There are races and there are workouts. The two are usually two distinct entities.
Except when a race turns out to be a workout.
A prime example of that can be found in Wolf Dance. A 4-year-old gelding owned by Stronach Stables, Wolf Dance made his 2017 debut on Feb. 10. It was his first race in four months and only his second start on dirt in nine career starts. He was second in that lone start on dirt.
In the seven other starts, he raced four times on turf, three times on synthetics, and posted his lone win on turf.
In his eight starts in 2015 and 2016, he ran in mix of two-turn allowance races and claimers, none for a claiming tag of less than $40,000.
When you digest all of that background, it would seem that Wolf Dance prefers distance races on turf or synthetics. Yet in the race on Feb. 10, Wolf Dance was entered in a $30,000 claimer at six furlongs on dirt – a race in which neither the distance nor surface seemed to suit him.
As it turned out, Wolf Dance showed little in that sprint as he was never better than seventh and lost by a little more than 13 lengths in a dull effort.
After that, trainer Daniel Vella got serious. He dropped Wolf Dance into a $16,000 claimer on March 3 at Gulfstream Park, but this time it was at a two-turn, 7 ½-furlong distance on turf.
As much as his previous race could have turned off handicappers, when you take the position that it was just an afternoon workout to build up Wolf Dance’s conditioning after a brief layoff, the race took on a different look.
It seemed to make all the sense in the world that Wolf Dance could take a step forward off that race and turn in a better effort as he returned to his preferred surface and distance, a two-turn race on turf.
For handicappers who bought into that notion, the payoff was $9.20 for a $2 win bet when he rallied strongly in the stretch to win by a half-length in a race that – this time – was indeed a race.