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Shocking Developments at Keeneland!!!

The race wasn't even over for five minutes before TVG commentators started talking about the "shocking" results of the Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland on Saturday. Shocking because favorite Pyro was no factor and finished a distant tenth in the race. But was this a "shocking" result?

Even after several years of tracks running races over synthetic surfaces it's still amazing to hear commentators talk about Polytrack, Cushion Track, or whatever type of plastic track horses are running over, as if it is the same as dirt. This seems, to me at least, to be utter non-sense.

This year's Blue Grass came down to a duel between a proven turf horse and a horse that had his best career race over the Hollywood Park Cushion Track...and everybody was SHOCKED!!! Why? We've seen turf horses succeed over the Poly many times in the past, just as we've seen proven dirt horses struggle over the surface. The pre-race favorites: Pyro, Cool Coal Man, and Visionaire, all finished poorly and all were attempting the plastic stuff for the first time. The Blue Grass was ripe for a "chaotic" result, which is pretty much what we got.

Prior to the race I thought Cowboy Cal was a solid play given his turf form and his price. Too bad for me that I didn't come to a similar conclusion about Monba.

As for Pyro, whether he's a Polytrack horse or not, his performance in the Blue Grass is certainly a disappointment and will probably translate to higher odds on him in Louisville. If you're a Pyro fan, and you believe that the surface was the problem and not the horse, then it's not necessarily a horrible outcome. However, there is a question of how much did he get out of that effort considering he didn't show much of anything during the final third of the race. 

At some point, commentators might eventually realize that synthetic surfaces are a third surface, and not "Dirt v. 2.0". If Pyro, Visionaire, and Cool Coal Man had all been entered in a turf race on Saturday and they had all performed in the way that they did in the Blue Grass, the mantra would have been that they obviously didn't care to run on the grass. When turf horses are entered in dirt races and flop they are usually returned to the grass. Why should we analyze the results of dirt-to-synthetic, or turf-to-synthetic any differently? Synthetic tracks aren't dirt and they never will be.

UPDATED

Steve Crist posted an entry on his blog over at DRF.com on yesterday's Blue Grass which started out with the revelation that in the thirteen Grade 1 races run over Polytrack in the last three years, no favorite has ever finished first. In fact, the favorites finish worse than fifth about half the time.

What does that informatin mean? Does it mean that Polytrack racing is horrible and ruining racing? Or does it indicate that horseplayers have not yet properly adapted to the surface? How many of these beaten favorites were running on Poly for the first time and how many of the winners had shown previous synthetic or turf form? It seems that would be an important fact to look at.