OK, so I am detecting a pattern here — West Coast thoroughbred, successful on synthetic race tracks, travels east to run on dirt and thrives when it gets off the artificial surfaces.
Case in point No. 1 is the 3-year-old colt Lookin At Lucky, who won the Del Mar Futurity, Norfolk Stakes and CashCall Futurity over synthetics as a 2-year-old en route to an Eclipse Award as top male Juvenile yet didn’t really have a chance to show his true talent because he likes dirt better.
In his first try on the real stuff, he won the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, followed that up with a sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby in which he was eliminated at the start while breaking from the dreaded rail in a 20-horse field and then took the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course before trainer Bob Baffert decided to freshen the Smart Strike colt for the late summer and fall campaigns.
He made it 3 for 4 on dirt in the Haskell Invitational, turning in probably the top effort of his 11-race career, romping home by four lengths at Monmouth Park while leaving Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, First Dude and Trappe Shot in his wake through the stretch.
Case in point No. 2 is the 3-year-old filly Blind Luck, who is now 4-0 on dirt following a convincing victory over the East Coast darling Devil May Care in last weekend’s Alabama Stakes at Saratoga. Wasn’t even a contest.
Of course, there’s also the unbeaten Zenyatta, who’s managed to compile an 18-0 record despite running 16 of her races over artificial tracks that are far from her preferred surface. She obviously loves dirt more than artificial tracks, having scored her two most powerful victories in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park in 2008 and 2010.
You might want to think twice before diminishing California horses’ success over synthetics. Turns out many of them are even better on dirt and the synthetics have been dulling their brilliance.
Just ask Lookin At Lucky, Blind Luck and Zenyatta.
Better yet, just watch how they run at Churchill Downs at this year’s Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 5 and 6. Belittle their resumes at your own risk.