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The Grass is Greener

"The Grass is Greener at Colonial" - Amy Kearns proclaimed this morning on a Racingwithbruno staff conference call.


We discussed the start of Colonial Downs and Saratoga opening day on Thursday, July 11.


Colonial Downs and Saratoga are a bit different, both the turf and the main are equally as strong at Saratoga where at Colonail Downs it favors turf racing and the one big difference is where the horses come from.


Let's take Colonial Downs, other than Kentucky Downs is one of the most diverse set of entries in year round racing.


For example, opening day at Colonial, the 4th and 5th races, after 3 long distance marathons to kick off the meet, horses are shipping from their training track and own stalls located in Turfway Park (TP) Keeneland (KEE), Gulfstream (GP), Churchill Trackside Training center (CDT), Triple Diamonds Farm (Tdd), Ocala Horse Farm Complex(OHC), Middleburg Training, VA. (MBT), Delaware, Oakridge Training Center (OEC), Walnut Farm in VA., (WLN), Laurel, (LRL), and Fair Hill (Fair,Tr), Charles Town (CT) and Mountaineer (MNR).


In the 4th and 5th race on Thursday, 14 of 17 horses entered come from different training centers.


At Saratoga, you also have your shippers and over the years they have been proven profitable. You have three tracks at Saratoga, the main, (SAR) the Oklahoma main track, (SAR.TR) and the Oklahoma Turf course, (SAR.TURF).


Saratoga has a clocker-ant hill on the grounds, they ride in packs, it is not uncommon to see 4 clockers crammed in a golf cart going from the Oklahoma and the main, also not uncommon that there's a convoy, yup, 10-4 good buddy, as the caravan moves back and forth between the two tracks.


I preferred walking myself, but I understand, in jest, being shoulder to shoulder with a clocker buddy is the closest thing to Clockback Mountain.


Before I am asked, there are NO turf course works on the main tracks turf courses, those are only used for racing.


Also, just looking at times and comparing between the Main and the Oklahoma is a fatal mistake most handicappers make, the main is typically faster, and the gate works are somewhat doctored, and usually a second faster than given.


The main track gate works are timed officially by waiting to the 3/4 pole, almost 3/4 of a furlong run from the start and then 13 seconds added. I don't know any horse who goes 13 flat for opening 1/8 and see the winners circle consistently. The clockers take that second for their own use.


We opted to wait to the 6.5, little black and white pole, after a 5 second head start, much like the 6f chute at Churchill, before we start timing. We get a clean time and gallop out.


Thus, if a horse works officially in 48.4, it, most likely for us, was a 47.4 or faster. Also, the workout rankings are manipulated to hide bullet works. I PAY ZERO ATTENTION TO BULLET WORKS AT SARATOGA.


On the Oklahoma, the gate works are timed from the moment the gate opens, there is relatively no run up, maybe a stride, so its more common for a 25 opening 1/4 being fast or quick, and the tight turns of the Okahoma main favors the inside horse, I always make a note to favor an outside horse if they are heads up, and especially lean torwards an outside horses, 2 - 3 wide going into those tight turns.


The Oklahoma turf also has its challenges and even seasoned clockers make their share of mistakes. The horses can work as much as 90 feet off the inside, and supposedly there is an adjustment made for those works, but it does not takes account the distance traveled accurately, meanwhile when the better horses are allowed to work inside of the dogs near the inside rail, the times are much faster, the workout rankings aren't reset per around dogs or inside dogs, so the workout rankings are skewed and unusable.


Also, the turf course at Oklahoma is an odd distance, from the wire to the 6f pole is not a furlong


The yellow and red pole is not a furlong from the finish line, to clock there you would create an incorrent time, approximately a last furlong in 9 seconds and change.


This happens more than you would think when it gets busy.


The true pole for a furlong past the wire is the little yellow pole past the red and yellow standard pole. Also notice how far the horses in this case are off the inside outside the cones or dogs.



Turf works are not about speed and time, they are about footing, getting a young maiden accustomed to their feet being on the grass, familiarity with the feeling is paramount.


At other tracks first time starters who have NOT set foot on the grass in training since they were on a field as a yearling are at a disadvantage, turf breeding or not, when they first race on the grass. It does take some some strides to get a feel, but with turf works they can be much more comfortable and familiar when they get to the races.


That's why turf courses for works like on the Oklahoma at Saratoga, Fair Hill in Maryland, Payson Park and Palm Meadows in South Florida are so popular.


There is so much more than just looking at works and ratings, its about a feel for who works on the grass, or main track, and how they approach at getting horses ready at these big summer meets.


We know the characters but also we need good information and a thorough understanding of how the 'Sausage is made', to some its inside baseball, for others its way the grass is greener during the summer.

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