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Glimmerglass
Nov. 8, 2007, 11:23 AM
So with the first official day of racing at Golden Gate Fields using Tapeta Footing, it's creator the infamous Mad Genius - Michael Dickinson was quoted as saying (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/11/08/SPC0T81A5.DTL):


"I don't think there will be a dirt track in three years," he said. "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."

Here is the question - when do you think the last graded stakes race will be run on conventional dirt in the US?

Glimmerglass
Nov. 8, 2007, 11:43 AM
Keep in mind I'm asking about graded stakes races. Frankly I don't know if the money - or desire - is there to ever convert some tracks who may run stakes races but don't offer any graded ones. So I presume dirt tracks that hold QH racing and other assortments likely will be dirt until the end of time.

Example, the old Mass Fair circuit tracks like Northampton (since gone but some rumblings of it returning) was too brief to justify synthetic conversion and it never held graded races

The conversion of several big name tracks to a synthetic surface will take years. No one is looking to convert Saratoga anytime soon; in fact NYRA only made a passing mention of it being something they'll only begin to explore in the next several years. With an excellent reputation for its condition and the exceptionally low breakdown record there are few supporting reasons. Chicago-area track Hawthorne, which does hold graded stakes races like the noted Kentucky Derby preprace - the Illinois Derby - takes defiant pride in being a dirt track unlike it's rival track Arlington and their well known conversion.

Texarkana
Nov. 8, 2007, 12:25 PM
I can't see every single North American track with a major graded race converting to a synthetic surface in my lifetime. I would be really shocked if that happened. Even if most tracks do convert, I am sure someone will host a big race on the dirt, boasting it as one of the few stakes races on the dirt.

I also don't think we have enough evidence that synthetic surfaces alone are going to completely revolutionize racing. In the grand scheme of things, our experience racing on it has been very limited. I really do believe we need more time before we can justify changing every racing surface. Dirt surfaces can subtly change over many years-- mineral buildups, material breakdown, erosion, etc. I really don't think we can be 100% sure stuff like that won't happen with the synthetics until they have been in place awhile, despite what all the manufacturing companies claim.

And... all three TC races are still on the dirt. What's the buzz on that? Is anyone pushing to change that? I honestly haven't heard a big push to change that yet. Little quibbles here and there, yes, but it's not like the top trainers are boycotting the TC, refusing to run until all 3 tracks are synthetic.

Drvmb1ggl3
Nov. 8, 2007, 12:31 PM
I think MD is being just a bit hyperbolic. Of course he has a vested interest, so he will up the ante.

I think if anything will accelerate the change to AW surfaces it will $$, and not as much reduced injuries/deaths. So if in a couple of years places like Arlington, Hollywood etc show they have saved a decent chunk of change in reduced maintenance, and a reduction in the number of days lost to weather, increase in handle etc etc, then others will likely bite the bullet.
At ~$8m a pop to convert, there are plenty of smaller tracks that hold G3s (Emerald, Prairie Meadows, Fairmount etc), that aren't going to be able to afford it without some financial incentive.

Glimmerglass
Nov. 8, 2007, 12:46 PM
And... all three TC races are still on the dirt. What's the buzz on that? Is anyone pushing to change that? I honestly haven't heard a big push to change that yet. Little quibbles here and there, yes, but it's not like the top trainers are boycotting the TC, refusing to run until all 3 tracks are synthetic.

I don't see Pimlico being used enough to support the cost of conversion. Magna doesn't have the money to do that nor the motivation. I suspect Pimlico will change hands (or maybe even close - thus relocating the Preakness elsewhere) before a big cry for its conversion to synthetic happens.

"Excelsior Racing" when bidding for the big-three NYtracks did propose in their final bid the conversion of Belmont and Aqueduct's racing surface to synthetic at some point. They did not however get the award for the franchise of the three tracks. All that NYRA (the tentative awarded bidder) has said in their bid response is that they'll study it.

I could see Churchill Downs (especially with Arlington Park seeing the economic benefits and Duchossois being the biggest shareholder of CDI) converting sooner then the other two tracks.

Keeneland and Turfway Park have done fine by horsemen in their coversions and as somewhat progressive facility it makes sense. With the all important Bluegrass Stakes being on polytrack and still remaining as one of the more important final Derby prep races, that gives support for the pro-synthetic camps to say the Derby could be held on it too.

SleepyFox
Nov. 8, 2007, 12:53 PM
I also don't think we have enough evidence that synthetic surfaces alone are going to completely revolutionize racing. In the grand scheme of things, our experience racing on it has been very limited.

