Considering the Impact of Track Surface on a Horse's Performance

Gambling
Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing

Change can be a good thing, except in certain horse races where something different can lead to an unexpected result.

For example, take a look at Lenstar in the third race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 5. A 3-year-old gelding trained by Hall of Famer Nick Zito, he was coming off a subpar effort while trying something new.

In three of his first four races, Lenstar showed keen early speed. So much speed, in fact, that in his fourth career start he led by eight lengths after the opening half-mile in a six furlong sprint. Lenstar finished second that day, but what happened next was indeed a change.

In a Jan. 4 race at Gulfstream Park on a sloppy track, Lenstar failed to show his customary early speed. He was fourth in the early going and wound up third, beaten by 15 ¾ lengths in a race in which Malagacy, a first-time starter from trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn, won in a landslide by 15 lengths.

For Lenstar, however, that lopsided loss surely involved change. He ran on a wet track for the first time and didn’t fire.

So in his next start, on Feb. 5, when he once again ran over a fast track, there was sufficient reason to expect an improved performance. And there were a few other reasons to believe that change did not sit too well with Lenstar in his previous start. For starters, he put in two “bullet” works for the race in which he posted the fastest time at that distance. He also added the services of jockey Luis Saez, the leading rider at the meet.

With all of that going for him, the gelding reverted to top form on a dry track. Making full use of his early speed once again, Lenstar grabbed the lead and never looked back, winning by 6 ¼ lengths as the 7-5 co-favorite.

This time, it was a change for the better – or bettor.

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