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Just The Surface?

Much has been written about the effect the synthetic surface had on the Breeders’ Cup (and I believe there are many legitimate arguments to be made in favor and against them in that regard), but I wonder what role the other ‘new’ element played this year — no steroids. While it’s certainly relevant to examine the extent to which turf experience may help on synthetics, I wonder about the experience of running against other top-level steroid-free horses — it’s still something of a novelty to many of the American horses at this point, but it’s business as usual to just about all the others.

Indeed, that’s a handicapping angle many of the commenters at the BBC’s 606 site have been suggesting for months about Curlin— ‘he’s not the same horse off the drugs’ has been a common variant of the ‘Dubai Bounce’ theme. I think it would be difficult to argue that winners like Zenyatta or Stardom Bound were not obviously much the best in their races regardless of surface, but you could also suggest that by starting their careers this year, they are part of the post-steroid era — while Curlin has been stuck in between.

Obviously you would need to have real statistics on which horses had competed on steroids in the past (and that’s not exactly information trainers would want to hand out), but I think it would be an interesting exercise to try to see whether taking out the drugs (a long-overdue initiative) had just as much impact (or more) than the surface.

As far as concerns about how breeding would have to change to equal success on synthetics, just look at Raven’s Pass (pictured) — his pedigree is almost a perfect division between dirt and turf (and here’s hoping we see him run next year). But whether breeding or training might be the key to these new surfaces, I still suspect that the impact of removing drugs from the event has had a larger short-term impact — hopefully with long-term results.

8 comments to Just The Surface?

  • Nick

    Wasn’t Curlin steroid free when he won the World Cup?

  • Anonymous

    Curlin was steroid free in Dubai, but not for very long. I would imagine that the advantageous effects of the steroids don’t wear off overnight.

  • Anonymous

    And everybody poo pooed BBrown for being on the juice?

  • SaratogaSpa

    The euros shipped over here knowing they would be racing against alot of US horses who were coming off the steroids.

  • Amateurcapper

    Fellow horse racing/Crowded House fan. Woodface is one of my all-time favorite discs!
    Steroids, just look at KIP DEVILLE’s 2008 form and you can pick out exactly where he was on or off the juice. That said, Dutrow proved in the Mile he can get a very good horse to a big race without enhancements.
    Finally, I’ve contacted Handride about joining TBA and he wanted your opinion of my blogs, old ( and new (
    I can forward your reply or you can contact him directly.
    Thank you for your time.
    Rob (aka. Amateurcapper)

  • Michele Melcher Illustration

    At least nobody got injured this year. =)

  • EJXD2

    Curlin hasn’t been on steroids all season. Jess Jackson tests his horses beyond what regulators do.

  • Superfecta

    EJXD2 — that’s exactly my point. He was last season and probably up until shortly before he shipped to Dubai, and without it he doesn’t seem to be quite as sharp; it doesn’t mean he’s not a fine horse.

    amateurcapper — will check it out!

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