Synthetic horses were 0-10 on the dirt at CD until Race 9 when longshot Dakota Phone broke the skid.
Much like Zenyatta, he had a career mostly on synthetic with just 2 dirt starts.
But unlike the great Z, he got a fast work over the dirt surface this week prior to her start. A 3F move on Wednesday, just 3 days prior to his start in the BC Dirt Mile, which is one of my ‘tricks’ to squeezing out a few extra tenths come raceday, best used by Carl Nafzger with Unbrided:
Another trick is to break away from that stupid TV-friendly post parade and knock off a few 14 sec furlongs. Dangerous Midge did so in the BC Turf, perhaps by accident, and then came home a big longshot winner:
Back to Zenyatta’s heroic effort-
15-20 lengths back at the first turn, Jerry Bailey said it took her several seconds to get used to the track. Why not get her used to the track during a 6F work last week in the morning under the lights?
6F in 1:11 flat put her 10 lengths further back than she had ever been on dirt at OP.
Blame kept in front through the gallop out after the wire, didn’t shy away like females did for the past 2 years when hooked, but then again he ain’t Rinterval.
Commentators act like nothing could be done, she just didn’t like the dirt – well they all ran over the same surface, the difference is that other horses had the experience. She could have had it, but was kept at home instead so as to not interrupt her routine.
This is a game of inches, and you have to do all you can to put those inches in your column. A nice blow out 3 days before is one such edge.
Another edge is familiarizing yourself with a foreign surface, not just one race over dirt in the last 2 years against a field of 6, that isn’t good enough.
I’m not just guessing at this stuff, I collect GPS, heart rate, and blood lactate data on horses during training hours on a variety of surfaces. Through appropriate training on a surface, they can improve by 10% or more. All she needed was another couple of feet and she makes history.
Traditional horsemanship, where you keep your horse psychologically happy instead of physiologically primed, came back to haunt the Sherriffs camp. You simply cannot play that game with the synthetic wrinkle thrown into today’s game. Would you take Goldikova into the BC Classic on dirt after a career on turf, of course not! Not without a prep and a month of training over the surface, that is.
People realize that turf is different from dirt, and would never skip from one to another without much preparation, why treat synthetic differently?
One key principle of exercise physiology is that of Specificity. You get what you train for, in other words. Go back 10 years when all was dirt and this point is moot. But now we have ProRide, Cushion Track, and Polytrack and the rules have changed.
Blame won 3 other big races at CD and had the homecourt advantage, but could still only eek out a victory by a neck. Zenyatta is the better horse in my opinion, but could have been managed a bit better with respect to the surface question.
The streak is over Mr. and Mrs. Moss, give her a break, unretire her again, bring her back in CA next spring, head East for some dirt action against the boys, and win this thing next year by 4 lengths. Please. Then you can have your well deserved Horse of the Year award and go down as one of the best ever, regardless of gender.
Run this race again in a month and Zenyatta finishes on top in her customary style. She earned more respect from me today than she did in those other 19 wins, by far.