A trio of horses breezed on Gulfstream Park's turf course during Monday's under-tack show for the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Selected 2-Year-Olds In Training Sale, which tied with last year's renewal for the most efforts over the grass since the auction moved to the South Florida track.
On the surface, three horses in a catalog of 188 entries might not sound significant, but the industry-wide growing interest in turf racing and breeding has been well documented, which could signal a growing market in the coming years for turf specialists at auction. Every movement has to start somewhere.
The upcoming Keeneland April 2-Year-Olds In Training Sale will present a second venue for juveniles to breeze on the grass, and Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning said the decision was still to be determined for the company's inaugural Santa Anita 2-Year-Olds In Training Sale in June, meaning the chances to try the surface are potentially as plentiful as they've ever been.
Like many other turf-based initiatives in North American horse racing, gaining mainstream acceptance for clocking sale prospects on the turf would likely be a gradual process, if it ever came around at all. For now, under-tack show efforts on the turf are done largely to market a horse whose pedigree and physical make it obvious that it's their preferred surface.
Consignor Tom McCrocklin sent out Hip 168, a Tapit colt out of Grade 1 winner Winter Memories, to breeze on the turf. The colt covered a quarter-mile in :22 1/5 seconds.
“He's a colt that's not going to work well on the dirt,” McCrocklin said. “He's a Tapit out of a Grade 1 winner, from a family deep with turf horses, so it just made sense. I didn't really care how fast he went, I wanted him to move well and look good, and he did. I need somebody with an imagination that doesn't have to have a :21-flat work. He's a mile-and-an-eighth turf horse, and that's what we're trying to present him as. I thought it was a no-brainer.”
The colt breezed the same time at the same distance at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. March 2-Year-Olds In Training Sale earlier this month over the Ocala Training Center's all-weather Safetrack surface. He was scratched from that auction, with plans to breeze him over the turf at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale.
When handicapping races, it's generally accepted that synthetic surfaces play closer to turf than dirt. However, McCrocklin said the surfaces at Gulfstream and the Ocala Training Center are nothing alike.
“It's interesting, they can cross over, but they're really different,” he said. “Synthetic can hide a lot of things. It can hide bad movers, it can enhance gallop-out times. When they breeze here, there's a lot less to overthink, particularly on the gallop-out times. These horses tire out significantly more on this track than at OBS.”
Like McCrocklin's colt, pedigree played a large part in Harrigan's surface decision. The colt is a half-brother to Stephanie's Kitten, whose expansive resume on the grass included the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf and Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Rounding out the trio of turf workers was Hip 178, a Declaration of War colt out of the Galileo mare Amurmar, who covered an eighth in :10 3/5 seconds. Randy Bradshaw consigns the colt, as agent.
Harrigan doesn't have any horses cataloged for the Keeneland sale, but he welcomed the idea of turf works having a larger presence at the venues that can accommodate them.
“Grass racing is very lucrative in the United States, and there's a high percentage of graded stakes run on grass,” he said. “It should be, at these 2-year-old sales, an opportunity.”
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