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.