Mineshaft filly, worked eighth of a mile in preparation for Keeneland 2-year-old sale.

Mineshaft filly, worked eighth of a mile in preparation for Keeneland 2-year-old sale.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Polytrack Produces Fast Times at Keeneland Under Tack Show

The times were freakishly fast at Keeneland Monday when the first under tack show for a juvenile sale in North America was conducted over Polytrack. A Yankee Gentleman -- Truly Something colt blazed a quarter mile over the sizzling synthetic surface in :20 1/5 to set a juvenile auction workout record for the distance that later was equaled by a Lemon Drop Kid -- High Heeled Hope filly.

In addition, a Mineshaft  -- Stylish Talent filly equaled the juvenile sale workout record for an eighth of a mile, stopping the clock in :9 3/5. Nine other horses each completed an eighth in :9 4/5.

"It went very, very well," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "I think the consignors brought an excellent group of horses quality horses here that performed exceptionally well on this surface."

But consignor Becky Thomas of Sequel Bloodstock thought Keeneland's surface was more of a factor than the horses' quality.

"It's the track," she said. "I don't have a horse in here that I consider to be a fast horse, not one, and my first horses went in :10 flat, :10 1/5, and :10 2/5. I have nice horses, but I don't have a :9 4/5 horse or a :10 flat horse. But they were that fast today. I think a lot of buyers are going to have to go back to the consignors and say, 'Hey, what about this horse?' "

Rogers Beasley, Keeneland's director of racing, believed that the unseasonably chilly weather, with temperatures in the 40s for much of the day, could have made the Polytrack faster.

"It's still new and we're still in the learning stage, but it (the surface) is obviously very, very good when it's in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, and even the 70s," Beasley said. "The cold does make it a little tighter. That would be a fair comment."

The quick times weren't a complete surprise to everybody. The Polytrack surface was lightning fast for the opening weekend of Keeneland's spring meeting, and, according Florida pinhooker Tony Bowling, consignors prepping their horses last week for the under tack show reported impressive clockings.

"Some of this was anticipated," Bowling said, "but I don't think people thought it was going to be quite this fast. To me, it's going to be a little harder for buyers to separate the horses. I think there is going to be more emphasis on the way the horses look on the end of a lead shank and how they come out their works than at past sales. Those things have always been important, but they will be even more so in this sale because everything has worked so well. I don't think the buyers can just pick 15 horses and go look at them at the barn. I think they are going to have to look at a big, big, big group of horses. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out for all of us."

Florida pinhooker Randy Hartley was expecting an outstanding effort from the Mineshaft filly that worked in :9 3/5. He and his partner, Dean De Renzo, purchased her for $400,000 at last year's Keeneland September yearling auction.

"She's awesome," Hartley said. "When she came by me on the backside today, she was still kicking it in. I've been touting this filly all year long because of the way she gallops and the way she looks. She has a big hip and she looks like a big Quarter Horse colt."

Twelve 2-year-olds breezed over Keeneland's turf course. Two horses, a Monarchos -- Sermonette colt and a War Chant-- Isleworth filly -- each covered an eighth in :10 1/5. The fastest quarter mile time on grass was the :21 3/5 clocking turned in by a Cozzene -- Mudslinger colt.

The second and final under tack show for Keeneland's juvenile auction is scheduled for April 16, beginning at 10:30 a.m. (EDT). The sale will be held April 17, starting at 1:30 p.m. (EDT).

Here's what other people had to say about Monday's under tack show:

Peter Bradley, Kentucky bloodstock agent and pinhooker: "As long as it doesn't hurt the horses, I'm fine with it. We'll know more in 48 hours when we see the scratches."

B. Wayne Hughes of Spendthrift Farm: "I think the workouts are fast. They've either got a lot of good horses or the track is pretty darn good, one or the other."

Nick Nicholson, Keeneland president and chief executive officer: "This surface appeals to a wide diversity of Thoroughbreds. We saw that in our race meet last October when the distance between the first horse and the last horse in a race was halved, which tells you more horses like to run on it."

Al Stall Jr., trainer: "The times have just come down a notch; that's all. A :10 2/5 work is now :9 4/5. I'm sure we'll treat the horses the same way we always do and evaluate them as individuals. It will be business as usual as far as how we do our lists. I don't think the fast times will correlate to higher prices."

Terry Oliver, O & H Bloodstock: "It baffles me. It's phenomenally fast. The guys clocking for me are saying the horses are galloping out phenomenally, too. I'll tell you tomorrow it's a good thing if my horses are sound. My first horse came off the track not even blowing and went to the barn perfect. When you start seeing all those :9 4/5s, it's like a cartoon. I'd rather see the bar at :10 1/5 or :10 flat."

Steve Asmussen, trainer: "This is the first sale that we've had Polytrack, and we'll learn as we go along. But I think all the horses are traveling well, and that's the most important thing."