04/08/2007 11:00PM

Placing fit horses in right spots produces good results


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Some horsemen and racing observers think that horses with turf experience make effective Polytrack horses. Others favor having a horse that can quicken and finish fast on a synthetic surface such as Polytrack.

Trainer Paul McGee said he believes success in races over Polytrack boils down to simpler reasons. Just like in dirt and turf racing, it is about having the right horse for the right race, and having the horse in top condition, he said.

McGee, 44, knows from experience, having recently won the training title at the winter-spring meet at Turfway Park, which along with Keeneland and Woodbine has conducted racing in North America over Polytrack. He finished the Turfway meet, which began Jan.o1 and concluded April 5, with a record of 17 wins, 9 seconds, and 7 thirds from 57 starters. McGee had nearly 30 percent winners and almost 58 percent of his starters hit the board. A $2 win wager on each of his 57 starters would have returned an average of $2.55.

"I don't find myself training them any different" for a race on Polytrack, McGee said. "To me, they're sitting on a big race or they're not. Getting them there happy and sound is the thing."

Also important is catching some breaks along the way. This winter, he said, he was fortunate to have a number of quality runners set to compete in maiden special weight races, races that regularly attract enough horses to be carded by the racing office. So he was able to run a number of these horses, and when they got in, they fit against the competition.

"Trainers are at the mercy of the condition book," McGee said. "It's not like we call the racing secretary and get just what we want. We're served up what we're served up."

As those that have followed McGee's career know, he typically wins wherever he races his horses. He is regularly among the leading trainers at Churchill Downs, and he had a good meet at Fair Grounds over the winter. Seven of his 40 starters won there, and another 11 ran second.

He credits his staff for the stable's winter achievements, noting the hard work of assistants Randy Martin and Galen Pruitt overseeing strings of horses at Fair Grounds and Turfway.

Although McGee does not have a big-name stakes horse in the barn - his graded-stakes-winning horse Suave was retired to stud last year - he has a number of young, up-and-coming runners.

Asked to name some of his top runners, he mentioned Cobrador, Demarcation, Dubious Miss, Five Star Dawn, Don'tgetmadgeteven, Elitist, and Idoitmyway.

Of those, Dubious Miss might be one in particular that deserves consideration at the betting windows when he races next. McGee said the colt was sick the day after running ninth in the March 24 Rushaway Stakes at Turfway. "He's telling me why he threw the clunker," McGee said.

Demarcation, who is expected to race in a first-level allowance at Keeneland this month, should also fare well. After running second in his debut when racing in the slop at Fair Grounds, he came back there in February to record a maiden win, defeating next-out winners Tenkiller Lake and Mountain Rivera.

As in years past, McGee will split his stable between Kentucky and Illinois following the conclusion of the Keeneland meet later this month. He said he would have 32 horses at his primary base at Churchill Downs, with half that number in Chicago at Arlington Park, which is introducing a Polytrack surface this year.