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Justify Triple Crown Gear

New Euro Style Turf Racing at Woodbine for 2016

Jockey Emma Jayne Wilson, winner of the test race aboard Internal Bourbon, wore a GoPro helmet cam.
Date: 5/16/2016

North American horse racing has for many years been contested exclusively in a right-handed (counterclockwise) direction, however this was not always the case. Belmont Park ran clockwise originally, including when Man O'War won the 1920 Belmont Stakes. In 2016 Woodbine will card up to 40 races the "wrong way" over its 1 1/2 mile E.P. Taylor Turf Course, the first race scheduled to go on Friday June 10. The main reason for the program is to better utilize the clubhouse end of the course. In the counterclockwise direction, only races longer than 1 1/4 mile use that section, so by running turf sprints of 5 to 5 1/2 furlongs clockwise, this will help to preserve the far turn and main homestretch. Woodbine's course is not a traditional oval, but instead its clubhouse end has a "dogleg" from the homestretch to the straight incline, located 1/8 mile from the finish, and an "elbow" turn between the incline and the backstretch, between the 1/8 and 3/16 poles. This turn is obscured from most of the grandstand by the harness paddock building. Running the wrong way, the final stages approximate Longchamp in Paris, with the downhill "false straight" that gently bends into the real straight. Due to this layout, EuroTurf races have a very short homestretch of just 1/8 mile, in contrast with the counterclockwise homestretch of 1440 feet (about 2 1/4 furlongs).

Rounding the final turn out of the dogleg going the wrong way down the stretch in the Euro Style test race.
In order to test all the systems needed to conduct an official, parimutuel race over the course the wrong way, Woodbine hosted a trial, non-wagering race on Monday morning with 6 horses taking the 5 furlong "EuroTurf" route, with the starting gate parked at the usual 7/8 pole. A handful of local media and horsemen gathered on the apron to witness the trial, while the television department, OnTrack photo finish team, and the Trakus team (which also is charged with officially timing all of Woodbine's races, replacing the old Teletimer system) were able to run all their equipment as they would in the afternoon. In addition some of the jockeys wore helmet-mounted cameras. Track announcer Robert Geller called the race.

Internal Bourbon winning the test race over Hidden Turn and Flashy Ruby.
A field of 7 went to post. Jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson sent Internal Bourbon to the front at the start but Zazinga, with Emile Ramsammy aboard, moved up to take over the lead on the hairpin turn. The pair dueled on the front end through an opening quarter of 24 4/5 over the yielding course with Grandy's Got Gold and jockey Lanscott Fray stalking them to the outside. Bending into the short straight after a half in 49 4/5, Internal Bourbon opened up a 2 length lead on Zazinga at the 1/16 pole, and was all out to hold off late-running Hidden Turn and jockey Luis Contreras by 1/4 length in 1:01.96. It was another 1/2 length back to Zazinga third.

You can watch a replay of the race here.

In the elbow turn of the dogleg approaching the 3/16th pole
"Winning" jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson said, “I don’t know if we can label it the first official winner, but we can definitely call the day a success. Internal Bourbon is a nice filly. I was confident in her. Everyone was safe and we’ve all learned a little more about moving forward with this. I’m pleased with how it turned out. It’s a different kind of turn and you have to make sure your horse is prepared for it. In the early portion of the race, you can’t shoot them forward too quick. That run to the turn is the shortest run we’ll use, but it seemed like we had plenty of room. It’s a matter of being balanced and having the horse in a nice rhythm before the turn. As we have more horses run that direction, we’ll all get more accustomed to it. We’re all experienced jocks that were out there and it was good that we all chatted before the race.  It was a little reserved, but that’s what we were out there to do.” 4-year-old filly Internal Bourbon is winless since an allwoance on May 22 last year, but was a close second in the La Prevoyante in September at 1 mile on the turf.

Emile Ramsammy, aboard third place finisher Zazinga added, “I did feel a different bounce coming down the hill onto the shorter stretch. I thought the horses all handled it well. This morning, the riders didn’t ride as aggressive as we will in the afternoon, so it will be a little different for sure. Today we just wanted to see how the horses would handle it and we didn’t have any problems at all. It did take me awhile to get adjusted to going the other way as a rider. Because we ride ‘acey-deucey’ (inside stirrup longer than the outside one), going the other way,  the jockeys will all have to ride ‘acey-deucey’ the wrong way just to keep their comfort. I know from personal experience it will take some adjustment.”

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