What Makes a Turf Horse

October 18, 2019

That’s the Million Dollar Question! I can explain to you what is supposed to make a turf horse. Probably the number one thing is their breeding indicates whether they should handle turf. “Should” is the operative word. It’s just not that easy. Because the breeding says so does not mean it is so. The horse may say something else.

I have found too many times over the years to throw the breeding out the window. 
I’ll explain why.  The horse’s conformation, the size of the feet and the gait. Those three things play a big part of a horse’s handling the turf. I personally believe the foot is where it all begins. A big flat footed horse, aka pie plates, grabs the turf and helps a horse stride longer and smoother. The horse just likes the way he gets over the course. When a horse has a high action on the dirt, it’s completely different on the turf. He gets traction now that gives him confidence and improves his stride. Horses with tiny reindeer feet just can’t get ahold of it, they lose traction and confidence so they won’t run a lick. Generally, horses that like turf like synthetic aka poly track. 

Me personally, I don’t like turf horses coming from a trainer whose best horses were turf stake horses. The reason why I don’t like them is because when it rains and the horse has to run on dirt, you have to scratch him. If you have one that will run in the slop, it ends up a short field which usually means the horse is going to run well. 

I’m going to share with you one of the main reasons why some horses prefer the turf over the dirt. Many horses don’t like dirt, aka spray, from other horses. When they run on turf there is no spray so it doesn’t sting and they run. Have you ever walked on a sandy surface and the wind starts to blow? It stings, gets into your eyes and burns and hurts. Horses take themselves out of the race far enough so the spray doesn’t hit them. 


So take those things I explained to you and I hope it helps you with your handicapping! See you at the races. 

Contributing Authors

JJ Graci

JJ was born in Philadelphia, Pa.  and attended Villanova University. He has vast experience in horse racing and broadcasting. JJ has been a fixture in...

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