I agree. It's way too soon to say synthetic is definitely better than dirt. I certainly know plenty of horsemen and handicappers complaining about the various synthetic surfaces. With Tapeta, the kickback raises concerns. Polytrack can be inconsistent. Etc. And, is safety really that much better? I think it's too soon to say. It's important to remember that the CHRB mandated the tracks convert to synthetic surfaces. Will other governing bodies do the same? I doubt it - the CHRB has come under a lot of criticism.

I would be surprised to see any new tracks - like PRE - come out with anything other than a synthetic surface, but I think a lot of management will step back and wait for more info. before making the investment to convert existing surfaces.

Foxtrot's
Nov. 11, 2007, 01:46 PM
Three questions: Why is it legal to run barefoot on poly and not dirt?
The poly runs faster - how do old rcords stand up as to who is really the faster horse? What are the trainers/jockeys saying, not just the brass?

SleepyFox
Nov. 11, 2007, 04:22 PM
The poly runs faster - how do old rcords stand up as to who is really the faster horse? What are the trainers/jockeys saying, not just the brass?

Races over Polytrack are actually slower. The stuff sort of sucks at your feet when you walk on it. The Form and other handicapping literature denote synthetic surfaces on both tracks and training centers to help make bettors better utilize time information. There is talk of creating a new set of track and course records for synthetic surfaces.

As far as the horsemen and riders, I'm hearing a lot of questions about the reality of safety. When we were at Keeneland this fall (Polytrack) there were a number of breakdowns and there was some sarcastic grumbling. With Polytrack, the riders think there is a bias against front runners. With Tapeta, the riders are concerned about kickback, as are trainers. There are also legitmate concerns with the consistency of the surface during weather changes - Turfway struggled with this last winter.

Foxtrot's
Nov. 11, 2007, 06:15 PM
The reason I thought the poly ran faster was in Toronto: a friend's horse, Real Candy, ran third and equalled (or beat?) the track record.
And the barefoot thing? At least one horse has won there barefoot, but on other tracks shoes are mandatory. Have to have my facts straight for when the barefooters come at me! Time will tell if it is really a better footing, but I also have been told that it is not nice to be behind the frontfunners and that it is very hard to clean off the horses after the race and also that it is inconsistent.

Texarkana
Nov. 11, 2007, 08:05 PM
The reason I thought the poly ran faster was in Toronto: a friend's horse, Real Candy, ran third and equalled (or beat?) the track record.
And the barefoot thing? At least one horse has won there barefoot, but on other tracks shoes are mandatory. Have to have my facts straight for when the barefooters come at me! Time will tell if it is really a better footing, but I also have been told that it is not nice to be behind the frontfunners and that it is very hard to clean off the horses after the race and also that it is inconsistent.

I have no idea on the barefoot thing... this is the first I've heard of it. I'd love to hear the reasoning.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against artificial surfaces. But I still think we need more time before converting every single major North American track to them.

For example, something that really concerns me is the potential for material breakdown/shifting and the possibility of punching through to the asphalt. I think the standard installation is something like 6" of surface material above the asphalt. That's not a whole lot of buffer if the material starts shifting/breaking down in extreme climate changes over time. Or what if the asphalt layer starts to deteriorate due to the constant concussion of racing. I mean, shoot, look what happens to roads that are heavily traveled...

But all in all, it's probably a step in the right direction. I just don't think there's enough evidence that we should switch ever single graded stakes race to synthetic surface immediately. It's not like horses don't ever breakdown on artificial surfaces...

Glimmerglass
Nov. 13, 2007, 03:23 PM
Looks like with the booming business 'The Mad Genius' will be leaving the training scene ... one has to assume that Michael could potentially make a fortune even greater then having a dozen 'Da Hoss' level horses in the barn.

DRF "Dickinson will not train in 2008" 11-13-07 (http://www.drf.com/news/article/90306.html)


...announced on Tuesday that he will not apply for a trainer's license in 2008 because he needs "100 percent of my time to concentrate on Tapeta Footings," the synthetic surface he developed.

"I spent most of last winter overseas and 50 percent of my time this summer visiting Tapeta installations in five countries, which obviously leaves little time for training," Dickinson said in a statement. "I have been concerned for some time about the welfare of horses racing on unsuitable surfaces and really want to repay the horse in my own small way."

Glimmerglass
Nov. 13, 2007, 03:44 PM
I suppose - in light of the news of Michael Dickinson's retirement - that is just more bad news for Maryland. From sportinglife.com (http://www.sportinglife.com/racing/news/story_get.cgi?STORY_NAME=racing/07/11/13/RACING_Dickinson.html):


The 57-year-old is winding down operations at his Maryland farm on America's East Coast and plans to have dispersed most of his horses by mid-December to concentrate on laying his all-weather surface Tapeta.

