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The Great Race Place became the third and final major track on the Southern California circuit to switch to a synthetic surface when Oak Tree opened its fall meet on Wednesday. After three days, here are my early impressions: the strip obviously plays much faster than Del Mar’s Polytrack (what track doesn’t?); the track has played very fair, with the winners coming from everywhere; and, in appearance and profile, Santa Anita’s Cushion seems to be almost identical to its counterpart at Hollywood Park. Perhaps a bit quicker, but similarly fair to all types of runners.

Regarding fast times: Santa Anita has always been the fastest of the three SoCal tracks, so I have no problem with a quick main track, as long as it is safe for the horses. The trainers and jockeys have been almost unanimously positive in their comments about the surface, and large field sizes are testament that horses have stayed sounder throughout the year while able to recover quicker and run back more often. Sorry, but I just haven’t found any downside to the new synethic era.

NOTES: On Wednesday, Corey Nakatani again showed why he’s the best turf rider in the room with his rail-skimming victory aboard DANCING EDIE, while CLINET steadied repeatedly behind horses down the lane…JOHNNY EVES sizzled in 1:08.05 when chased home by talented runner-up STREET BOSS. On Thursday, MODEL split horses to gamely win her second straight while acting like a filly that is going to keep improving with experience and distance. On Friday, COCO BELLE got back on the winning track with a fast win going 6 1/2 furlongs…another good effort by runner-up GOTHIC BEAUTY, who chased the top one all the way home.

Get ready for a Sensory Overload Saturday, with excellent races from all over the country.

To View Free Samples of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday Premium Plays, click on the links below: Premium Plays for Sept. 26Â Â Â Premium Plays for Sept. 27Â Â Â Premium Plays for Sept. 28

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