Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cry Me a River

Last year, when I learned Dubai was uprooting it's premiere track, Nad Al Sheba, and "remodeling" it into the dream track of Medayen, I was among those who was not so enthusiastic. Why was I so unenthusiastic by this transformation? Because they took out conventional dirt and replace it with synthetics. You do not simply change what has worked just because you had an impulse. Dubai has been the site of elite racing, the World Cup has drawn the likes of Curlin, Cigar, Roses in May, Silver Charm, Dubai Millennium, Invasor, Electrocutionist, Street Cry, and so many more. It was a showcase for the most talented dirt horses in the world!

Compare the field of the 2010 Dubai world Cup to the previous fields that ran at Nad Al Sheba, and you will find this year's field lacking. The winner Gloria de Campeao, was a good horse, but had no business winning a race as prestigious as the World Cup. In fact in 08' Gloria de Campeao did not even hit the board, beaten over 17 lengths. The next year he was beaten by 14 lengths to Well Armed, who ran third the previous year. Gloria de Campeao is a good horse, but world class, he is not.

Some may say that the reason Nad Al Sheba was replaced with Medayen was because the ruler of Dubai felt that the synthetic surface would make an equal playing ground for both turf and dirt horses alike. I say, if that is true, if he installed the Tapeata in order to draw a field where both turf and dirt specialists could compete on a level playing field, then, why install another turf track? What need would there be for it if the synthetic was to bring the world of turf and dirt together? The answer is that there is no reason. The real reason, in my opinion, the surfaces were switched was to prevent Americans from further dominating on dirt.

Out of the fourteen World Cups run on dirt American bred/owned/trained horses won exactly half of the runnings, and eight American bred horses came out on top, the eighth horse being Electrocutionist. The other half, which would seem to even the score was won by UAE owned horses, however from 2004 to 2009 Americans won four of the runnings, while the UAE recorded only two. It should also be noted that the ruler of Dubai has yet to produce a true UAE winner of the World Cup. By that I mean he has never actually bred a winner himself.

This was the true reason behind the switch in my opinion. The sheik already knew that Americans were not fans of synthetics. He knew that we dominated in dirt, but not on synthetics, and much less on turf, so he picked a surface that he knew would reduce the Americans chances of winning his race. Though his plan seemed to backfire somewhat, when the Godolphin owned Allybar ran second to the Brazil bred and owned Gloria de Campeao. And to make the loss seem to sting a little more, it was by the length of a nose. To bad, so sad for Dubai.

To me, this was a cowardly, envious act that basically admits that the UAE has inferior horses to the USA. The ruler, now cowardly hides behind synthetics, and a fake excuse that synthetic will bring turf and dirt horses equally together. I say, you want to shut America out, fine, let us shut you out by never again sending out most prized dirt or turf horses out to the Mid West. We risk enough, just by trying to make the trip. We risk never seeing the same star we sent out, return to the championship form they once had. Now they go and add synthetics! Personally, I would tell the sheik he can keep his fake surface and monopoly money, I'll earn prestige elsewhere.


  1. Anon,

    Thanks. I was expecting some fight from some posters, and instead I get a compliment. I am "pleasantly" surprised. Now if every poster agreed like you, everything would be "perfect."

  2. Did Norm from the The Knight Sky racing blog ghost write this post? He hates synthetic tracks.

    You're assigning a much, much more cynical reason for Sheik Mo's decision to go with Tapeta over dirt than I had considered. As far as I can tell, Tapeta is a better synthetic concoction than Pro-ride, Cushion Track or Polytrack. Dickinson developed it over years of training his own thoroughbreds before perfecting it and taking it to market. So while it's not out of the question the Sheik might have ulterior motives as you stated, perhaps he just wanted the safest surface for his stable of multi-million dollar horses.

  3. The last paragraph is a little harsh but all in all youre right. The Dubai World Cup is a great spectacle and their choice to switch to synthetics didn't please me and I'm a UK based bettor. This isnt like Santa Anita where America can't handle the UK taking over for two days at the Breeders Cup....why change to a synthetic surface at Meydan when dirt was perfect for Dubai previously.

  4. I agree, watching the Dubai World Cup yesterday was just like watching a turf race. Now, I like turf racing, but only when it's on the green stuff. Why would you send a top dirt horse to run on that?

  5. I agree, watching the Dubai World Cup yesterday was just like watching a turf race. Now, I like turf racing, but only when it's on the green stuff. Why would you send a top dirt horse to run on that?

  6. Steve, he could have wanted that, but something tells me a shiek who refuses to prep his horses for the Derby on dirt in America, when he know that is what is best for his multi million dollar babies, is not as concerned with welfare as he is with winning. Tapeata is probably my second favorite synthetic surface, but there was absolutely no need to install it. I don't always pay attention to Dubai racing, but when was the last time one of his stars was fatally injured when the track was Nad Al Sheba? I remember Electrocutionist died, but of a sudden heart attack and Dubai Millennium died in retirement. Invasor was injured, but in training, but not over Nad Al Sheba. If we are talking about the fact that Vineyard Haven and Midshipman did not perform well when in Dubai, that could easily be due to his stubborness to train them in Dubai instead of keeping them here in America. The man is full of pride, that is evident by his stubborness in refusing to prep a horse in his country for the Derby, when his record is similar to Pletcher's in the race. He buys horses, send them to the UAE to never be seen again, and if he doesn't he keeps them here, races them until they are three then retires them, ala Bernardini.

  7. It makes perfect sense for Meydan Racecourse to have a synthetic surface. A high percentage of the horses that run there are from countries with turf as their primary surface. America has always been unique with their dirt surfaces, but they completely shot themselves in the foot by having the past two Breeders' Cups on a synthetic surface. We have zero right to expect the rest of the world to cater to what surface we would like our horses to run on.

  8. Never said we did have a right for them to cater to the surface to our needs. I just think this was an act of selfishness, made to look like selflessness. His biggest race was hosted on dirt, the race the shiek would love to win more than any other is on dirt, so obviously he has no problems with dirt, and from his actions, it would seem that he respects it. Brian, you also say, it makes sense because other contries race primarily on turf, which is true. I ask you then, why even install dirt or synthetic? Though I would venture to say most turf horses do well on synthetics, not all do, and I would also venture to say that the best horses in Europe race over synthetics. They have a turf course, a beautiful turf course, what need do they have in a synthetic course, if they are only in it to attract the best? IMO, the best race primarily on dirt and turf, though there are exceptions. By adding synthetic they attracted a watered down field that included second stringers, and will continue to get the same thing. If you want to attract only the best, get rid of the synthetic and keep only the turf, or get rid of the synthetic and go back to the dirt and turf.

  9. When a new modern race course is built, what knee-jerk reaction is entirely imminent?

    A synthetics surface, of course!

    These people making the financial decisions are thinking more in terms of presenting racing what may be a futuristic if not "revolutionary" surface. So they go ahead and give Michael Dickinson Inc. millions without giving much thought to what the requirements are for the horses to succeed on these experimental surfaces.

    As a result of different bloodlines, different training methods, different riding skills along with a new premium on pace and trips makes the end result of the race. In other words the quality and the talent of the horse has been superceded by the human connections.

    Simply put, synthetics racing is less horse racing and more "human racing". While it may be an acceptable substitute for main track racing by those across the pond, it simply does not make sense in the United States given it's rich history of dirt racing.

    While I look forward to improvements in these newfangled surfaces, the 2010 versions hawked by honest salesmen, would do well by painting it green and being marketed under a new brand name PolyTurf.

  10. Well written and thought provoking article.
    Keep the insightful observations coming