Armed with a full meet of experience under our handicapping belts, the time has come to tackle year two of Arlington Park's Polytrack. There was certainly a learning curve for all horseplayers in the summer of '07, but hopefully we've learned a few lessons that can be applied this meet.
I've cranked out a more indepth attack plan for this meet in Arlington's opening weekend Daily Racing Guide, but here are a few potential angles to keep an eye on.
• Late runners were dangerous the first six weeks of Arlington's initial Polytrack meet, but the track evened out as the season wore on, and it actually became somewhat speed favoring the final six weeks. Be very aware of how the track is playing early on, and go with it.
• When Polytrack gets wet, it gets tighter and faster and tends to favor front-running types.
• No two synthetic tracks play alike. Arlington's Polytrack plays differently than does Keeneland, Woodbine and Turfway, and it doesn't play the same as the Cushion Track or Tapeta.
• Horses who put in a good effort over the Arlington Polytrack can often step up in class and perform just as well. There are horses for courses. It's difficult for a horse to make a wide, sweeping move on the turn for home and win.
• It doesn't seem nearly as important for a horse to switch from their left to right lead in the stretch. They seem to carry on better on the wrong lead than they do on a traditional dirt track.
• Horses rebound off bad races much better. It may be more important to evaluate a horse not by what they did in their last race, but what they have shown they are capable of the entire meet.
• Horses who work well on Polytrack also run well in the afternoon. A horse who doesn't show much on paper, who works well on Polytrack in advance of their first competitive run over the surface must be given special consideration, particularly if the price is right.
• A heavily bet favorite who has never run on Polytrack is almost certainly worth playing against. The fact that they are a monster on dirt certainly doesn't mean that form will transition to Polytrack.
• Several horsemen indicated to me last summer that it's tougher to get a horse fit on Polytrack. Horses who enter the meet with a solid foundation underneath them should have an advantage.
Kentucky Oaks/Derby information
Advance wagering on the Kentucky Derby will be available today across the Illinois wagering network. An Oaks/Derby daily double is in play through Churchill Downs. Saturday's Kentucky Derby Day program at Churchill Downs begins at 10 a.m., and Arlington's gates open at 9:30 a.m.
The weather forecast for Louisville, Kentucky: Friday: 50 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms, highs in the upper 70s; Saturday: 50 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms, highs in the mid 70s.
Best bet: Big Rushlet (1st)
Price play: Flurtini (7th)
Complete DAK Racing commentary for Friday's race card can be found at www.arlingtonpark.com. For Joe's blog and Pick Four strategies, spotlight race analysis, track bias and horses to watch reports for Arlington, visit www.horseplayerpro.com.
Joe's Monday stats - Races: 10; winners: 3; money: $11.60
Joe's final Hawthorne stats - Races: 341 winners: 91; money: $579.20