Power Cap

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21 April 2009

Are Synthetic Surfaces Weeding Out The Derby Speed?




Many times the Kentucky Derby has been what I call a "chaos race". Start with a large field then add in an abundance of speed horses and need the lead colts with no hope whatsoever and you have something hot and sultry breaking out on the lead. These heated speed duels on the lead neutralize the quality speed horses, and set the race up for deep closers. Monarchos is a great example and well as Giacomo in 2005. This year is setting up to be a walk in the park on the lead. Looking at the top 20 graded earning list it seems the preponderance of synthetic prep races have stopped the cheap speed horses before they crossed the velvet ropes into the entry box. Almost every horse to emerge from the Kentucky or California preps are devoid of speed. Those lucky enough to prep and possess speed have a marked advantage over their synthetic raced competition.

We can bemoan the effect of synthetic surfaces on racing or we can accept it and profit from it. Smart money chooses to accept the present. In past years California and Keeneland produced very fast colts for the derby, this is not the case this year. There is no Sinister Minister or Brancusi to overheat a speed duel. This year the California preps have yielded a graduating class permeated by closers or horses with a turf pedigree.


Pioneer Of The Nile, the leading candidate from California was judged a turf horse by his former conditioner Bill Mott. Mott started this colt on the turf and he had a successful two year old campaign over the weeds. For his three year old campaign he was sent to Baffert specifically to take advantage of the synthetic surface at Santa Anita. Now in the biggest race of the year the Empire Maker colt has to cede all advantage and try something that he was deemed not to be his forte. While he and the dozen or so like him are spinning their wheels on the foreign surface they are going to have to deal with dirt kickback. Add in a tactical disadvantage we have a stacked deck against the synthetic derby prep graduates.

The Derby may have produced a "who's who" of Chefs De Race but this years Kentucky based preps (Lanes End, Bluegrass, Lex) have a produced a "who the heck is that" list of Derby candidates. These races over the polytrack at Turfway and Keeneland have produced confounding longshot victories and every colt considered for the Derby out of these races is devoid of speed. The perfect scenario for a wire to wire victory in the Kentucky derby is building.

The horses that stand to benefit are Quality Road, Papa Clem, Friesian Fire and I Want Revenge. This becomes a case of the rich get richer as all four have class and speed. Now they have a tactical advantage as well. All four horses have shown speed along with a rating gear which should further ice any possible speed duel.
The only need the lead type even being considered is Todd Pletcher's Join In The Dance.

Quality Road who figures to be the speed of the speed may just benefit the most from the likely pace scenario. Quality Road was very impressive winning the Fountain Of Youth. In the FOY Quality Road outlasted three other quality speed sprinters and drew off to win for fun. On paper the FOY was a speed chaos race. Then Quality Road stretched out and turned back the highly touted and heavily bet Dunkirk in the Florida Derby after being passed at the top of the lane, showing class and gameness. All indicaters except that quarter crack are pointing to Quality Road.

2 comments:

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