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Since the advent of synthetic surfaces in Southern California last fall, we have been told about the positive effect they are having on racing, especially for the safety and well-being of the horses. The mantra goes like this: less injuries—particularly catastrophic ones—and quicker recovery time after a race or workout, allow horses to run back quicker, which leads to bigger field sizes. Sounds logical, although many believe that, when comparing casualties and injuries from races and morning workouts from the previous year, there has been no decrease in these numbers. In any case, average field size per race has increased over the past year on this circuit. But a closer inspection of the numbers reminds of me of that saying about “lies, damned lies and statistics”.

Yes, field size has been up. At the recently concluded Oak Tree meet, average field size was 8.9 starters per race. However, through 10 days of the Hollywood Park fall meet, fields are averaging only 8.07 starters per race, down from ’06 numbers. But which kinds of races are attracting the largest field sizes? If you guessed maiden claiming races, you win the prize. At Oak Tree, there were 54 maiden claiming races from 274 total races run at the meet (20%). Field sizes for those 54 races averaged 10.16 per race, more than one runner per race over the meet average. Subtract the maiden claiming totals and Oak Tree averaged only around 8.6 starters per race. At the current HP meet, there have been 19 maiden claimers from 85 races (22%), averaging 9.16 starters per heat. Subtract those from the HP totals and you’re left with a paltry 7.8 starters in the remaining 66 races. It seems that, unfortunately, the maiden claiming race has become the backbone of the Southern Calfornia product. Doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of synthetic surfaces to me.

Odds and Ends: Here’s another concern about the synthetic surfaces. Are they really going to handle water as well as advertised? We have not had a day of significant rain in the year since Cushion Track debuted at HP last fall. In fact, one day early in the Oak Tree meet workouts were cancelled due to problems caused by less than a half-inch of precipitation. Unless the drought is going to last forever, these tracks are going to be put to the test in the very near future…if you watched Thursday’s races live, then went back to watch the replay show, you might have noticed a big difference in the 6th race call. Watching live, you heard the track announcer bungle the call from the 1/2-mile pole to near the finish, calling YOUR QUOTE in front, rather than her stablemate SNEAKY JACK, who was the actual pacesetter and eventual winner. The call sounded perfect on the replay show, however, thanks to an obvious do-over in studio…in promoting last week’s “spotlight” race, TVG’s voice-over guy pronounced the name of the Aqueduct feature as the “Stewie Vasant” (Stuyvesant). Does anyone edit anything before it goes on the air? Trainer Frank Monteleone had two contenders eased up recently with EDEN SIMONE (4-5) in Friday’s 1st and BRIDLED HONEY (3-1) in Sunday’s 1st. Both were ridden by Victor Espinoza, who is mired in a terrible slump to start the meet…hasn’t TRULY A JUDGE done enough? The 9-year-old gelding has made more than $750,000 for his connections but hasn’t been truly competitive in a race for over two years. Is the 12-time winner, including multiple stakes, going to be run right down the claiming ladder now? Looked like old times when P.Val claimed foul in his very first ride back, a ridiculous claim against Corey Nakatani, who was aboard the runner-up. Some things never change.

To View Free Samples of Premium Plays from last week, click on the links below: Nov. 11Â Â Nov. 14Â Â Nov. 15Â Â Nov. 16Â Â Nov. 17Â Â Nov. 18

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