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Synthetic surface study (CA): higher fatalities

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  • Synthetic surface study (CA): higher fatalities

    Not exactly a shocker after Del Mar has to date 11-fatalities for this meet.

    LA Times August 27, 2009 "Thoroughbreds suffer a higher number of fatal injuries on synthetic surfaces compared to dirt"

    A UC Davis study of horse deaths at California tracks looks into the difference in injuries on dirt and synthetic surfaces.
    By Eric Sondheimer

    August 27, 2009

    A UC Davis study of horse deaths at California tracks has documented for the first time that thoroughbreds suffer a higher number of fatal hind rear injuries on race tracks with synthetic surfaces compared to dirt.

    In statistics compiled from 2008, nine thoroughbred deaths resulted from left rear injuries and 10 from right rear injuries on synthetic tracks. There was only one death on dirt from a hind rear injury, according to the study.

    The debate over dirt versus synthetic tracks has roiled the horse racing industry in recent years.

    But the study was inconclusive about whether more fatal front leg injuries occurred on dirt or synthetic surfaces.

    The largest number of fatal fractures were front limbs, with 36 horses suffering right-front injuries on synthetic tracks compared to 22 on dirt, and 38 had left-front injuries on synthetic surfaces compared to 37 on dirt tracks, according to the study.

    The research was revealed Thursday during a meeting of the California Horse Racing Board at Del Mar.

    The CHRB has mandated that any horse that dies at a race track be sent to UC Davis for a postmortem.

    Hailu Kinde, interim director for the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, said there were 351 horses submitted in 2008 for postmortems, including 258 thoroughbreds and 86 quarterhorses.

    Kinde declined to say whether synthetic or dirt tracks were safer. "The data is not yet analyzed," he said.

    eric.sondheimer(at)latimes.com

    Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times
    Anyone want to guess which CA of the big three tracks will convert back to dirt first? GGF, DelMar or Santa Anita? (Sadly consider HP a lost cause)
    Last edited by Glimmerglass; Aug. 28, 2009, 07:51 PM. Reason: so that folks stop getting their knickers in a twist over the use of "rate"

  • #2
    The Bloodhorse also has an article on the study; pretty shocking is that the number of catastrophic breakdowns for Quarter Horses doubled over last year, and Los Al stayed a dirt track.

    What the study does is give concrete credence to the trainers' complaints that they were seeing far more hind-leg injuries, so now there's numerical proof, not just anecdotes.

    Also, what the CHRB vets seem to be saying is that many of those breakdowns were caused by previous injuries ... which opens the door to all sorts of theories/speculation.

    I really don't know how any of the tracks can contemplate going back to dirt, simply from a financial perspective. Santa Anita's parent is in bankruptcy court, Del Mar is on the governor's wish list to sell and Golden Gate is barely hanging on.
    Congratulate me! My CANTER cutie is an honor student at Goofball University!

    Comment


    • #3
      What are the fatality rates? There's no mention of them in the article, just raw numbers.

      Comment


      • #4
        Maybe they need longer toe grabs?

        Comment


        • #5
          Really - the title of that article is unbelievably misleading. What's the per starter or start rate per surface?

          I'm just guessing, mind you, but most starts (starters) in California now occur (race) on synthetics ...

          These numbers tell you nothing about fatality rates, which is why they declined to comment on it. And this is a one year observation which hopefully will become a part of a multi-year actual time series sample.

          Pre existing injuries have repeatedly been identified as a high correlate with catastrophic breakdowns in necropsy studies. That is one thing a necropsy CAN tell you - whether there are "old" and/or healing fractures, old soft tissue tears and holes, or changes/remodeling occurring as the result of old injuries.

          Comment


          • #6
            Wanna know how useless the California Horse Racing Board is? I searched all over its website (as well as UC Davis' site) and could not find the report, so I had the brilliant thought to just call the CHRB and ask.

            Neither of the two people I talked to had a clue about the study, didn't know anything about the results ("Isn't that interesting?" said the nice lady who answered the phone), didn't know that the study was presented to the board, or that is was being written about both in the racing and non-racing press, and discussed on BBs.

            The most helpful advice I got was "Well, if it was in The Times, call them. They should have the report."

            So, have contacted the reporter. Clearly it's out there somewhere, because, as I said, the Bloodhorse has it, too (but also no mention of injury rates).
            Congratulate me! My CANTER cutie is an honor student at Goofball University!

            Comment


            • #7
              Beezer... you made me laugh. I have to share this on the CHRB.

              Last year the CHRB was contacted by, mmm, possibly press members ((?) forgetting the details now) regarding 40 pregnant TB mares that were shipped from a breeding farm in So CA to a feedlot in AZ. Then Chair of the SCHRB, Richard Schapiro - a state appointed chair of a regulatory board - was shocked to learn that there is a law in California prohibiting the export of horses to slaughter. He asked the CHRB "research staff" to, you know, "research" it, and they proved incapable of detecting section 598c of the penal code among the California statutes.

              A TB retirement farm was called, in order to obtain an internet link to the appopriate section of code which was emailed to them

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                BlooHorse 8-28-09 "Back Leg Injuries Tied to Synthetic Tracks"

                Arthur also told the board that UC-Davis is working on developing consistent test data with which to measure the various synthetic track surfaces.

