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Glory Days

Posted by Brian Mulligan on 12/1/2010 4:15:32 PM

Santa Anita will revert back to a conventional dirt surface at the end of this month and here’s hoping it brings back the glory days to racing in Southern California.

Scheduled to open for training next Monday, the rush to judgment that the powers that be wielded to push the synthetic tracks was a complete sham.

I have a friend in Vegas that has been a professional gambler for over 30 years and I remember conversing with him about the ramifications of going synthetic that none of the officials mentioned.

Basically, the synthetic took away the ability of a good horse to become great and turned a great horse into just a runner that completed in Graded stakes instead of winning them in bunches.

The synthetic experiment, if left to play out in the long run, would have also changed the California breeding industry upside down.

Speed has been the way of the world out West forever, but the synthetic surfaces promote going slow early and quickening late, much like the Europeans.

This helped turf horses often and fooled with the true form.

The new surface with be 90% sand, using two types and 10% clay.

The inherent problem with the synthetic surface is that although it might, and that’s a bit might, be better for runners as far as catastrophic injuries are concerned, other injuries, some just as damaging affect the horse.

The process could be told as the selling of the synthetics and it was prompted by a horrible rash of injuries at one particular Del Mar meeting and the loss of several days of racing at Santa Anita because of torrential rains.

Face it, horses have been running on natural surfaces since the beginning of the species and like it or not, horses will break down whether they run on dirt, or cushioned pillows.

There has been a component for the return to dirt in California for a long time. His name is horseplayer Andy Asaro. He asked the California Horse Racing Board to look into Dr. Rich Arthur, a proponent for the fake stuff and see if he had any interest other than altruistic in pushing the synthetic.

Everybody and their brother knows that when using statistics, people can come up with basically whatever answer they want by certain criteria.

It was found that Arthur, whose findings were looked on as gospel in some circles, has some chinks in the armor.

Non-other than cagey trainer and lawyer Darrell Vienna get into the fray. In response, Vienna, a VP of a California Thoroughbred Training group, shed light on the real numbers.

Arthur used fatality figures of horses from Los Alamitos, basically a quarter-horse emporium in Orange County among his study and note that 50 of the 77 fatalities reported on during one of Arthur’s reports, happened at Los Al.

That is obviously a huge portion of an equation and would tamper with any conclusion.

So what happens now as far as the bettor?

Don’t be shocked if once again you will see more truly run races and more consistency of form. If there is tons of pace in a race, the pace will likely fold and if a front-runner gets a lonely lead, he’ll probably go on more often than not.

One of the happiest guys on the backstretch these days has to be Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, a true Glory Days warrior.

He’s been telling anybody within earshot that the synthetic hurts a runner behind and promotes deep tissue injuries.

The So Cal bettor could do much worse and project Baffert to have a huge winter once they open up the pearly Anita gates the day after Christmas.



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