Searching for Turf Paradise


Photo courtesy of Coglinese Photos.

Trying to predict how a horse will handle a switch to turf can be a tricky endeavor.

Some horses seem perfect for it while others give it a whirl out of desperation after a series of flops on dirt.

In deciding what to do with a horse trying something like turf for the first time - like it does in most aspects of handicapping - value plays the most important role in deciding whether it’s smart or folly to back a horse facing a new challenge.

Poor Etiquette, who debuted on turf in the second race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 18, fit the profile of a horse worth the gamble in her turf debut.

Even though she had never raced or worked on turf, her trainer, Martin Wolfson, had previously entered her in a turf race on Dec. 1, only it have washed off and shifted to the sloppy main track.

Poor Etiquette was fourth that day, the only race in her last five starts in which she finished worse than third.

Considering how she was in good form and had been entered in a turf race before, the switch to the sod seemed reasonable.

But was the risk worth the reward? Given all of the doubt woven into a horse’s first turf race, taking similar or lower odds is more often than not the kind of wager that should be greeted with a thanks, but no thanks.

In her six career starts, Poor Etiquette had never gone off at odds higher than 6-1. In five of them, she was 3-1 or less. Here, however, she was sent off at 8-1.

Had she been 3-1 then the uncertainty over her abilities on turf would have made a wager too risky.

But at 8-1 odds, the highest odds of her career, the price seemed quite fair for a risky wager.

Having the rail in a mile-long-race, with a short run to the first of two turns, also bode well for her chances of saving ground and working out a good trip.

If all of that sounded promising and you bought into the notion that there was some value in backing Poor Etiquette, you could have won enough money to buy a shelf full of Miss Manners’ books. The grass was surely greener for her as she displayed a strong late kick and won by a neck, paying $18.

The lesson:  Considering the risks involved in backing a first-time turfer, getting the proper amount of value at the betting window makes the wager more attractive.


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