Poly Versus Dirt

by Ed Meyer

posted on April 16, 2009 in Handicapping | No Comments >>

We live in the age of the “synthetic revolution”, as I refer to the new surfaces. For many players, this has been a wait and see approach. The test is over, and it is time to get into the water.

I began with a little hesitation at first. I really didn’t know what to make of the new surface. I had heard great things such as: it is kinder to runners’ joints, many older runners are able to prolong their careers, and the consistent fact that it will always be fast.

Now, all of these have held true. You still want to watch each track that has a new surface, as they play different. In California, it favors come from behind types. When it rains, it plays sweet to speed runners. Kentucky has many variables. At Turfway Park, the cold is a factor in the winter, and closers rule the roost. They also stay away from the rail as this is a loose part of the track due to morning workouts.

Keeneland plays speed early in the card, and closers late… Go figure.

No matter where I have seen the trend, the fact lives that horses are able to get a tightening needed without the pounding. It usually takes a few works, and a race or two, to get back into the groove after coming off of conventional tracks.

Something I have seen that holds true for all tracks. When a poly runner is heading for the dirt, you will want to make sure they have at least 2-3 works for the better level players. The cheaper runners need at least two races off of the poly to get their game back. They come off of the poly fit and ready, but they need the old fashioned pounding of the dirt surface to toughen them up. Liken this to a boxer needing sparring with another fighter.

So, don’t jump in just yet. The good ones need some works to get back in gear, and the lower level guys are tough when they are two races off of the poly.

Take a look as we get closer to Derby. Quality Road, for instance, needed to have two nice works at least to ready him for the dirt. You will see this in the pp’s, and pay close attention. They need this pounding to get them road ready again.