So does that mean his Tapeta Farm - the 200-acre ""Chantilly of the Chesapeake" (http://www.tapeta.com/) will be sold (or at least reduced in size) since it won't be involved in the training of horses? It's a damn shame such a fine physical plant and series of training grounds would go unused.

Regarding Dickinson's track surface:


Tapeta, which is Latin for carpet, is now used in Dubai, Singapore, Korea and the UK, with the States responsible for 20 different installations.

"There are 100 racecourses here [in the US] and eight of them race on synthetic surfaces. But that will change and in three to five years' time there will be no dirt tracks left," he said.

His record as a trainer was quite amazing in the early 1980's and still untouched to this day:

Other notable achievements: Trained first five in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup - Bregawn, Captain John, Wayward Lad, Silver Buck, Ashley House.

World record number of winners in a day - 12 on December 26, 1982.

Record number of winners in a jumps season: 117.

Texarkana
Nov. 13, 2007, 05:16 PM
Tapeta Farm will almost undoubtedly become houses if it goes up for sale... that's very sought after waterfront property in the area. I doubt anyone short of the Sheiks would be able to afford to purchase it as a training center. :(

(And with MD racing on a downward spiral, who would want to? )

Hopefully he'll keep it going somehow. I love that place.

Glimmerglass
Nov. 27, 2007, 09:46 AM
Alas - the worst fears ... Baltimore Sun 11-26-07 (http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/horseracing/bal-sp.dickinson26nov26,0,3640547.story)


Dickinson said he will continue to live in Maryland as he moves full time to his new career but will probably sell most, if not all, of Tapeta Farm, where he has about 10 horses still in training.

"I don't need a 200-acre garden," he said. "But I could never imagine not having horses in my life. But everywhere I go now, I'm surrounded by horses."

Such a shame he couldn't just lease the farm to another trainer as opposed to selling it off and almost guaranteed to be developed within years.

JHUshoer20
Nov. 27, 2007, 10:27 AM
Three questions: Why is it legal to run barefoot on poly and not dirt?
The poly runs faster - how do old rcords stand up as to who is really the faster horse? What are the trainers/jockeys saying, not just the brass?
Is not,
At least in US all TBs racing on a pari-mutual track must be shod.

Just what in the world is more natural than dirt anyway????
Money spent on that could be better spent in other areas. Perhaps more badly needed money for horsemen?

This kneejerk reaction to junk science will be abandoned soon enough if we keep seeing stories like this http://hoofcare.blogspot.com/2007/11/breakdowns-mar-first-weeks-of-racing-on.html

George

Drvmb1ggl3
Nov. 27, 2007, 10:45 AM
Just what in the world is more natural than dirt anyway????

That green stuff, Grass.

There is nothing natural about the dirt mixes used in most dirt tracks. They are specially blended mixes of sand, loam, silt and clay etc shipped in and put on a specially prepared base. Except for ingredients they are every bit as artificially put together as the the synthetic surfaces.
Back 130 years ago when someone went out and harrowed a field and then raced on it, then one could say that was somewhat natural.

Cherry
Nov. 27, 2007, 02:24 PM
I didn't vote--I have no idea when dirt tracks will go by the wayside.

In California a law was passed that made it mandatory for the tracks to go to synthetics. If it's shown to significantly cut down on injuries to the horses I think a major push will occur (due in part to the injuries Barbaro received) to change every single track over to synthetics, or they will just have to go out of business! Every day more and more non-horse people become aware of that catastrophic injuries that plague flat racing and I don't think people are going to put up with it now as they have in the past....

Personally I feel that the concern for racing Thoroughbreds has taken a back seat in this society for far too long--especially among wealthy Thoroughbred owners! :mad: Look at all the horses that may not have had to be destroyed if it hadn't been for the injuries caused by the track.... :(

I hope these synthetic tracks pan out and work as advertised.... :yes: ;)

Texarkana
Nov. 27, 2007, 04:19 PM
I didn't vote--I have no idea when dirt tracks will go by the wayside.

In California a law was passed that made it mandatory for the tracks to go to synthetics. If it's shown to significantly cut down on injuries to the horses I think a major push will occur (due in part to the injuries Barbaro received) to change every single track over to synthetics, or they will just have to go out of business! Every day more and more non-horse people become aware of that catastrophic injuries that plague flat racing and I don't think people are going to put up with it now as they have in the past....

