Factors to Consider When a Race Comes Off the Turf

Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing

Turf races are usually a demanding test for handicappers. They can offer full fields, and variables such as tight turns, a leisurely pace, and a horse’s ability to handle grass as opposed to dirt to complicate the quest for picking a winner.

Beyond all that, turf races can also be turned topsy-turvy when dark clouds appear and rain turns sod into bog.

A switch from the turf course to a muddy main track is a surefire way to change the dynamics of a race, and sometimes, unlike lightning, certain horses can strike twice on a wet track.

That lesson was illustrated during the closing weekend at Saratoga Race Course.

Earlier in the meet, on July 27, rain forced track officials to move a $40,000 claiming race from the turf course to the main track. That was a welcomed switch for Unbridledadventure, who was coming off fifth- and third-place finishes on the turf course.

Back on the main track, where she had notched a 13 ½-length victory for her lone career win, Unbridledadventure relished the wet track and rolled to a 3 3/4-length win at 9-2 odds.

Unbridledadventure then returned to the races on Sept. 3 in a $32,000 claimer on the turf, and once again storm clouds followed her. Prolonged rain on a chilly day at the Spa forced the race to be moved to the main track, which was rated sloppy.

Scratches reduced the field to five and Unbridledadventure was impossible to ignore. Of those five starters, Unbridledadventure was the only one with a victory on a wet track. Moreover, she notched that win at Saratoga. Mud can vary from track to track due to the composition of the surface, and an ability to splash to victory at Belmont does not guarantee that the same horse will thrive in a sea of goo at the Spa.

But on this occasion, there was no mixing of apples and oranges. Unbridledadventure had proven she could handle mud at Saratoga and was facing similar competition. There was every reason to believe she could make it two wins in a row.

The price was also fair, even though she was the favorite.

Despite having the conditions in her favor, Unbridledadventure was sent off at 8-5 odds, an inviting price considering the edge she held over her rivals.

It wasn’t as easy as it seemed, as Unbridledadventure had to fend off a determined stretch bid from Feed Me Carats to prevail by a nose.

The payoff was $5.20 for a $2 win bet, hardly a king’s ransom, but enough to get across the point that even though a race is washed off the turf course there can still be reliable form that can serve as your umbrella on a rainy day.

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