Spiral Should Not Be a Derby Points Race

Street Sense

Street Sense won the 2007 Kentucky Derby after finishing second over a synthetic surface in the Blue Grass Stakes.

The synthetic era is all but dead, so explain to me why we still have synthetic races being deemed as Kentucky Derby point races?

The El Camino Derby and Spiral Stakes are both point races, despite the fact that they are run over synthetic surfaces and the Kentucky Derby is run over good, old fashioned dirt.

It just doesn’t make any sense!

What makes even less sense is to essentially make one of them, the Spiral Stakes, a win-and-you’re-in for the Kentucky Derby. Yes, the Spiral Stakes awards 50 points to the winner, which virtually guarantees the winner a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, barring unforeseen injuries.

This type of thing wouldn’t be that bad if synthetic form consistently translated into good dirt form, but that hasn’t been the case.

Even when tracks like Keeneland and Santa Anita ran their main track races as synthetic races, the form of those horses never carried over to dirt.

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom captured the roses in 2011 despite never having raced on dirt previously.

Sidney’s Candy dominated Rebel Stakes winner, Lookin at Lucky, in the Santa Anita Derby, which was run over Pro-Ride, instead of conventional dirt. He ran 17th in the Kentucky Derby.

Stately Victor won the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland when it was run over Polytrack, only to come back and finish eighth in the Kentucky Derby. The connections decided to bring him back for a second attempt at dirt in the Belmont Stakes, but he again finished a dismal seventh place.

Dominican, who defeated Street Sense over Polytrack in the Blue Grass Stakes, faded to 11th in the Kentucky Derby. Street Sense, on the other hand, came back to win the Kentucky Derby, in his return to conventional dirt.

As you can see, there has been little success in the Kentucky Derby by horses who run primarily on synthetic tracks. Only one horse, Animal Kingdom, has managed to win the Kentucky Derby after winning its final prep over a synthetic surface. And no other horse has won the Kentucky Derby without any prior dirt experience.

Knowing this, why are we giving an automatic breath into America’s most prestigious dirt race to horses with no prior dirt experience? Why are we giving them an automatic spot in the gate over horses who are consistent graded stakes dirt performers?

The latest example of this lunacy is allowing this year’s Spiral Stakes winner, Oscar Nomination, into the gate. He has no prior dirt experience, and is currently keeping Outwork (second in the Tampa Bay Derby) out of the gate.

Again, I ask, how does this make any sense?

Should we be giving preference to synthetic races, over proven, stakes class, dirt performers?

I say no.

What say you?

What Say You

(Photo via www.reengageconsulting.com)

Laura Pugh
Laura Pugh has been in love with horses since age five, when she took her first ride as a birthday gift. When she was nine years old she began to take riding lessons as a hunter/jumper. Her first introduction to racing was watching War Emblem’s Triple Crown attempt and, from there, she was hooked. Her knowledge of the sport was self-learned, as she took to reading every book on the topic that she could lay hands on.

In 2009 she began her own blog named Horsin’ Around, where she earned a reputation for her passionate and fiery articles. It was that recognition that soon landed her a position as author of Dead Heat Debates, one of Horse Racing Nation’s many blogs. Since then she has written for other publications such as TwinSpires.com and Lady and the Track, always demonstrating the same fiery passion that her followers have come to expect.