At long last, Court Vision returns to synthetic
By Byron King
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Since Oct. 6, 2007, the day Court Vision powered his way to a 1 3/4-length maiden score over Keeneland's Polytrack, I have awaited the opportunity to bet him in another race on a synthetic surface.
A mere 518 days later, that chance comes in Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Handicap over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface in Southern California.
I will forgive his connections - trainer Bill Mott and owners WinStar Farm and IEAH Stables - for the long wait. Since his victory over Polytrack, he has grossed more than $1 million in 11 subsequent starts by racing in some of the nation's most prestigious dirt and turf races.
Court Vision won the Grade 3 Iroquois and the Grade 2 Remsen on dirt at 2, and capped off his 3-year-old year in 2008 with triumphs on turf in the Grade 2 Jamaica and Grade 1 Hollywood Derby.
Even his one start as a 4-year-old, a close third behind Kip Deville in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, was a solid performance.
Yet as good as those races were, better could be on the way over a synthetic track.
The reason? Synthetic racing, particularly at high stakes levels, often rewards horses with acceleration - those that can outquicken their opponents. That was evident during the Breeders' Cup last fall at Santa Anita when horses such as Ventura, Stardom Bound, Midnight Lute, and Raven's Pass overwhelmed the opposition with sudden, off-the-pace surges.
Court Vision is not a horse lacking acceleration. This is a horse that passed the entire field in the stretch run of the 1 1/4-mile Hollywood Derby, finishing his final quarter-mile in less than 23 seconds.
Similarly, in winning the Iroquois and Remsen as a 2-year-old, he utilized his turn of foot to prevail after encountering traffic problems.
Putting aside style, his winning time from his victory on Polytrack in the fall of 2007 suggests a bright future on synthetics. Racing from behind a slow pace, he raced 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.75 - earning an 83 Beyer Speed Figure, the second highest winning Beyer from 12 juvenile route races contested over Polytrack during that meet. Only Wicked Style ran faster, earning an 88 Beyer, in taking the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity that year.
Court Vision has obviously matured and made strides since that race - and at 6-1 on the morning line for the Big Cap, he is expected to be a fair price.