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Captain's Blog - 28th December 2010

The new dirt track at Santa Anita has been well received by Horsemen and punters alike. Gone is the pro-ride that so favoured turf horses and was plagued with drainage problems. Now in its place is a traditional fast dirt surface where the best horses usually win and where sectional times and speed figures are meaningful again. No longer do dirt horses have to learn to crawl for half a mile and then sprint, now they can go to California and race hard from the off and the fastest horses will win the races which is how it should be. What of the attritional nature of a dirt surface, well so far so good, no horse has had to be vanned off yet and trainers seem to be adamant that the surface is a safe one. The hall of fame trainer Bob Baffert has always maintained that a properly looked after dirt surface is a perfectly safe one. Well this theory will now be put to the test with this brand new dirt surface. The knee jerk reaction after the death of George Washington in the Breeders Cup Classic a few years ago was to reach for synthetic surfaces, this was understandable, but whilst there is no doubt that synthetic surfaces are safer than old and tired dirt surfaces are they really any safer than a properly maintained dirt track? I doubt it and with Santa Anita now racing back on dirt this theory is going to be put sternly to the test. I for one welcome back this surface that has brought us so many champions, not just champions in the eyes of the collateral form merchants but champions on the clock. Synthetic surfaces do not lend themselves to this and there is no better example than Meydan where the new tapeta surface has already rendered the Dubai World Cup a crawl and sprint lottery. The many Nad Al Sheba winners of this great race such as Cigar and Dubai Millenium may not have won on a synthetic surface because of the tactical nature of racing on it and to never see the like again would be a travesty, now at Santa Anita we will see the like again and that is good news for all those who like races to be won by the best horses not just those who are ridden to gain the best tactical advantage.

Things are looking good for jump racing over the next few days. The thaw has well and truly set in and we should be back in full flow on over the next few days. I am due back in the studio on Thursday for the jumps card from Haydock which is subject to an 11.00am inspection today. I suspect they will decide to have another look on Wednesday and at this stage you would have to be hopeful of the meeting taking place. There is of course all weather action to keep us up and running on with a couple of Kempton fixtures this week , but it will be good to have jump racing back on our screens.

We are going to be taking it easy today although we are heading out for some lunch with family and then tonight as per last night we will be watching the World darts championship on Sky. There have been a few mutterings around the darts circuit about Phil Taylor not being the force of old this year. This is palpable nonsense to my eyes and if there is one man in the sporting world you should not write off it is him. He played pretty well last night and his average is improving and surely he is the type of man who will reaact positively when the doubters squirm their way out of the shadows. This man should never be doubted and I would love it if he couild become World Champion again.

Our selection yesterday was a non runner so no damage done. With a bit of luck we can end the year with a few winners starting today.

Enjoy your day.

Todays Selections

12.35 Lingfield – Batchworth Blaise (each way 7/1 William Hill)

2.30 Southwell – Best prospect ( each way 20/1 William Hill)



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