                He said that such measurements are complicated by surface temperatures on synthetic tracks that are much higher than on traditional dirt surfaces.

                But Arthur said that in 90% of racetrack fatalities, the horse had a pre-existing injury that led to the catstrophic breakdown.

                "To think that this is only a racetrack problem, and that we will solve the problem by fixing the racetracks is terribly naive," Arthur said.

                Comment


                • #9
                  The Times reporter says that the CHRB report will be issued in written form in two weeks. So it would appear that both he and the Bloodhorse reporter listened in/watched the webcast of the meeting to hear the oral report.
                  Congratulate me! My CANTER cutie is an honor student at Goofball University!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Blueshadow View Post
                    Really - the title of that article is unbelievably misleading. What's the per starter or start rate per surface?
                    Yeah, the title says there is a higher rate of fatalities on synths. The article makes no mention of what the rates are, or maybe I'm going blind and missed it. Usually those rates are expressed in fatalities/1000 starts.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The title of the article is highly misleading - in fact it's misrepresentation of the facts presented in the article.

                      I like Arthur's comments that 90% of fatalities are associated with a pre-existing injury (I think that's been well established over numerous studies) and that fixing track surfaces isn't the answer. Very direct.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Blueshadow View Post
                        The title of the article is highly misleading - in fact it's misrepresentation of the facts presented in the article.

                        I like Arthur's comments that 90% of fatalities are associated with a pre-existing injury (I think that's been well established over numerous studies) and that fixing track surfaces isn't the answer. Very direct.
                        But at the same time what track were they working on when the pre-existing injury occured. I do believe track surface places a part on catastrophic breakdowns, but there are other factors that are just as big a part. Hard to detect pre-existing problems when the horse is on all sorts of medication. Doesn't help to when you have trainers knowingly running horses with problems.
                        Blog: My journey with two OTTB's

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by DickHertz View Post
                          Maybe they need longer toe grabs?
                          Oddly Dick the don't need hinds on these tracks and even fronts are becoming barefoot for some as well in an attempt to find foot/leg that is forgiven on these tracks. Some of the surfaces are much harder on feet than others. Hind end injuries seem to be alleviated some on the synthetics when they don't have hind shoes.
                          And of course Arthur is going to attempt to make the decision by the CHRB look as though it was a founded decision. He does know where his bread is buttered. And of course he is right in some horses there is something pre existing. absolutely. But of course Dr Arthur has never nerved or heel nerved any horses for the purpose of running, right? Oh ya... he has indeed! It's well documented as a matter of fact. The guy's no saint.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I remember when they first started with synthetic surfaces the trainers complained about more hind leg problems (although they were mostly soft tissue ones then).

                            My thought is that maybe some trainers needed to learn how to properly condition horses for that sort of surface. Apparently not everyone has!
                            Every mighty oak was once a nut that stood its ground.

                            Proud Closet Canterer! Member Riders with Fibromyalgia clique.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Ya, that's it. It's a state full of dummies who can't learn how to train on any surface.
                              When it started it was exactly what it is now with a few new players like Carava who has not had a problem with breakdowns.
                              It has always been, soft tissue and pelvic and tibial fractures etc. It is the same sad story it was from the get go. Absolutely nothing has changed or improved. IF anything it is worse.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by summerhorse View Post
                                I remember when they first started with synthetic surfaces the trainers complained about more hind leg problems (although they were mostly soft tissue ones then).

                                My thought is that maybe some trainers needed to learn how to properly condition horses for that sort of surface. Apparently not everyone has!
                                Since you've narrowed the problem down to conditioning, please enlighten all of us on what should change in a training routine in dirt vs synthetic.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by On the Farm View Post
                                  Since you've narrowed the problem down to conditioning, please enlighten all of us on what should change in a training routine in dirt vs synthetic.
                                  Fair question. What were Mel Stute's stats--in 40 years, he has 12 fatalities and 9 of those have been since the switch to synthetics. What did this fine trainer do to become so incompetent in the last few years?

                                  http://www.thoroughbredtimes.com/nat...c-surface.aspx

                                  This is a highly political issue. The switch was controversial when made, cost a boatload of money and some of the people publicly blaming the trainers were themselves responsible for spearheading the shift. There are even rumblings about how the stats are kept and (allegedly) manipulated by those same folks. I know someone who had a filly breakdown behind in the morning at Del Mar, now having round the clock care at a lay up facility and still may yet be euthanized (although her outlook with care is good) and as far as he knows, she hasn't been counted in the stats even though she had to be vanned off the track.

                                  I know a common perception is that all racehorse trainers are bozos, but really they're not. Jack Carava in particular is a good decent horseman with a good reputation and the blame game has irritated other trainers no end because since he's had the worst luck this year at Del Mar, the implication from management is that Carava's either incompetent or worse --and as Blinkers On notes, he's not.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    What do Americans have against turf ?
                                    ... _. ._ .._. .._

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Equibrit View Post
                                      What do Americans have against turf ?
                                      Nothing but since turf courses get chewed up pretty quickly, you can only card a few races a day and generally its closed for training. It couldn't be the mainstay of American style racing.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        So - it's a management problem then.
                                        ... _. ._ .._. .._

                                        Comment

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