Personally I feel that the concern for racing Thoroughbreds has taken a back seat in this society for far too long--especially among wealthy Thoroughbred owners! :mad: Look at all the horses that may not have had to be destroyed if it hadn't been for the injuries caused by the track.... :(

I hope these synthetic tracks pan out and work as advertised.... :yes: ;)


No one here thinks artificial surfaces are BAD. No one here isn't concerned for the horses' well being and safety. What you have here are skeptics (me being one of them) who want to see more than a season or two of racing on the synthetics before tearing up and resurfacing every track in North America.

Horses still break down on the artificial surfaces... sheesh, look at Presque Isle Downs. It's an improvement, but by no means is it a cure-all. Personally, all I want to do is see how it handles the rigors of multiple seasons of weather and racing before making each track shell out $8 million for it. :)

And personally, I don't think non-horse people are going to sway this change at all. How many non-horse people are part of the reguarly betting public? Not many. How many non-horse people are even aware of the difference between dirt and synthetic surfaces? Even fewer. And I just can't see all the slot and casino goers protesting a dirt track, threatening to take their money elsewhere until the track switches surfaces.

Barnfairy
Nov. 27, 2007, 04:24 PM
I think there will always be at least one dirt bullring going somewhere.

Winterized dirt is hardly natural.

I haven't made up my mind about polytrack etc., but in regards to reduction of track-related break downs, I do think banning toe grabs --at least in front-- would be a lot cheaper than converting to synthetic.

Texarkana
Nov. 27, 2007, 04:26 PM
I haven't made up my mind about polytrack etc., but in regards to reduction of track-related break downs, I do think banning toe grabs --at least in front-- would be a lot cheaper than converting to synthetic.

Or sponsoring some backside classes on proper shoeing! :lol:

Barnfairy
Nov. 27, 2007, 04:34 PM
Or sponsoring some backside classes on proper shoeing! :lol:
Oh boy, you've got that right! Not to say that there are no good farriers on the tracks, but sheesh, some of the atrocities I've seen....even in the barns of trainers who are otherwise quite enlightened! It drives me crazy.

Nobody wants to show up to the funeral in red.

Glimmerglass
Nov. 27, 2007, 05:10 PM
Worth repeating while the CHRB (Cal Horse Racing Board) in May 2006 did mandate (http://www.chrb.ca.gov/press_releases/2006_05_25_press_release.pdf) a conversion of TB race tracks to synthetic it didn't apply to all tracks. Exempt, albeit temporarily, were Bay Meadows as was racing at the Alameda County and Sonoma County fairs and also Cal Expo in Sacramento.

TB racing in Cali isn't just DelMar, Oak Tree/Santa Anita, and GGF ;)

pinkdiamondracing
Nov. 28, 2007, 09:03 PM
Last time I checked-- wild mustangs did not run around on ground up carpet--and unfortunately, thoroughbreds will be expected to adapt to it before all is said and done-- if you ask me-- stick to what is natural-- dirt

Glimmerglass
Dec. 13, 2007, 06:01 PM
An interesting read on the topic:

Bloodhorse 12-13-07 "Synthetic Surfaces: Special Report" (http://news.bloodhorse.com/viewstory.asp?id=42759)

Excerpt:


Already, certain advantages have proven out. New drainage systems that allow water to drain vertically down through the material have kept venues open for normal training and race days, eliminating sloppy conditions and sealed tracks. When it does rain, and races come off the turf, those horses are able to make the transition to synthetic racing without needing to be scratched, increasing field sizes and improving handle.

But somewhere along the line, whether it came from“the glass is nearly full” manufacturers (Polytrack, Tapeta Footings, and CushionTrack surfaces have been installed in North America) or from overly-optimistic track operators, horsemen were led to believe that synthetic surfaces could cure the halt and lame, and let the blind see.

The idea got out that these surfaces would eliminate catastrophic breakdowns, be the end of injuries to horses, and mark the beginning of no-maintenance-required facilities.

These beliefs, belied by the past two years’ experience, have caused some hard feelings from horsemen and backpedaling from purveyors.

“The expectations at the beginning were completely unreasonable,” noted David Willmot, chairman and CEO of Woodbine Entertainment Group, which operates theToronto-area track. “Everybody wanted to believe it, and no question the purveyors of synthetic surfaces—I won’t say they oversold or misrepresented—but they were certainly painting a rosy picture.Even though expectations were too high,it’s still better than what we had.”

