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Twirling Candy and Switch Close Out 2010 Grade 1 Races

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Back from the holiday weekend with only a week to go in 2010.  Where has the time gone?  

Yesterday's opening day at Santa Anita featured the last two Grade 1 races of 2010 - the Malibu and and the LaBrea - with Twirling Candy and Switch winning each race.  The Grade 2 Sir Beaufort was taken off the turf and won in easy fashion by Sidney's Candy, giving Candy Ride (ARG) two graded stakes winners on the day.  

(It was a pretty good day for jockey Joel Rosario as he rode all three graded winners at Santa Anita yesterday.)

Only one graded stake remains on the 2010 racing calendar - the Grade 2 San Gabriel Handicap this afternoon in Arcadia.   

With their wins in yesterday's races, Sidney's Candy and Twirling Candy became multi-surface graded stakes winners during 2010.  Sidney's Candy won on three different surfaces while Twirling Candy won on two.

Sidney's Candy won the following graded stakes races during 2010:

G2 San Vicente (Synthetic)
G2 San Felipe (Synthetic)
G1 Santa Anita Derby (Synthetic)
G2 La Jolla Hcp. (Turf)
G2 Sir Beaufort (Dirt)

Twirling Candy won the following graded stakes races during 2010:

G2 Del Mar Derby (Turf)
G1 Malibu (Dirt)

Needless to say, if you're heading to any bloodstock sales next spring and you are looking for a horse that has an ability to handle multiple surfaces, you could probably do a lot worse than a son or daughter of Candy Ride (ARG).

In the other Grade 1 race, Switch rolled to victory in the La Brea which made her another multi-surface graded stakes winner in 2010.  Earlier in the year, Switch won the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks on synthetic and she also finished 2nd to Zenyatta in the Lady's Secret...perhaps now we don't have to hear that Zenyatta didn't beat a Grade 1 winner in 2010.  

While I've always been cautious when playing a horse attempting a different surface (especially when we're talking about dirt and synthetics), the whole notion that dirt horses can't win on synthetic (or vice versa) seems a bit of hyperbole when you begin look at the big picture.  In reality, nothing prevents a good dirt or synthetic horse from winning on a different surface; while there are certainly horses that won't make the transfer there appears to be plenty that hold their form just fine.

Below is a list of horses that won graded stakes races on multiple surfaces during 2010:

Amen Hallelujah (Dirt and Synthetic)
Blind Luck (Dirt and Synthetic)
Comma to the Top (Turf and Synthetic)
Conveyance (Dirt and Synthetic)
Dakota Phone (Dirt and Synthetic)
Dubai Majesty (Dirt and Synthetic)
Eldaafer (Dirt and Synthetic)
Evening Jewel (Turf and Synthetic)
Franny Freud (Dirt and Synthetic)
Mambo Meister (Dirt and Turf)
Mona De Momma (Dirt and Synthetic)
Prince Will I Am (Dirt and Turf)
Sidney's Candy (Dirt, Turf and Synthetic)
Switch (Dirt and Synthetic)
Twirling Candy (Dirt and Turf)
Zenyatta (Dirt and Synthetic)

The list above doesn't include horses like Lookin At Lucky, a colt that has won a graded stakes race over multiple surfaces but did it in 2009 and 2010, not just in 2010.

Something that stands out to me from that above list is that most of the multiple winners in 2010 occurred on "dirt and synthetic" and not "turf and synthetic".  A popular belief among players (and it's a belief I've held the last few years) is that turf horses tend to transfer their form better to synthetic than dirt horses.  Looking at the above list it appears that relationship may not be a strong as previous believed.  

A couple things could be at play here.  We could just be looking at a one year fluke due to a small sample size since we're talking about a dozen multi-surface winners over the course of the year.  Or, the relationship between turf and synthetic form may not be as strong when specifically looking at graded stakes races as opposed to the thousands of non-stakes races throughout the year.  Or perhaps trainers have become better at identifying which horses will be able to handle a the change from dirt to synthetic (or the other way around).

Personally, I'm starting to believe that trainers are becoming more adept at identifying which horses can make the transition to and from synthetic tracks.  Just as some trainers are excellent at going between dirt and turf, it stands to reason that some will be better at moving between dirt and synthetics.  

Regardless of what the exact reasons are, during 2010 the overwhelming majority of horses that won a graded stakes race on multiple surfaces did so on dirt and synthetic.