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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Seeking the Straight Up Answers on Surfaces

- As reader Steve in nc noted, NTRA President/CEO Alex Waldrop was nice enough to take the time to drop by and comment on the This Bud's For You? thread, so we thank him for that. I wanted to elevate it to the front page here since it's a few posts down on the page.

The debate over track surfaces is long on opinion and conjecture but lacking in critical scientific research and analysis. What we need before any conclusions can be reached is the development of a scientific system for the optimization of any and all racetrack surfaces for fairness, consistency and reduction of safety concerns. There is currently in development an apparatus that will provide the kinds of data necessary to determine not only the fairest and safest track but also the techniques necessary to properly maintain that track. The NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance has committed to help fund research to develop such a system and to provide the missing data. That work is already underway. Once completed, then and only then will the Alliance be in a position to move the industry in a particular direction taking into consideration all relevant factors. My sense is that the Alliance will not mandate a single surface but instead will require minimum levels of consistency, fairness and safety.
The study that Mr. Waldrop describes is of course quite welcome. We currently get a lot of unofficial breakdown stats, as well as the kind of 'lack of breakdown' stories that we've read from this past summer's Saratoga meet; as well as those persistent, but never fully explored nor documented whispers about soft tissue and other below-the-radar non-lethal injuries resulting from synthetic surfaces. Some people feel that it's really the new bases constructed underneath the synthetic tracks that are mainly responsible for any improvements in injury stats, and that the same results could be replicated on dirt. Others are concerned about potential health issues related to the kickback and dust we've seen on some artificial surfaces. So hopefully the Alliance's study will be able to sort everything out and present a clear picture as to how the industry can and should move forward.


John said...

OK, you've got Alex's ear, now ask him one or two good questions about Tommy Thompson.

I'm waiting .... ;-)

BitPlayer said...

Mr. Waldrop is overselling science.

The "fairness" of a racing surface is not a scientific question. It is in the eye of the beholder.

It strikes me that machines to measure various characteristics of a race track would be relatively simple to develop. Indeed some are already in common use. Determining how those characteristics relate to the safety of a varied population of thoroughbreds under training and racing conditions is infinitely more complex. Neither the NTRA nor anyone else will ever have a complete answer. And if they did, it would involve trade-offs, deciding which risks can be accepted in order to minimize others.

Anonymous said...

Whatya want from an organization that is still trying to map out a position on horse slaughter.

They will spend millions on studies to help prevent tragic breakdowns in the public eye, only so many of those same race horses can end up in a slaugher plant in Mexico.

Horse welfare my ass, it's all about the bottom line and only because of Eight Belles are they even addressing the issue.

Horses are a commodity to most commercial breeders, who unfortunately care as little about the end result as those trading pork bellies.