PDF of the full report - via this link (http://www.bloodhorse.com/pdf/synthetic_surfaces_special_report_120807.pdf)

Texarkana
Dec. 13, 2007, 08:07 PM
An interesting read on the topic:

Bloodhorse 12-13-07 "Synthetic Surfaces: Special Report" (http://news.bloodhorse.com/viewstory.asp?id=42759)

Excerpt:



PDF of the full report - via this link (http://www.bloodhorse.com/pdf/synthetic_surfaces_special_report_120807.pdf)

I am not even done reading the whole 31 pages yet, but this article is EXTREMELY interesting and unbiased account of life with the synthetics. Everyone should read it.

As I'm reading on... I'm noticing something come up again and again that isn't always noted in the dirt vs. synthetic debates, but has been my biggest issue from the start. A cushion is only as good as its base. These synthetic surfaces have rather revolutionary bases that allow for their astounding drainage. But not only are they quite different from the limestone bases we are used to, they are also quite complicated, with asphalt, pipes, etc. I think any of us who have ever driven a vehicle on a paved road knows what happens to asphalt after a few years of concussion and weather... and I imagine repairing a crumbling, pot-hole filled synthetic racetrack would be quite an (expensive) undertaking.

I'm not saying that I'm anti-synthetics. I think they really are a superior surface due to their ability to withstand the weather. But I am really opposed to forcing everyone to switch to them, especially before we fully understand them.

miss_critic
Dec. 13, 2007, 09:38 PM
I wonder if this is the same as the article that is in the magazine? I'll open the pdf at work...


Right now we need data. Lots and lots of it.

Texarkana
Dec. 13, 2007, 09:42 PM
I wonder if this is the same as the article that is in the magazine? I'll open the pdf at work...


It's a 31 page entire section of the magazine completely dedicated to synthetics with EVERYONE'S viewpoint-- track operators, trainers, owners, breeders, jockeys, veterinarians, farriers-- and all sorts of compiled stats I hadn't gotten a chance to see yet. Everyone should really read this. It's by far the most interesting thing I've read in awhile. I really appreciate Glimmerglass posting it, or else it probably would have slipped under my radar.

(I'm still not done reading-- I'm on page 22, hehe)

MassageLady
Dec. 15, 2007, 08:01 PM
There are also legitmate concerns with the consistency of the surface during weather changes - Turfway struggled with this last winter.
A friend of mine is a trainer there-and most have come to loathe the polytrack, it has created alot more injuries than the dirt track does. Many owners/trainers turn their horses out now in the winter here because they do not want their horses running on that track, then they'll return to River Downs in the spring.:yes:

Glimmerglass
Dec. 18, 2007, 01:55 PM
Santa Anita's surface continues to struggle to get the track to drain (http://news.bloodhorse.com/viewstory.asp?id=42801) before the opening of the Winter - Spring meet:


The fine sand initially mixed into the Cushion Track at Santa Anita led to a plugging of the asphalt base during the fall Oak Tree Racing Association meet. Santa Anita officials closed the track in early December to clean the asphalt and mix coarser sand into the Cushion Track surface in order to alleviate the problem.

California Horse Racing Board chairman Richard Shapiro asked representatives of Santa Anita and Cushion Track to report on the renovation progress at the CHRB’s Dec. 14 meeting. At that meeting, Charles explained the testing procedures being conducted on the surface so the track would both drain properly and be safe.

"We are working around the clock to get as much done as possible (before the rain arrives),” Charles said.[/quote]

Glimmerglass
Dec. 25, 2007, 09:15 PM
The very positive feedback regarding Tapeta and Golden Gate Fields so far:

San Fran Chronicle Dec 25 2007 "Synthetic track surface wins over skeptics" (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/12/25/SPPEU495Q.DTL)

Bigger fields, lower injuries, and more wagering are the best things for GGF

excerpt


There have been four fatal injuries during races from 2,159 starters in 32 days compared to seven from 1,907 starters during Golden Gate Fields' 31-day season in similar weather Dec. 26-Feb. 11.

An average of 8.3 horses have run in each race compared with 7.3 in the previous corresponding meeting, and total betting is up 9 percent over a similar time period at Bay Meadows in 2006.

Races haven't been dominated by front-runners nearly as much as in the past, with 22.8 percent of the winners going wire-to-wire and 39.2 percent leading from the top of the stretch. During the Dec. 26-Feb. 11 season, 36.2 percent of the winners led from the start and 56.5 percent led from the top of the stretch.

"Of all the synthetic tracks, by far this one is the best, and I've run on every one here," said trainer Art Sherman, who keeps 25 of his 100-plus horses in Southern California. "With a big stable you're always going to have injuries, but I've had far fewer than usual on this track."

