Speaking at Ascot Racecourse Sept. 26, Hall of Fame jockey and now television racing analyst Jerry Bailey said that any disadvantage suffered in the past by European horses on the dirt has been taken away with the introduction of a new synthetic surface for this year’s Breeders’ Cup.
For the first time in its 25-year history, the Breeders’ Cup will be run over a synthetic surface Oct. 24-25 at Santa Anitam and Bailey, who has won more Breeders’ Cup races than any other jockey, believes that the track will suit European competitors.
"In America, we always like to think that we’re the best at everything,” he said. “But it’s a given fact to us, that we are up against it when it comes to the Europeans in terms of turf racing. The Europeans have traditionally been stronger than we have in most divisions. In all the turf races in the Breeders’ Cup, international horses have won 62% of them.
"As a jockey, I always looked to try and get a mount on a European horse if possible,” he said. “Even your second string was good enough to win, so I thought they were particularly strong. I was also impressed occasionally how effective your grass horses were on our dirt. It’s a challenge for us to beat you guys and I think it’s intriguing this year because of the synthetic surface. What I always considered to be a disadvantage to European turf horses was coming over to our dirt - dirt that is usually speed favoring. It was a disadvantage - not talent-wise, running style-wise.
"Horses with turf pedigrees and turf running style do very well on synthetic surfaces,” he said. “Even if the times are quick, I think the races are more bunched and the fastest finisher wins. The synthetic surface takes away the disadvantage."
Bailey also had news of the Santa Anita main track, which sports a new Pro-Ride surface and was used for competitive racing for the first time Sept. 25, the start of the Oak Tree meet. The former jockey said the problems the track faced in the spring have been resolved and the feedback from the jockeys and trainers has been positive.
Greg Avioli, president and CEO of Breeders’ Cup, added: "The surface at Santa Anita appears to be the best surface that we’ve had. Our goal has been that the races are run fairly without any bias."
AN OPEN DISCUSSION ON STEROIDS
European runners have been disadvantaged in past Breeders’ Cups by the use of steroids and other medications by American trainers. However, for the first time in the 25-year history of the championship, trainers found in breach of the rules will be severely suspended.
Greg Avioli, president and CEO of Breeders’ Cup, has been a driving force behind enforcing the new rules regarding the use of steroids.
"A weakness in the United States, is that we’ve had - until this year - far more permissive medication rules than any other country in the world,” Avioli said Sept. 26 from Ascot Racecourse in England. “That has been seen as a problem for owners, trainers and jockeys. They don’t feel that they are getting an even playing field. We take this very seriously, so this year, the only medication that will be allowed at the Breeders’ Cup is Lasix. Other than Lasix, there will be no other race-day medication allowed. We will also be dramatically increasing our pre and post-race testing.
"Perhaps the most dramatic change to be made this year is the banning of steroids,” he said. “There will be no antibiotic steroids allowed at the Breeders’ Cup for the first time in our history. To put some added weight to that, any trainer who is found violating the use of the steroid ban, the first horse found in violation, they will receive a one-year suspension from the Breeders’ Cup - any Breeders’ Cup races. The second horse is a two-year suspension and the third horse violation will result in a lifetime ban.
"This is a fairly drastic measure on our part, but it is a step in the right direction,” he said. “Our goal is to provide that even playing field so that horses from around the world feel that they do get a fair share when they run in the United States."
Avioli explained about the different jurisdictions who govern racing in the United States and he expects that, by next year, every state will have outlawed the use of steroids.