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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Happy New Year Indeed

The comments I'm reading from trainers at Santa Anita are the harshest I've yet to see regarding a synthetic racetrack; an incredible and sobering turn of events from the praise for the surface after last fall's Breeders' Cup. The horsemen teed off on Pro-Ride founder Ian Pearse during a meeting on Wednesday.

"Training on this track is like walking on a minefield," [Vladimir Cerin] said. "The question is, who will be next?
Said [Mel] Stute: "In the past 40 years, I've had 12 fatalities, and nine have come on these synthetic tracks. They've been a pain in the (rear)."

About 20 minutes into the meeting, Stute got up, mumbled, "I've heard enough of this (bleep)," and left.

[Henry] Moreno told the assembled group he thinks racing should go back to traditional dirt tracks.

"This is the worst I've ever seen in my 58 years in racing," he said. []

[Darrell] Vienna said: “It was horrific. There were holes, it was uneven, and it was dangerous. They [synthetic surfaces] are no good.

“The promises at the beginning were they were safe, consistent, maintenance-free, and all-weather. They are not safe, they're not maintenance-free, they're not consistent, and they can't take water. None of it is true.”
Trainer Bruce Headley, who won the Breeders' Cup Sprint in 2000 with Kona Gold, equated training and racing on a synthetic surface to swimming across a river full of alligators. “Some of us will survive, some won't,” he said. [Evening Standard UK]
Pearse had little to say other than to cite the change in weather from the fall, and the fact that the US is the only country where there is training and racing on the same track on the same day and that adjustments need to be made. Another meeting is scheduled for Thursday, and it seems as if this situation is coming to a head right now. From the sound of it, I certainly wouldn't be shocked if this year's Breeders' Cup is run on dirt. Hopefully, whatever is done, a decision will be made in a timely manner so that owners and trainers can plan this year's campaigns accordingly, and not left guessing about the surface like they were last year.

After all the talk about how awful 2008 was for the sport, between this and the precipitous handle declines reported for last year and, especially, December, 2009 ain't starting out much better.


Anonymous said...

And we haven't even begun to see the long time ramifications of inhaling this crap.

Time to scrap this noble experiment.

steve in nc said...

Why are there none of the horror stories coming out of England where there is regular synthetic racing in some places? Or do we just not get the news here?

The racing/training on the same day issue makes no sense to me. If it needs grooming, can't they do that between races? It's not like they only run one race a day overseas. Is Pearce implying the first race should be safer than the 9th?

I want the BC on Aqueduct's inner!
With Rastas and stoopers taking turns making the trophy presentations, passing their blunts to the winning connections. Some of the people may break down but the horses will be fine.

Anonymous said...

Ah here is a flashback from Nov 8, 2007 - SF Chronicle

Quote from Michael Dickinson "I don't think there will be a dirt track in three years, injuries to horses and riders will be too much to take. This reduces them. Animal rights groups, the Jockeys' Guild, insurance companies and horse owners will be clamoring for it."

Set aside the desire (and justification) for going back to well maintained dirt and look at the massive logistics required.

To switch back to dirt that would require (1) the CHRB to reverse its mandate, (2) a cost for removing and disposing of the pro-ride/polytrack blend, (3) procuring several millions of tons of suitable dirt, and (4) the hauling and installing of said dirt.

Number 3 is a bigger challenge then you might think and of course Magna couldn't rub two nickles together if they had to.

Anyone know what happened to millions of tons of dirt SA had before? Selling that to the construction hungry So Cal market must've raised some money into the Magna coffers.

Anonymous said...

While many horsemen at the Wednesday meeting remain opposed to synthetic surfaces, some spoke in favor of the them, including Dan Hendricks.

"I would never want to go back to the carnage we had with sealed [dirt] tracks," Hendricks said. "People have short memories. You're always going to have problems with athletes. This is better than the training on sealed tracks and dealing with the constant problems we used to have."

Anonymous said...

I think there were 3 terrible injuries (at least) just last week or so at Aqueduct

Amateurcapper said...

Short-sighted was this "solution" of synthetic tracks. This is what happens when there is a rush to judgment
I tend to agree with Hendricks...does anyone recall BOB BAFFERT'S lightning-fast multiple graded stakes winning, undefeated, and ill-fated juvenile WHAT A SONG??? He was euthanized after sustaining injuries on the old Del Mar dirt track that he'd already won the G.3 Best Pal over earlier in the meeting. Even in the summer, that dirt track got hard as a rock as the meeting went on. Prior to Polytrack, the starters per race was always super-low the last few weeks of the season at Del Mar. Horses got hurt there with regularity.
I am very concerned over the health effects that "Anonymous" stated but it's time to use this meeting to gather study material.
I believe the sheer number of horses training and racing on any SoCal track during the live race meet is the biggest concern. The five day race week is another major factor in breakdowns.

SaratogaSpa said...

I would be interested to know what the writers who praised the synthetic surface the day after the BC are now saying. Is it something John Kerry likish: I was for synthetic tracks before I was against them?

Anonymous said...

5 day week racing is a fact of life in American Racing, any track installed needs to meet that standard.

One of the problems at DelMar and most dirt tracks was maintenance, the track was built many years ago and the base was simply worn out, as it is with the Big A main track and many others.

Most of these dirt tracks need replacing, from bottom to top, with a state of the art drainage system similar to that installed under the brand new synthetics.

If you do that, and maintain the cushion at a proper depth with frequent water, the dirt track will be fine.

One of the major benefits to the synthetics was supposed to be very limited maintenance, and it has proven to be the opposite.

Todaysdarkhorse said...

I felt a little suspicious about this stuff last year and I really dont like betting these tracks now. I think its time to go back to traditional dirt tracks regardless of the cost.Safety is paramount.

G. Rarick said...

Steve in NC - Horses in Europe almost never train on the track, so the all-weather surfaces in England and France host a full card of seven or eight races, but they don't have to support morning training. That said, both countries have zero tolerance for race-day medication or steroids, which contribute far more to breakdowns than any track surface.