DLee
Dec. 25, 2007, 10:38 PM
Last time I checked-- wild mustangs did not run around on ground up carpet--and unfortunately, thoroughbreds will be expected to adapt to it before all is said and done-- if you ask me-- stick to what is natural-- dirt


The problem I see with that, is racehorse training isn't 'natural'. No mustang works that hard, that young, or ever.

Drvmb1ggl3
Dec. 26, 2007, 02:00 AM
The problem I see with that, is racehorse training isn't 'natural'. No mustang works that hard, that young, or ever.

Not to mention that the mustang is not the horse used in racing.
The modern domesticated horse breeds, and the English TB used in racing, hail by and large from Europe. The most natural thing for those animals is running around on grass.

I don't know why people persist with the notion that dirt is somehow a natural surface, the surface at Churchill Downs, Pimlico, Belmont etc is every bit as man made as All-Weather surfaces. They are not naturally plowed fields and that special blend of loam, sand, etc on roadbase with 3-5 degree banked turns does not exist in nature.

Glimmerglass
Feb. 16, 2008, 12:29 AM
I'll stick this interesting (and positive report) on the just concluded Gold Gate Fields meet with the new Tapeta surface.

DRF 2-15-08 "Fatalities decline on Golden Gate's Tapeta" (http://drf.com/news/article/92314.html)

excerpt


According to Arthur, there was a 31 percent decrease in fatalities per starters at the fall-winter meet compared with the Golden Gate meetings of Jan. 1, 2004 through June 10, 2007, which were run on a conventional dirt track.

There were 12 racing fatalities from 4,002 starters during the recently concluded meeting, which ran from Nov. 7 to Feb. 3. The figures translate to 1 fatality for every 334 starters. Not included in those statistics were one fatality from a pulmonary hemorrhage and one fatality caused by a fall over a downed horse.

From Jan. 1, 2004, through June 10, 2007, there were 72 racing fatalities from 18,445 starters - or 1 for every 256 starters. Excluded from those figures were three incidents of sudden death and one fatality from a starting gate accident.

Most of the fatalities during the fall-winter meet came before Jan. 1, when the weather was extremely cold and dry. Golden Gate Fields general manager Robert Hartman said there was a learning curve in regard to track maintenance of the Tapeta, a wax-coated mixture of sand, rubber, and fiber.

And further praise in general:


Trainers offered virtually universal praise for the surface throughout the meeting, and they were particularly pleased with the way it held up during the heavy rains that have hit California this winter. Santa Anita has had to cancel 11 racing days because of drainage problems with its Cushion Track, but Golden Gate did not have a surface-related cancellation at its latest meet

Track veterinarian Dr. Diane Isbell, private veterinarian Dr. Don Smith, and several trainers said they have noted a decrease in injuries since the surface was installed.

And the environment benefitted too:


Before installation of Tapeta, officials expected the synthetic surface would need less water than the old dirt track, which Hartman said used 120,000 gallons of water a day. Hartman said no water was added to the track during the meet because morning fog and rain provided sufficient moisture.

Glimmerglass
Feb. 25, 2008, 12:01 AM
Quite the interesting headline from the Daily Racing Form:

DRF 2024-08 "Santa Anita considers a return to dirt" (http://www.drf.com/news/article/92531.html)

excerpt


A potential return to dirt racing at Santa Anita has the preliminary support of Richard Shapiro, the chairman of the California Horse Racing Board and a major proponent of synthetic tracks in recent years.

Shapiro backed away from that mandate in an interview of the weekend, but remained hopeful that Santa Anita would install a different synthetic surface later this year.

“If, at the end of the day, Santa Anita comes forward and said, We’ve looked at the options and we believe for the safety of the horse and rider that we’ve got a plan to put in a dirt track on top of a good solid base, and they would put in a track that was safe, personally, I’m not totally opposed to that,” he said.

I recall reading elsewhere that the rub was that the volume of soil required was MASSIVE and actually securing such a volume (in excess of 100 million tons) was proving almost impossible. IMHO - the cost to acquire, truck in, and installing it would be so significant that it could not be a viable 'options' for just a one or two year solution but rather going back to dirt would have to be a 10-year type committment.

Glimmerglass
Mar. 18, 2008, 04:37 PM
Interesting counterpoint to the discussion:

DRF 3-17-08 "Study challenges injury claims" (http://www.drf.com/news/article/93048.html)

Excerpt ..


