12/11/2006 12:00AM

Turbulent Thinking, T. H. Approval set to win


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Turbulent Thinking and T. H. Approval, two horses entered in stakes races on Saturday, share little in common. The former is a probable longshot in the My Charmer Stakes at Turfway Park, in part because she is untested over the track's Polytrack surface. Meanwhile, T. H. Approval is a known commodity in the Hollywood Turf Cup, having won the Sunset Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park in July.

There is one similarity, however. They both seem poised to win.

Starting with T. H. Approval, I see him as a standout in the Hollywood Turf Cup. A three-time graded winner this year, he is easily the most accomplished horse in the eight-horse race, which seems soft for a Grade 1 contest.

That will not be a minority opinion. He is hard to miss. But I am hopeful that his form is somewhat tarnished by an eighth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs Nov. 4.

He ran poorly in that race, never mounting a significant challenge when racing in the rear half of the field for much of the race. But the circumstances of the race did not favor him. The race marked the first time in his 27-race career that he left Southern California. Shipping for the first time may have lessened his effectiveness, as might a change in weather and conditions.

For those that have forgotten the weather in Kentucky during Breeders' Cup Week, let me refresh your memory. It was cold and rainy in the middle of the week. The turf course was labeled firm with dry conditions on Breeders' Cup Day, but that was merely a label. There was give in the ground, and those are not the kind of conditions under which T. H. Approval is at this best.

He wants a truly firm turf course, something he should get Saturday at Hollywood Park. The weather forecast calls for partly cloudy conditions in the Southern California area on Friday and Saturday.

Also working in his favor is the presence of Symphony Sid, a headstrong front-runner who typically sets blazing fractions in his races. He should provide a quick pace that should aid a steady-paced closer like T. H. Approval.

I see T. H. Approval running down Symphony Sid and outfinishing Meteor Storm and Cosmonaut, his principal challengers.

Turning to Turbulent Thinking in the My Charmer, she also has things to offer. First, she loves to win. Since being claimed for $18,000 in April, she has won 4 of 6 starts for owner Scarlet Stable and trainer Roger Brueggemann.

Those races have come in what might be perceived as weaker company by some handicappers, but last time, in winning a third-level allowance at Hawthorne on Nov. 26, she easily defeated a stakes-winning opponent in Coolwind, a filly who was also second in the Grade 3 Arlington Breeders' Cup over the summer.

How Turbulent Thinking handles the synthetic Polytrack surface is anyone's guess. But she has already won on both turf and dirt. She does not give the impression of being a filly that is particular about the type of footing on which she races.

What further intrigues me about her is the fact that she does not have a lot of flash that jumps out of her past performances. She is an Illinois-bred, a daughter of relatively unknown sire Classified Facts, and because her recent success has come at Hawthorne and prior to that at Canterbury Park, I think horseplayers might snobbishly look down on her.

I won't. I have found it a mistake to overlook horses that love to win.

Polytrack and pedigree

While on the subject of Polytrack, Tim Holland's analysis of the surface in the pedigree handicapping section of Brisnet's Bloodstock Journal merits examination. Evaluating statistics from nearly 4,000 runners, Holland outlines sire lines that have produced overachievers and underachievers racing over Polytrack - valuable information for handicappers and owners and breeders alike.

I was intrigued to read in his analysis that many of the offspring of unheralded sires Skip Away, Sefapiano, and Count the Time have outperformed the public's betting expectations by running well on the Polytrack. Conversely, runners by such popular commercial sires as Deputy Minister, Unbridled's Song, and Pulpit largely have underachieved.

Holland also examined broodmare sires for Polytrack success, identifying Air Forbes Won, Relaunch, Geiger Counter, Cozzene, and Gone West as overachievers.

I find this information fascinating from a handicapping perspective, and also in terms of how the growth of all-weather surfaces may sway the types of horses people breed and purchase.

Holland's analysis can be read on the Internet for free by accessing the current day's edition of Bloodstock Journal (www.bloodstockjournal.com), then choosing the Dec.2 column under pedigree handicapping.