Oh yeah, about those speed horses at Del Mar

So much for that blog on Wednesday morning, the one talking about how speed no longer was a bad five-letter word at Del Mar. Whereas playing speed horses the first two years of the track’s new Polytrack synthetic surface would have led bettors to the poor house, the first week of the 2009 meet was kind to frontrunners. Sort of like the good old days when handicapping was an art rather than a guessing game.

Well, guess what? I’m not saying it’s time to get out the darts, but so far this week, heading into today’s 10-race card, speed is no longer a handicapper’s friend, at least in sprint races. Yes, two horses went gate-to-wire to win mile races on Wednesday and Friday this week, but after frontrunners won eight of the first 25 sprint races ranging from 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 furlongs during the first five days of the meet, only one has gone gate-to-wire in the past 13 sprints — Towser in Thursday’s finale.

And, after 12 of the 25 sprint winners were no worse than second after the first quarter mile, Towser was the only winner who didn’t come from third or farther back after the first two furlongs.

So what’s up with the change? Did they do something to the track, add more water, after the rash of fatalities these first two weeks? I mean, last Sunday a horse player could bet frontrunning speed in Del Mar sprints with confidence. Now, heading into today’s card, it’s no longer so safe.

Watch Magic Yodeler in today’s third race — a maiden special weight for 2-year-old fillies at 5 1/2 furlongs. Unless one of the first-time starters turns out to be a speed ball, Magic Yodeler should be in front and prove tough to catch. We’ll see if this sudden change in the way the track is playing continues, or if it’s just a three-day aberration.

8 thoughts on “Oh yeah, about those speed horses at Del Mar

  1. That’s it Art. You would think they would repeat the same routine everday to keep it fair but that would be too much to ask. Horseplayers can live with biases made by nature but not biases made by man. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on the surface they go out the next day and dig it up, or throw more or less water on it! Enough already!

  2. You can’t fool mother nature.

    Meddling or experimenting with the track surface in the name of safety has not been productive for anyone except those who jump for joy when carryovers are achieved. Ask Seabiscuit or Secretariat about that.

    After the installation of synthetics there is no proof that career ending injuries or fatalities have been reduced as a total.

    When results are altered due to changing track conditions,it proves nothing as a sport,detracts from the handicapping process,effects all races, not just the pick-6 sequence,robs the loyal handicapping fan base ,rewards the non fan base lurkers who use deep pockets to spread their selections with numbers, not skill.

    Of course, those you hear cheering for a carryover are those who benefit from it, not those regular fans who have contributed to it. Thats OK isn’t it? The loyal fans keep coming,err–,not so much.

    Someone has to win. Management does not care who wins,but they do cheer for carryovers.

    But wait,– You have been entertained! In New York OTB’s I am told that signs say they are there for entertainment.It seems fashionable in Ca. to explain about the fact they are in the entertainment business.

    But wait, Thats what wrestling did and look at their success!

    I do not bet on wrestling,do you? I can buy lottery tickets without parking and admission charges.

    Consistency is a golden word for racing,and we do not have it.

    How about new leadership?

  3. You’re right, but nine out of 10 times, a proponent of the synthetics will point out they have cut down on fatalities. But as I keep asking, where are the numbers to back it up? If they are comparing everything to the 2006 Del Mar meet, which was atrocious in regards to breakdowns, then yeah, fatalities are down. But let’s see some overall numbers from across the country. I mean, are fatalities down compared to solid dirt tracks like Belmont Park? Churchill Downs? How about Gulfstream? If they want to sell me on these tracks, they gotta start showing me some hard facts, don’t keep spewing out the original selling points that have already proven to be false.

  4. Uh guys, they do have track maintenance reports everyday from Del Mar. Go to the changes link on the Del Mar web page and in the upper right hand corner of the scratches you’ll see a “track maintenance routine link” which will tell you what has been done to the track. Most of the Socal tracks have this. As far as new leadership goes, yes, we do need that!

  5. ING,

    Thanks for the reminder about the posting of maintenance reports.

    It was started posting many years ago by Santa Anita first in a conference between then track Super Roy Nelson,then Pres. Cliff Goodrich and a fan with the handle of rwwupl. Soon all the tracks took up on it.

    Last year, in a Bloodhorse interview,Joe Harper was requested to post at Del Mar on the maint. report every time the water truck is sent out and he agreed,and has done so since. The question/request was asked by a fan by the handle of rwwupl.

    The problem is deeper than just knowing about the maint. report and reading it.

    Pete Pedersen,the great retired Santa Anita Steward,always said the first thing he learned as a Steward was the impact on the results of the track condition.

    The synthetics are more volitile and react to heat and cold more severly than dirt. There are limits as to what can be explained. For example the bias can not always be predicted from the report. Did they work the inside heavier than the outside? What will the afternoon temperature be etc.? They will not tell you the problem area they worked on to straighten it out, unless you call the Track Super and then get a morning workout analysis.

    Predicting the track condition is an art when you have a dirt surface.

    Predictions for a synthetic surface of how it will play is an art form yet to be developed.

    It is more difficult the more it is tinkered with and experimented with even for the best of motives.


  6. rwwupl,

    It looks to a bit complicated to figure out but I’m trying this year to keep records for next season, especially at Del Mar. Great info to have!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>