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All Surfaces Are NOT Equal

Any handicapper with half a brain knows that turf form and dirt form are two entirely different animals (pardon the pun).  Occasionally you’ll find a horse that possesses equal ability on both surfaces, but it’s rare.  Much more common is a horse who is significantly stronger on one surface than the other, yet recently with the introduction of synthetic surfaces, some people seem to be condemning poor efforts on synthetics with the absurd notion that “a good horse can run on anything.”  Clearly Cigar wasn’t a good horse!  This is purely nonsense of course but I see it over and over – particularly in reference to last year’s Breeders’ Cup where virtually every “main track” race was won by a horse with turf or previous synthetic experience.  With the Breeders’ Cup back at Santa Anita again, I’m sure we’ll be hearing more of the same.  It’s even been used against Rachel Alexandra as though she’s “ducking” Zenyatta – despite the fact that such a race would have absolutely no relevance to her dirt ability.

For anyone who still wants to press the case that “a good horse can run on anything,” the defense offers up Exhibits A, B, C, & D in the form of Fatal Bullet.

In 10 career starts on synthetics Fatal Bullet has a record of 8 wins and 2 seconds.   One of those losses was a second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita.    In his last 5 synthetic starts Fatal Bullet has run Beyers of 109-107-108-100-107.

In 2 career starts on dirt Fatal Bullet is 0 for 2 – having finished 6th and 8th, beaten a combined 34 3/4 lengths.  In those 2 starts he ran Beyer figures of 65 and 71 which would make him overmatched in many low level claiming races.


Last time out Fatal Bullet ran dead last in the Alfred G Vanderbilt at Saratoga beaten nearly 18 lengths running a Beyer figure of 65 without encountering any major trouble.  Entered back today in the Phoenix at Keeneland it figured to make for a excellent test.  Surely a horse coming off a 65 BSF would have a tough time beating veteran G3 sprinters who routinely run 100+ unless that performance was a total fluke.  Well…he did bounce back – beating Capt. Candyman Can (BSF’s of 103-105 in his 2 prior starts) by 1/2 length and likely reverting right back to that 105-110 BSF range.

Is it possible that a horse as consistent as Fatal Bullet happened to run 15 to 20 lengths slower in both of his dirt starts by pure random chance?  Well if you believe that then I very much look forward to seeing you on line next to me at the betting windows! 🙂

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Posted in Breeders' Cup, General Racing Discussion, Handicapping.

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