What to Know About Del Mar's Dirt Surface

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D.S. Williamson

September 19th, 2017

The 2017 Breeders' Cup takes place at Del Mar. Del Mar is affectionately known as "Where the Turf Meets the Surf". In my last blog, I wrote some words about how Del Mar's turf track should play.

This blog is all about the dirt track. Del Mar, like old Hollywood and Santa Anita, appears to favor speed. Will that be the case on Breeders' Cup Day? Check out my analysis of Del Mar's dirt surface.

How Will Closers Fair in Route Races Over Del Mar's Dirt?

I wanted to add the 2017 Pacific Classic to this blog to illustrate a couple of things. Del Mar's dirt track apparently favors speedsters. Collected took charge shortly after they broke from the gates. He ran away from Accelerate before holding off Arrogate.

But, was Collected's win in the P. Classic due to a track bias? Has Collected become that good? Has Arrogate lost a step? These are the questions that must be answered before blindly deciding that Del Mar's dirt favors pressers and front runners in route races.

Accelerate didn't hold on for second. It certainly appeared as if Arrogate kicked it into gear way too late. Collected did get an easy lead.

It's always good practice to only believe in a track bias if we can knock out any other possible explanation. That doesn't mean Del Mar's dirt surface won't show a track bias that favors speed during the Breeders' Cup Festival.

It just means that it's difficult to know, overall, if Del Mar's dirt favors speed in route races.

Does Del Mar's Dirt Favor Front Running Sprinters?

The Bing Crosby became a free for all after Drefong, last year's BC Sprint winner, reared left and threw jockey Mike Smith. Drefong bounced back wiht a fantastic win in the 7-furlong Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga. Saratoga did show somewhat of a speed bias later on during the summer meet. That might be why Drefong looked so good.

Mind Your Biscuits, as an example, had no shot chasing Drefong at The Spa. Would Mind Your Biscuits have gotten closer to Drefong if the Forego had been run ad Del Mar? Maybe. I'm not ready to write that Del Mar's dirt track favors front runners in sprint races.

Sure, in the Bing Crosby Ransom the Moon needed Roy H. to go about 8 wide to win the race. Ransom the Moon wasn't on the lead, though. Neither, really, was Roy H.

Bottom Line:  How to Play Breeders' Cup Dirt Races

Hopefully, Del Mar's dirt racetrack won't show any biases on Nov. 3 or Nov. 4. If no biases show up, and the only bias that could show up is a front-running bias, the 2017 Breeders' Cup should provide the prices that it does every year.

As far as key horses are concerned, trying to beat Drefong seems like a must. I'mnot convinced the Forego was run over a fair racetrack. Both Arrogate and Collected are worth using in the BC Classic. Collected will face other speed in the Classic. He might be good enough to still wire the field. Arrogate should be coming into his best form.

That's what I'm thinking right now, about 6 weeks before the biggest day in American horse racing.