Analysis: Will Breeders' Cup winner Structor handle the dirt?

November 06, 2019 02:55pm
Given Structor's status as an undefeated 2-year-old with a Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf victory, it's understandable why connections would want to give the main track a try, too. The Kentucky Derby remains the most prestigious race option, and there's no "maybe next year" opportunity given its age restriction.

Luckily, given trainer Chad Brown mentioned a surface switch following last Friday's victory, the evidence tilts favorably toward Structor handling it. Whether this colt can succeed at longer routes is another question.

As a son of Palace Malice, Structor is bred to handle dirt on both sides.

Granted, Palace Malice's current best runners are both turf horses, Structor himself and Crystalle, Juvenile Turf's 11th-place finisher. But that's only a small sample size so far, and the 2013 Belmont Stakes winner figures sire nice dirt horses.

Palace Malice also won the 2014 Metropolitan Handicap (G1), among other dirt races, and is a son of Curlin.

On the bottom side, Structor's family may look turf-oriented with the dam Miss Always Ready a daughter of More Than Ready. Also, Miss Always Ready is a full-sister to More Than Real, the 2010 Juvenile Turf Fillies winner.

But Miss Always Ready won on dirt herself, albeit on the slop when she broke her maiden by 5 3/4 lengths in 2014 at Belmont Park.

Looking back one more generation, Structor's second dam, Miss Seffens, won her first four career starts on dirt before running fourth in the 2000 Fantasy Stakes (G2) and Kentucky Oaks. She won many more dirt races.

The red flag with Miss Seffens is that she only won up to one mile. In her Oaks effort at nine furlongs, she noticably hung in the stretch.

After the Oaks, the connections elected to run Miss Seffens only in sprints.

Structor's third dam, Noise Enough, ran 19 times and only won two sprints.

To touch again upon the more recent family member More Than Real, she disappointed in her 3-year-old season when stretching out to nine furlongs in the 2011 Garden City Stakes (G1) and Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1), running a fading third and seventh in those two quality races.

It is interesting, however, there are stamina concerns in Structor's blood, given the trainer, Brown, said he got Structor started on turf to go longer distances early. Pedigree analysis isn't exact science. He might have the right mind and motion to succeed going 1 1/4 miles.

On paper, Palace Malice's influence helps even out any shortcomings in the dam side. Expect Structor to handle distances up to nine furlongs.

Structor also moves fine on dirt in his few workouts on XBTV. Check out, for instance, Structor's workout with stablemate Proven Reserves on Oct. 12.

Proven Reserves is not the most talented runner in Brown's barn. But he did manage to win a nine-furlong dirt race last year at Saratoga with a high speed figure. More recently, he ran third in a dirt optional claiming race.

Structor worked smoothly enough alongside Proven Reserves. He did not appear to struggle and switched leads on cue without a visible reminder.

From a running style standpoint, Structor admittedly did appear like a turf horse in the Juvenile Turf with most of his energy reserved for the finish. The stereotypical turf horse waits until the perfect moment in the stretch to move, and Structor showed turn of foot when the opening emerged. 

Once the path ahead cleared, Structor accelerated toward the finish.

In dirt racing, it is more helpful to posses some tactical speed in order to stay within range of the leaders, avoiding kickback and other traffic trouble.

In the Pilgrim Stakes (G3) at Belmont, Structor displayed some useful tactical speed while racing outside of Tuggle, Maxwell Esquire and Andesite.

This effort more closely resembled dirt racing, with Structor securing the lead and holding on against the closers, rather than mowing them down.

That Structor dropped back to 11th at one point in the Breeders' Cup was likely the product of an overcrowded field rather than a lagging style.

Structor also displayed tactical speed in his Aug. 31 maiden win at Saratoga, chasing the leader in second before inching away.

Most of the signs points to Structor becoming a successful dirt horse. Given the dirt pedigree is present, the morning workouts, his running style and the fact the connections believe he is a long-winded dirt horse, it is reasonable to expect Structor to make some noise next year on the Derby trail.

The only concern is whether Structor can handle 1 /14 miles against the best dirt horses in his division, and that's something he could answer with the other best members of his generation at Churchill Downs.


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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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