What to Know About Del Mar's Turf Surface

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D.S. Williamson

September 18th, 2017

The 2017 Breeders' Cup takes place at Del Mar. A few major prep races are still to be run. Since we're on the other side of September, it's a good idea to get an idea of Del Mar's turf surface, though.

See below for a few things about Del Mar's turf surface. All horseplayers should keep these things in mind as we start handicapping for horse racing's biggest day.

How Does the Turf Usually Play at Del Mar?

As the Del Mar Handicap showed, horses that come from behind aren't at a disadvantage even facing a slow pace. Does it mean that coming from behind on the turf at Del Mar is the key to getting your picture taken? Probably not.

This summer's turf racing at Del Mar wasn't all that spectacular. Hunt won both the Eddie Read as well as the Del Mar Handicap. He got a dream trip behind the speed in both races. He also got the jump on closers that, let's be honest, aren't anywhere near as talented as the best closers in Europe.

The turf track appears to play fair. Ashleyluvssugar just isn't the same racehorse as he was last year. Hunt didn't face any world beaters in either of his graded wins during the summer. That signals a fair racetrack.

What About the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint?

6 1/2 furlong turf sprints at Santa Anita are down the hill. At Del Mar, they're around the turf track. A horse like Lady Aurelia, who's been dominating in Europe, should have no trouble racing over Del Mar's turf.

More importantly, the BC Turf Sprint will be run at 5 furlongs this year instead of 6 1/2 furlongs. Since Obviously, who won the BC Turf sprint last year at San Anita, has retired, I can already say that Lady Aurelia should be one of the biggest Breeders' Cup favorites during the entire festival.

Will Europeans Fair Well Over Del Mar's Turf Surface?

The Euros should have no trouble running over Del Mar's turf surface. In fact, they might dominate in a big way on Nov. 4. Hunt is from Ireland. He acclimated well to Del Mar's turf surface. Itsinthepost is from France. He finished second to Hunt in the Del Mar Handicap.

The horse to pay attention to in this year's Breeders' Cup Turf is Highland Reel. There are a couple of reasons why. First, he held off Flintshire in the 2016 Breeders' Cup Turf. That race was Flintshire's race to lose. Second, Highland Reel beat Ulysses, another BC Turf contender, in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The thing about Royal Ascot is that the turf track is firmer than what most Europeans are used to running over. Like Lady Aurelia, Highland Reel should be one of the biggest favorites during the 2017 Breeders' Cup Racing Festival.

The Bottom Line on Del Mar's Turf Track

One thing to note, and it's a big thing, is that turf horses that have success racing over Belmont's deep turf track might not like Del Mar's turf track. That could knock out horses like Beach Patrol, Oscar Performance, and Money Multiplier. Ulysses wanted no part of Ascot's firm turf. He might be a throwout as well.

When it comes to the juvenile turf races, handicap accordingly. I firmly believed that 2-year-old horses haven't yet decided what surfaces they prefer, much less the firmness of the ground they like to race over.

Both Lady Aurelia in the BC Sprint and Highland Reel in the BC Turf are possible key horses for any vertical exotics. That is, they're both possible key horses if they make the starting gate.