Data collected over the last six months of 2007 through a uniform injury reporting system has not shown any significant difference in the rates of fatal injuries sustained by horses running on synthetic or dirt surfaces, according to the veterinarian who has compiled the reports.

During a presentation at the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit on Monday at Keeneland, Dr. Mary Scollay, the Florida state veterinarian, cautioned that the data did not represent a statistically significant set, and it did not include data from the four synthetic tracks in California. Other racing officials said Monday that fatal injuries have declined markedly after the installation of synthetic surfaces at many tracks. But Scollay’s data at least introduces questions regarding the validity of the claim that synthetic surfaces are safer than traditional dirt tracks. Scollay said she was “floored” by the similarity between the numbers of fatalities on dirt and synthetic surfaces.

The data was collected by Scollay from 42 racetracks that agreed last year to use a standardized reporting form for racetrack injuries, including Arlington Park, Keeneland, and Turfway, all of which race on a synthetic track. The form is being used to gather information on the types of injuries horses suffer while racing in order to identify potential problems or areas of research.

The data began to be collected on June 1, Scollay said, and no meaningful difference between injury rates on the two types of surfaces could be discerned. According to Scollay, the data showed 244 fatalities from 123,890 starters on dirt, for a ratio of 1.96 fatalities per 1,000 starts. For synthetic surfaces the ratio was 1.95, with 58 fatalities from 29,744 starts.

The study did not include data from racetracks in California, which has the largest concentration of tracks with synthetic surfaces. The California tracks declined to participate, state officials there said, because they have their own statewide system of reporting injuries. The California data has shown a marked decline in fatal racing injuries, according to that state’s racing and veterinary officials, with 3.18 fatalities per 1,000 starts on dirt surfaces in 2004-07 and 1.24 fatalities per 1,000 starts on synthetic surfaces in 2007.

In addition to concerns over the size of the statistical sample, Scollay also cited “anecdotal” evidence that trainers were sending unsound horses to run over synthetic surfaces because of a belief that the surfaces are a “vaccine” to injury.

“There has been some pushing of the envelope in which some horsemen are taking bigger chances” with sore or injured horses on synthetic surfaces, Scollay said.

RedEqHunter
Mar. 31, 2008, 11:27 AM
Reading through this thread I saw some interesting points. I also feel that we need more data before we can decide which is better. There are definitely pros and cons to both and it seems to vary by location too (quality, climate, etc.).

The study above was pretty interesting - I used it in a blog entry of mine. I have just started an "animal science" blog at my very technically-oriented job.

Glimmerglass
Apr. 11, 2008, 11:58 AM
Interesting counterpoint to the discussion:

DRF 3-17-08 "Study challenges injury claims" (http://www.drf.com/news/article/93048.html)

Whoa Nelly ... not so fast .. it looks like said report was in error and now is revised with a big difference. Amazing how that happens and with such a big gap of time ;)

BloodHorse 4-10-08 "Review: Racetrack Fatality Ratio Changes" (http://news.bloodhorse.com/viewstory.asp?id=44533)

Excerpt


The number of catastrophic injuries on dirt tracks has gone up while the corresponding number on synthetic surfaces has gone down, according to a revision of a report first given at the March 17 Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit.

The Jockey Club, which coordinated and underwrote the summit along with the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, said in an April 10 release the information had been “thoroughly reviewed.” Thereafter, the numbers were revised.

The revised figures released by The Jockey Club April 10 show 2.02 fatalities per 1,000 starts on dirt and 1.47 on synthetic surfaces.

Often inquired by folks is the data collection:


Central to the system is a standardized form created by Scollay and a group of participating regulatory and track veterinarians following the original summit. It’s now being used at 48 racetracks.

In addition, InCompass Solutions has developed the necessary technology tools and created a database that enables track veterinarians to electronically submit injury reports from participating racetracks. The database will become operational in the next couple of months, The Jockey Club reported.

Glimmerglass
May. 29, 2008, 03:21 PM
Almost as expected - The Los Angeles Turf Club (Magna) has sued Cushion Track Footing USA for their botched job at Santa Anita Race Course

BloodHorse 5-29-08 "Cushion Track Sued for SA Surface Issues" (http://news.bloodhorse.com/article/45464.htm)

excerpt


The original Cushion Track surface has been blamed for the loss of 11 racing days during the most recent Santa Anita live meet, with track officials claiming the material didn’t allow for sufficient draining.

The lawsuit claims the Los Angeles Turf Club spent: $5.2 million for almost 20,000 tons of Cushion Track material last April; nearly $1.4 million on repairs in December; and then, “because of the defendants’ unwillingness and/or inability to resolve the defects in the track material,” an additional $1.8 million on modifications performed by another synthetic surface supplier, Pro-Ride.

