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Polytrack & Horses for Courses - Part II

Arlington Park Communications | 06/06/2008 #

We have a consensus that the Horses for Courses phenomenon applies to artificial surfaces, Polytrack included.

To rephrase TGH4559, “Polytrack is a unique surface. There doesn’t appear to be any dependable correlation between ability on dirt or turf to that on an artificial surface. Therefore, you need to consider the horse’s previous efforts on Polytrack when handicapping a Polytrack race.”

As summarized by eaoa89, “The first key is to accept that this is now a three-surface sport (dirt, turf, and artificial) and trying to use form from one to predict the outcome on another leads to losing tickets.”

One can even break down those three categories into sub sets: dirt can be divided into the various classifications of fast, good, sloppy, muddy. Turf can be broken out into hard, firm, yielding, soft. Artificial can be separated into Polytrack, Cushion Track, Tapeta.

John Drake is particularly delimited in his approach: “When it comes to AP Poly, I only use AP Poly (races) to rate the horse. It is AP’s Poly and there is no other like it.”

Jockey James Graham said much the same when interviewed after a stakes win weekend before last. “Polytrack is Polytrack. Horses either like it or they don’t.”

The phenomenon should be illustrated with examples to prove the point. If you were at the races last weekend, you no doubt saw these instances.

In the 11th race last Saturday (5/31/08) Discoverer was entered. His past performances (PP’s) revealed that on April 18 Discoverer registered a 45 McMannis Speed Figure (MSF) in a sprint over Hawthorne’s traditional surface. On May 15 Discoverer returned in an Arlington Polytrack sprint, at the same class level, and registered an MSF of 54, a nine-length improvement. It was Discoverer’s first time on an artificial surface.

For those of you who use the Daily Racing Form (Beyer) speed figures, or the speed figures found in the Arlington track program, similar significant improvement was evident with the shift from a traditional to the Polytrack surface.

The same will not hold true for all horses. In the first race last Saturday Wrong Soup was entered. Her PP’s showed that, on March 30, Wrong Soup ran a MSF of 50 with an inside trip in a Hawthorne dirt sprint. On May 15, in an Arlington sprint, on Polytrack for the first time, she ran an MSF of 49 after being a little wide on the turn. The performances are interchangeable. That is, Wrong Soup demonstrated essentially the same talent in essentially the same circumstances, the only difference being the racing surfaces.

The conclusion is, we need to see a race on an artificial surface to get some idea of how a horse will perform on it. Ideally, we want to use a horse’s most recent race at the same or a similar distance over the Arlington Polytrack.

Some of the horses we will be handicapping in the next few days will have such a race for us to use for our handicapping purposes. However, we are still early in this meet which means we are still seeing a number of horses making their first start of the meet. The recommendation from TGH4559 is:“If a horse has no current Polytrack figures, I will use a figure from last year’s AP meet.This is much more effective than using a current dirt figure.”

Should we reach back that far??? I will offer advice in my next post on how to do that more effectively, but first I want to collect your ideas.

NOTE to cubswincubswin: What do you mean, ‘good to see you’ve joined the on-line generation’? I was communicating with the offices of The Racing Times in 1990 (when you were playing T-ball), using PROCOMM; that’s pre-email. The Smithsonian wants me to donate my old Commodore 64. I’m holding on to my old IBM 360, though. They might come back. I’ve got a Honeywell and a Singer around here someplace, too. (Bet you don’t.)

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