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Letters to the Editor
Blue Grass result a legitimate ending despite race's pace
Andrew Beyer sounded cranky in his April 18 column, "Surface made for a mad dash." You can't really blame him. Making speed figures for Keeneland's Polytrack has to be maddening.
It may be that this track defies conventional figure-making and requires an approach similar to Timeform's. That being the case, it seems to have frustrated and clouded Mr. Beyer's vision. If he can't numerically rate horses' efforts by the method and on the scale he is used to using, then the effort has no meaning or legitimacy to him.
Come on. Which running of the Blue Grass was more legitimate, 2006 or 2007? This year's renewal was won by a horse-for-synthetic-course, Dominican. Street Sense put in a competitive effort in his final Derby prep over a track not his favorite. Zanjero continued a pattern of improvement. Teuflesberg got the easy, lone lead he requires and ran as well as he can. And Great Hunter confirmed the suspicion of some that he is just not quite of this crop's top echelon.
I expect these observations to be confirmed in the Kentucky Derby by a top effort from Street Sense, a credible showing by Zanjero, and regression from Dominican.
It was last year that the Blue Grass was an illegitimate race. Then a classless speedball, Sinister Minister, earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 116, a figure he never approached before or since, while trouncing a far superior animal in Bluegrass Cat.
Beyer was right that this Blue Grass settled nothing definitively. No one race ever does. But I think subsequent results will show it to be part of a coherent narrative rather than an aberration. And as for Keeneland's quirkiness even among synthetic surfaces, that seems right. Keeneland was always quirky. Wasn't one of the knocks against Polytrack that it was going to homogenize racing and therefore dull the handicapping experience? Guess we don't have to worry about that.
Kyle Newcomb - Delmar, N.Y.
Bias reversal made stakes a laugher
Before the installation of Polytrack, Keeneland had the most unfairly biased racecourse in the country. The pronounced speed bias often made Keeneland's prestigious Kentucky Derby prep race, the Blue Grass Stakes, a joke.
After installation of Polytrack at Keeneland, the racecourse remains the most unfairly biased track in the country. The pronounced early-speed-killing bias again has made the Blue Grass a joke. Next year they should renew it on the turf course.
Everyone in racing supports safe surfaces for horse and rider to compete over, but is Keeneland's racecourse the best we can do?
Bill Boney - Northfield, N.J.
Artificial surfaces may turn out to be boon
In the first meet at Keeneland featuring a Polytrack racing surface, gamblers could count the number of front-end winners on one hand. While perhaps the track is playing a little friendlier to speed this second meet - think Silent Name's win in the Commonwealth last weekend - it seems that horses coming off the pace have a distinct advantage on the surface. A better example may be the Blue Grass, where the pace was excruciatingly slow and still the front-runner, Teuflesberg, could not hang on.
In California, all major tracks are committed to install artificial racing surfaces this year. California tracks have always been known for speed, nowhere more so than at my home track, Golden Gate Fields. While I am unsure how Tapeta Footing will play there, it seems likely the track will no longer cater to horses who break first and set the fractions. In some ways this is a loss, as it really changes the nature of our game.
Still, looking down the road, I see the artificial surfaces as having positive implications. Rather than breeding for precocious speed in yearlings who can rip off sub-12-second one-furlong moves, breeders may have to go a different route. Horses who can stay on and finish may become increasingly sought-after. Horses with turf pedigrees will also be increasingly valued, as they will be able to race on the grass and on the various artificial surfaces without losing their competitive edge. International horses, who often focus on turf, will be better able to compete in some of North America's richest races.
In the last few years around Derby time, there has been a lot of hand-wringing that speed sires were starting to produce classic winners and that the breed had become too skewed in search of speed. Who would have guessed that artificial racing surfaces could lead the way in potentially putting the class back in the breed and opening up the playing field to horses of all continents?
Eric Singer - San Francisco
Stakes committee fails a test
Here's a headline for you: "NTRA folds; Graded Stakes Committee now racing's ruling body."
The business of our sport continues to be a big joke. The Breeders' Cup adds another day and three new races that the whole world will be watching, and the geniuses on the American Graded Stakes Committee have unanimously refused them Grade 1 status, standing on some archaic policy ("New races denied grade," April 20).
Abraham Lincoln once said, "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew."
Thoroughbred racing needs all the help and all the stars it can get. We should encourage competition among the best horses in the world and reward them with black type and big purse money as often as possible.
It is high time we think and act anew, realizing the planet is now a very small place and everything that happens in the United States is no longer the greatest in the world. The Dubai Racing Carnival is head and head with the Breeders' Cup, race for race, and if Sheik Mohammed desires, he can offer purses the BC could only dream about.
How can the National Thoroughbred Racing Association allow the Graded Stakes Committee to be a buzz-kill to one of American racing's biggest days? I thought it was the "league office" of Thoroughbred racing.
Lincoln also said, "I never had a policy. I have just tried to do my very best each and every day." The Graded Stakes Committee should ignore its policy and do what is best for racing, while the NTRA should do its best to see the new Breeders' Cup races get the Grade 1 status they deserve.
Jude Feld - Lexington, Ky.