The Los Angeles Turf Club, which asks for a jury trial, seeks to recover at least the noted expenditures, but also for other damages, including lost racing revenue.

“LATC has demanded that defendants remove the track material at their expense, and refund the monies paid, as required by the contract," the complaint said. “Defendants have failed to do so.”

Santa Anita’s main track is still experiencing problems, and officials are considering replacing the asphalt base as a next attempt to rectify the situation. Santa Anita Park is the host site of the next two Breeders’ Cup World Championships, including this year’s event set for Oct. 24-25.

bobbybobby
May. 29, 2008, 04:53 PM
what makes people think they can make a unnatural surface and keep horses sound.....look at all the sore horses and breakdowns on synthetic tracks....hopefully santa anita will go back to a dirt track....

Chiniko
May. 29, 2008, 07:58 PM
It will never happen. It's too expensive. There are too many problems with it and the health risks to horse and human in the long term will show before every track ever has to put it in. They'll all go back to dirt before that ever happens

bobbybobby
May. 29, 2008, 09:26 PM
hopefully within the next 5 to 10 years they will all be back to dirt.....

Texarkana
May. 29, 2008, 09:34 PM
Well... Santa Anita won't be going back to dirt. But it does look like they'll be replacing their base before the Breeders Cup.

http://www.drf.com/news/article/94972.html


Track president Ron Charles said Pearse inspected the course Tuesday and discovered that it had not drained well in places after the recent rainstorm. Pearse has recommended that more material be added to the existing track.

"He spent yesterday inspecting and digging numerous holes and found that the base and the asphalt is draining slowly or not at all," Charles said. "He recommended that we need to replace the asphalt base, and would have to re-treat the entire track. He's asking for two to three weeks, so we can get every inch treated.


It was unclear Wednesday how Santa Anita would proceed with Pearse's recommendation.

Charles said one tentative plan is to begin the renovation in mid-July, corresponding with the end of the current Hollywood Park meeting on July 13 and the start of the Del Mar meeting on July 16 when many stables ship to Del Mar.

Charles said a three-week break would allow for a reconstruction of the asphalt base and would allow Pearse to blend polymers and fibers into the entire track. The asphalt base has been a source of concern since last fall because it would not allow water to pass through it and because it was coming apart in areas, leaving rocks on the surface.

I don't think synthetics are bad. But I do hate the concept of racing on asphalt bases. They're easy to screw up and they don't hold up for the long haul. Santa Anita is a perfect example of this.

Chiniko
May. 29, 2008, 10:55 PM
Santa Anita can't afford to change, And are suing Cushion Track to the tune I think of 8. something million. Which is less than it cost to install. Magna is about bankrupt. The proride additive is good, and saved the meet. Synthetics have been troublesome at every track they have been installed at. From installation issues to problems with surface that differs significantly from the cooler morning temperatures to the hot temperatures of the afternoon. There are conflicting reports as to the actual reduction of catastrophic injuries. The infamous problems with drainage that Santa Anita has encountered and cost them far more than the installation did. There have been serious bias' on most tracks and a wide tracking to closing trip is often a winning one (on Poly) Cushion seems to play quite fair, and isn't overly fast or overly slow. The initial Cushion at Santa Anita was a horrendously fast track. World records were set. Speed carried. Few closed. The list of synthetic problems continues with recent rain in the southern part of california, resulting in the genius decision to finally look at the base which has been the problem there from the beginning.
I like synthetics better than dirt just because horses seem to travel over it better, more naturally. BUT dirt is safe when maintained properly and horsemen use theur brains. JMHO

solargal
May. 30, 2008, 04:09 PM
Well one trainer here would has brought back his best horse from Arlington. He breezed easy one time and came back sore. Same with a filly that I ran there. She has never had a problem and came back sore all over.:no:

Chiniko
May. 30, 2008, 04:37 PM
One would have to think if you train and work on dirt and run on Poly some body soreness would occur. They are so different.

LaurieB
May. 30, 2008, 05:32 PM
Well one trainer here would has brought back his best horse from Arlington. He breezed easy one time and came back sore. Same with a filly that I ran there. She has never had a problem and came back sore all over.:no:

Last year when we had horses at Arlington, many of the trainers were training on the much smaller (dirt) training track and only using the main track for recorded breezes and racing. The main track was making a lot of horses sore then too.

I really don't think synthetic surfaces are the answer. I wish track owners would put the amount of money they're spending on synthetics into putting down and maintaining a really excellent dirt surface instead.