Champion Gio Ponti is an example of a horse who excelled on both grass and synthetic surfaces. (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)
Predicting how a horse will fare in its turf debut can be akin to walking through a minefield. Sometimes, though, there are loud hints from an unexpected source that should not be ignored.
Take Coffee Clique. She made her turf debut in a Feb. 2 race at Gulfstream Park in an allowance affair filled with opponents who had experience on grass.
Yet a look at Coffee Clique’s past performances indicated she would be competitive in her turf debut. Her last race (Jan. 1) on dirt was a 14-length loss. Prior to that, though, came a one-length victory on the synthetic Polytrack surface at Woodbine in a career debut.
Those two vastly different performances showed a preference for a synthetic surface, which often equates to a fondness for turf.
In Coffee Clique’s case, her winning form on Polytrack translated into a 1 ¾-length victory on turf and a nice $18 payoff.
The lesson: Dirt, turf and synthetics are considered different surfaces, but if there’s a correlation between two of them it would be turf and synthetics. Using that rule of thumb can often predict how a successful turf runner might fare on synthetics and how a solid synthetics runner might handle turf.
RACING 101: TRACK SURFACES