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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Poly comments

- A commenter wrote:

The quotes by Del Mar president Harper reveal a flaw in all these statistics about polytrack safety. It is unfair to compare breakdown rates when the pre-race vet exams for synthetic surfacers are tightened to eliminate more unsound horses. This is especially important when the providers of these surveys have a vested interest in showing benefits for synthetic surfaces.
Those are fair points to be sure. But it certainly raises in my mind the question of why all tracks aren't making a similar effort to screen out unsound horses. Not only a safety issue, but protection of the betting public as well. Regarding Del Mar's stats however, safety involves more than just a safe racing surface, so I think that they would deserve full credit no matter how they go about it. Unfortunately, they seem to be off to just a so-so start with those two workout incidents in the first week.

Another reader, or maybe the same one, commented:
We know from last year that you can't pay attention to anything Harper says.

He staunchly defended the surface last year yet made damn sure this year that everybody was made aware that the surface has been redone.

Artificial surfaces have yet to prove anything.
The racing during the first week certainly makes one wonder why Harper was so adamantly opposed to watering the track in the afternoon last year; at least in terms of time and bias. We'll have to wait and see as far as injuries go.

But I disagree with the notion that "artificial surfaces have yet to prove anything." No, they have not been a magic elixir to eliminate breakdowns, kickback, and maintenance problems, as some would have had us believe. But what I think they have proven, based on the successful meetings such as those at Hollywood and Arlington, is that you can conduct a completely viable race meeting on an artificial surface, without sloppy tracks and without monotonous speed biases. I've always maintained that, all other things, including the injury rate, being equal, those two benefits would make the synthetic experiment worthwhile by themselves.

I mean, just ask those up in Saratoga tonight who, given the rain today and the threat of some severe storms tomorrow, are wondering whether they should be handicapping for a fast or off track, and whether to bother with the grass races! (While turf races still will come off at a synthetic track, far less scratch and the form is usually at least a little comparable.) I liked a couple of horses for the grass at Saratoga for tomorrow - five races are scheduled for turf - but I'm going to hold off for now, at least pending further meteorological developments.

- Del Mar's CFO Mike Ernst said that "there is no question" that the economy is partly to blame for significant drops in attendance and, especially, handle for the first week of the meeting.
Ernst said that track officials believe fewer customers are driving to Del Mar from Los Angeles and Orange counties. [DRF]
- Oh yeah, this horse will run again, right! How much you think they can get at stud with him next year?


Anonymous said...

We certainly have a nice controlled experiment now with the opening of Saratoga. Del Mar business is down significantly (more than 10%), and track officials blame the economy and gas prices. Let's see how business does at Toga....Perhaps the fault is that bettors are avoiding the synthetic surfaces; after all, Keeneland was also down over 10%, and Hollywood Park had similar losses ontrack and within state. Their ADW business was up b/c last year they suffered with a TVG monopoly. I have also heard on the Gordon Jones radio show that Golden Gate was down 10% while dirt Bay Meadows was up 5%.

Anonymous said...

Agree in part with anon, the handle decrease has everything to do with the surface issues.

But can not blame decrease in on track attendance on the surface.

Del Mar, like Saratoga, is a vacation destination which draws the same folks year after year, most of whom, again like Spa, care little about the actual racing.

Clearly, any attendance decrease is directly related to the economy.

But remember one more thing, while gas prices are high coast to coast, the housing bubble collapse is more regional in nature, and SoCal and AZ have been disproportionately affected.

My prediction, Spa will be down perhaps 5% in both handle and attendance, but it will be as much due to the weather, which can not possibly match last years perfect season, as it will the northeast economy.

They will lose as many turf races to the weather today as they did the entire 2007 meet.

Anonymous said...

The day the Saratoga main track becomes a synthetic surface is the day that marks the beginning of the end of the Spa as the nation's most historic race meet and most historic track. It would be like basing your whole energy plan on Al Gore and global warming, i.e., with no compelling evidence, and the only result is $5 gasoline! Just as there is no compelling evidence that global warming is a problem, there is no compelling body of scientifically gathered evidence to suggest that artifical surfaces improve racing.

And to install an artifical surface just to please the whales among us is beyond stupid. There is something totally repulsive about the thought of a synthetic Saratoga main track. The meet is supported mainly by those who want to see racing as it used to be, as it should be, and not to be on the cutting edge of change. There is no clear correlation between race track surface- dirt or synthetic- and horse safety.

If NY wants to experiment with a synthetic surface then Aqueduct is the track to do it on. I would be just as opposed to Belmont going synthetic for the same historic reasons. I actually think it would be good to see the HOY this year as a non-BC Classic starter as it would send a message: The historic tracks are not going to be pressured into the synthetic surface trap. And since I am not a big Breeders Cup fan to begin with, i.e., the BC as the be-all, end-all of the racing season, hopefully it will help to bring us back to reality.

The fact that the Saratoga Race Course facility is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites just might be the ultimate clincher in saving the Saratoga main track from an ignoble synthetic surface fate. /S/Green Mtn Punter

Alan Mann said...

>>Just as there is no compelling evidence that global warming is a problem, there is no compelling body of scientifically gathered evidence to suggest that artificial surfaces improve racing.

I don't think you need a body of scientifically gathered evidence in this case. Just a peek at the sloppy mess that the track there will be today, as well as the plethora of scratches and awful short field races to follow.

Alan Mann said...

>>Perhaps the fault is that bettors are avoiding the synthetic surfaces

I would be more willing to buy that with respect to a meet like Keeneland, at which horses are coming from all different types of surfaces. But in California, nearly all of the horses have, by now, built solid resumes of synthetic track form, more than enough for bettors to go on.

Hard to argue with that most interesting comparison between GG and BM though, hmmm.

Anonymous said...

synthetic surfaces has caused me to bet less at California race tracks.

I also didn't bet much at Keenland.

If they had just upgraded to Quality dirt tracks I don't think there handle would be going down.