I saw a story on Bloodhorse.com Sunday night, too late to write about it. And I figured that by the time I got around doing so, it would already have been well-discussed in the racing press, and on the blogs. However, much to my initial surprise, giving way to I should have known better, I haven't seen it picked up anywhere - not in the Form, not by the TBA, not by the non-TBA; don't even see a link on the Paulick Report....though a link depository has one.
The story concerns the outstanding recent safety records on both the Pro-Ride course at Santa Anita, and the Tapeta Footing at Golden Gate.
Since a rash of five horse breakdowns in the opening five days of racing at the current Santa Anita meet -- resulting in four fatalities -- there has been just one race-related death since Dec. 31, Dr. Rick Arthur told the California Horse Racing Board.Pretty impressive stuff there. You might think that, given the interest and scrutiny of synthetic tracks, news like this would be equally as relevant as the times when there have been rashes of breakdowns...and equally deserving of mention. Certainly, a lot of people wrote about the bad times earlier this year....and I was amongst them, as I've noted before. But this story has thus far gone largely unnoticed. This board meeting took place on Feb 26, and I imagine that someone other than Bloodhorse must have reported on it! Please send me a link if you've seen it.
In a report to the board during its meeting Feb. 26, Arthur, the CHRB's equine medical director, said that there have been no racing fatalities at Golden Gate Fields at its current meet. Both tracks opened their winter stands on Dec. 26.
"Going back to 2004, this is the only time I was able to find either track without a racing fatality in January," Arthur told the board. "Whatever the reason -- rain, changes in maintenance procedures, pre-race examinations -- we have had as safe of racing as anywhere in the world in January and February at our Thoroughbred tracks. Hopefully, we will be able to continue that success when the tracks dry out and the heat comes."
There were at least 5,366 starters at Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields during this time frame, he said. [Bloodhorse.com]
I think there's a real media bias at play here, in the mainstream press and the blogosphere alike. Seems to me that most simply want the synthetic tracks to fail, sometimes with a ferocity that seems illogical. I don't really get why people are so enamored with and married to racing on dirt. What could be so terrible about a surface which stays fast in the rain, eliminates boring speed biases, and which favors horses who finish strong, the way racing should be in my view, instead of horses who run fast enough early to discourage the rest, and who win merely by coming home less slowly than the others. (And yeah, if they're a bit safer, that would be cool too.)
In the comments section, readers o_crunk and DC discuss the hot-button issue of how relevant, or not, preps run on synthetic tracks are for the Derby. Yeah, I thought DC left himself open there by bringing up the Travers...but he made some good points too.
Personally, while I respect his opinion, I hope mr._crunk is wrong in this case. I still would like to see synthetics succeed; the upside, as detailed above, is too appealing in my view. And I think that a year or two of California horses shipping in to win the dirt Derby - combined with a continued run of relative safety - could only help the cause. Besides, I can't help, at this stage and specifically with respect to the prospect of them running a mile and a quarter, but fancy a horse like Pioneerof the Nile, who came home in splits of 23.46 and 5.52 in the Lewis, over one like Quality Road who slowed down to 23.76 and 25.71 after running fast early (and around one turn). Just my inclination to favor horses who finish strong, and I don't care what they're running on. As DC pointed out, Street Sense prepped in a synthetic race, and one with a pace scenario extreme even for that, with its final eighth of 11 2/5, and mediocre Beyers which turned out to be irrelevant. It seemed to serve him pretty well.
I'm not saying, of course, that Quality Road was not impressive, nor that he couldn't possibly win the Derby. He received a 113 Beyer, and Steve Crist writes that the number looks completely legit.
...the track was consistent throughout the day, there were no split variants, the other one-mile race on the card was more than three full seconds slower, and the day's five other dirt races earned fittingly modest figures of between 67 and 89.Gary West, on his West Points blog, calls the final time of 1:35.07 towering.
The average for the week was 1:38.60. Not including the Fountain of Youth, it was 1:38.96. In winning the Davona Dale by 3 3/4 lengths, Justwhistledixie ran the second-fastest mile of the week, 1:37.67, which, of course, is about 13 lengths slower than Quality Road’s effort.The pedigree is certainly there as I mentioned previously, and I've read that he's quite the physical specimen these days (couldn't really tell watching the replay on the tiny screen on the NTRA site). Yeah, he could be the one, sure. But can't we at least see him run in a true route race before pronouncing him as a major player?