Clocker says Del Mar track's 'safe'

Aug 4, 2009 5:09 PM
Golden Edge by Ed Golden |

Turrell: Poly’s ‘fair’ despite breakdowns

No one is more disappointed than Toby Turrell that Rachel Alexandra won’t run in the Breeders’ Cup this year.

The world-class clocker and sometime horse owner is chagrined for more than one reason. As a fan, the California native who has published the nation’s most profitable tip sheet–The Winners Card–for 25 years, would love to see Rachel Alexandra take on the undefeated mare Zenyatta at Santa Anita on Nov. 6 and 7, or anywhere else, for that matter.

But as a horseman, Turrell will forever have to live with haunting thoughts of what might have been. Rachel Alexandra, a cinch for Horse of the Year at this writing and unbeaten in seven starts as a 3-year-old, including a victory against colts in the Preakness Stakes on May 16 and a smashing six-length score over males in Sunday’s Grade I Haskell Invitational, caught Turrell’s omniscient eye as a 2-year-old after she broke her maiden at Churchill Downs last June 13. So much so that he tried unsuccessfully to form a group to buy her several days after her maiden triumph.

That was almost a year before Jess Jackson, the Daddy Warbucks of wine moguls, opened his wallet and purchased the bay daughter of promising young sire Medaglia d’Oro.

Still miffed over his two-time Horse of the Year’s fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Santa Anita’s synthetic Pro-Ride track last October, Jackson is firmly on record as saying Rachel Alexandra won’t run on "plastic" surfaces, despite the fact that she won an allowance race by three lengths on Keeneland’s synthetic Polytrack last Oct. 17. Despite her Haskell romp, which amounted to a million dollar workout on Monmouth’s sloppy track, Jackson reaffirmed his stance that Rachel will not run in the Breeders’ Cup.

"I’m very disappointed that she won’t be running," said Turrell, a native of Glendale who will celebrate his 45th birthday this month. "I can state for a fact that I know Rachel Alexandra as well as anyone, since I was the first one to actually try to buy her four days after she broke her maiden. It’s just unfortunate that we weren’t able to formulate plans to buy her.

"I was in Kentucky last June and I spotted her amazing talent before and after the race. She showed an incredible amount of athleticism in addition to her speed. I knew it was a slam-dunk buy. That’s the part that kills me. I was on record about her ability months before Jess Jackson even knew who she was.

"But you know what? I’m not a billionaire. I’m disappointed nonetheless, and I’m a lifetime fan of the filly."

Meanwhile, it’s business as usual for Turrell, diligently clocking horses at Del Mar and contributing to his website, casetherace.com, which provides "the ultimate edge for thoroughbred handicappers nationally."

"Early on, I think Del Mar’s Polytrack has been playing very fair," Turrell said when asked his opinion. "Everybody I’ve talked to says the same thing. You can win from anywhere, and so far, the first week, that’s the way it’s been. I think Polytrack has been extremely safe. When you examine what was involved in each horse that broke down, including Mi Rey on opening day, it’s been due more to unfortunate circumstances than anything else."

Six horses were put down due to major breakdowns through the first week-plus at Del Mar, two in races, three in training and one in a grass race.

"Mi Rey was an 8-year-old coming off a 14-month layoff, running for a $10,000 claiming tag second start back," Turrell pointed out. "His management was under control, but, it’s very obvious he was very compromised at some point in the game. I could go case by case pretty much on each horse that I’ve seen, but in general, 95 percent of the horses are going over the track beautifully.

"They’re showing the right rhythm and the right gait and stride. That goes for the morning workouts as well as when they race in the afternoons. The track is more consistent now in both afternoon, when it’s warmer, and in the morning, when the weather is cooler.

"I think there’s the right mix of speed versus stamina right now. The way the track is playing says it all, to me. The fact that I don’t see any change in it in the morning is kind of proof positive. There is one tiny hitch, and that’s the fact that they do a deep renovation of the track once a week on Tuesdays, which is pretty standard. The following day, it’s more of a tiring surface in the morning. But definitely, the only time it changes in the morning is the day after the renovation."

THE HOMESTRETCH

Sept. 13 is the date that the winning bid for the bankruptcy purchase of Santa Anita will be announced … I caught glimpses of the Venus Williams-Maria Sharapova tennis match last week. There were so many grunts, I thought I was watching the WWF … Obama and my wife have one thing in common: they never say they’re sorry. The only thing my wife admits to is that our marriage has been a teachable 22 years.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Ed Golden