10/07/2009 1:01PM

The Road to Pro-Ride


Forty --Forty Days of Saratoga next year? Just saw the NYRA announcement that Saratoga will add four days of racing to the meet starting next year, with an additional Friday-through-Monday -- a seventh weekend -- tacked on to the beginning of the schedule and the Coaching Club American Oaks moved from closing weekend at Belmont to the new opening weekend at Saratoga.

What do you think (asked a man looking for weekend-column fodder) ? More of a good thing or are we in danger of further diluting what was once a 24-day meeting that now expands from 36 to 40 days of racing?

--We're all going to spend much of the next month debating which horses will or won't thrive over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita Nov. 6 and 7, so I thought it might be useful to look at where last year's starters made their final starts before Cup Day and how they fared. It's a pretty small sample -- one year, eight races, 86 starters -- but here's a little map of where the starters in last year's main-track Breeders' Cup races made their previous start before racing on Pro-Ride at Santa Anita:

Here's another iteration of the same chart, this time combining OSA with the other synthetic tracks to give a broader synth vs. dirt vs. turf picture:

Either way, it's pretty clear that synth and grass preps proved most successful, accounting for all eight winners and six of the eight exactas, while horses coming off dirt races were 0 for 22. On the other hand, a prep over Pro-Ride itself (4 for 24) was a stronger angle than a prep over other synth surfaces (2 for 26), and there was not really that much difference between a prep on Keeneland Polytrack (8: 0-2-0) vs. one on Belmont dirt (14: 0-2-3).

And if you take the goofy Marathon out of the equation, horses coming straight from a race over Del Mar's Polytrack were only 8: 1-0-0, with that one winner being Midnight Lute -- who ran the worst race of his life on Del Mar poly in his lone prep last year.