly the Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver. It should be a very competitive race and maybe one or two of these three year olds will emerge with an eye on the head of the division.

            On Saturday August 21st there will be an East vs. West showdown in the Alabama Stakes which is a Grade I race with a $500,000 purse run over 1 and ¼ miles. The best three year old filly in the east DEVIL MAY CARE will be facing off with the best three year old filly that is stabled out west, BLIND LUCK. It should be a very good race and another that should go a long way to deciding year end honors, will we take a look at the results of that race in this spot next week.  


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