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Terry's Notes: Saratoga & Del Mar Adjust 2YO Field Sizes

July 12, 2012 · By Terry Finley · Share

The premier summer meets-- Saratoga and Del Mar are upon us. WPT Partners are locked and loaded with several 2-year-olds scheduled to make their debuts.

As you make summer plans and gear up for the meets, I wanted to make you aware of some important changes going on at both tracks that will impact WPT and every other owner with juveniles ready to go.

Am I in favor of the changes? Yes.  

Like with anything there are pros and cons.

Summary of 2-Year-Old Race Changes:

-Sprint races at Saratoga limited to eight starters.
-Two-turn races at Saratoga limited to 10 starters.
Previously, NYRA allowed as many as 14 horses to run in a juvenile maiden sprint- say what?????
-Both sprint and two-turn races limited to 10 starters at Del Mar.


-Cleaner run races. I remember last year standing at the big screen watching a 14-horse maiden race and it was almost painful to watch. A good number of 2-year-olds can’t break from the gate straight no matter how schooled they are! Some roughness is inevitable in baby races, but you’ve got a helluva better shot to have a clean race with eight than you do with 14!

-Better ability to evaluate your horse’s performance. You don’t learn very much about your horse if he finishes seventh in a field of 13, but if you finish seventh of eight, chances are he either needed the race or isn’t as good as you thought he was. We want 2-year-olds to grow and develop, not lose confidence in a cattle charge.

Trainer Bob Baffert- "I have been trying to get Del Mar to do it for years. It's a great idea. Young horses can't develop as well in large fields."

-Enhanced stakes program. There can only be one winner. With shorter fields, there will be more races, and more winners. It makes it easier for us to get our Partners to the winner’s circle. More horses will have the experience they need to take the next step which can mean more stakes action for owners.

-Shorter fields = more races = more positive education for young horses.


-While there will inevitably be more juvenile races, it will make it more difficult to plan ahead. We’re pointing Toasting, our 2-year-old filly by Congrats to a maiden race on opening day at Saratoga. The chances of the race overfilling--pretty good, so if we get unlucky her debut will be pushed back a few days. We know this makes it tough for Partners to make arrangements. Frustrating, but out of our control.

-Altered training schedules if you don’t draw into a race is another downside. If your horse works five days out, then you’re sitting on go, and if you get excluded, it’s not the ideal situation. It’s a reality of racing we all face though.


The bottom line is Partners will benefit from being flexible and embracing the understanding that their horses are more likely to be excluded from races than in the past. Everyone who desires to compete in these premier meets is in the same boat.

I suggest using Southwest Airlines if possible! They fly into San Diego and Albany, and have liberal ticket policies without change fees. I also recommend Priceline for last minute hotel bookings.

I welcome your thoughts.

What do you think about the changes?


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