Not a great start for those “safer” surfaces

When the CHRB and its chairman at the time, Richard Shapiro, mandated the installation of synthetic surfaces at all major California race tracks, we were told they would be safer for the horses and significantly decrease the number of fatalities.

But Del Mar’s Polytrack surface has gotten off to a bad start this summer after three horses broke down and had to be euthanized in the past six days — one last Sunday during a morning workout and two in the first three days of racing.

More than $40 million, which could have been put to much greater use, has been spent by Del Mar, Hollywood Park and Santa Anita on these artificial tracks when all that really needed to be replaced were the bases, which then could have been topped off by quality dirt.

We’re still receiving conflicting data, which helps explain why two Southland newspapers reported different statistics this past week when reporting the number of fatalities at Del Mar the first two years of Polytrack.

It’s a good thing for the CHRB that there’s never been an official list of all the horses that have come down with soft tissue injuries since the synthetics were installed. That would be a mighty long list.

18 thoughts on “Not a great start for those “safer” surfaces

  1. Enough evidence is now in.

    Lifting the mandate is the honorable thing to do.

    In the Ca.race horse world ,politics and face saving trump honor all the time.

    We need new leaders.

  2. Good article Art.

    These guys know they made a mistake and what pisses Horseplayers off more than anything are the lies they tell to cover their collective asses. Thanks to you and a few others like Roger Stein the public is finally starting to see that synthetic surfaces are significantly more expensive to maintain. Also, it is now debateable whether or not they are safer.

    Didn’t they tell us that they would be less expensive to maintain and were much much safer?

    Racing Executives in California seem to be well educated, intelligent, idiots!

  3. Enough evidence is now in.

    Lifting the mandate is the honorable thing to do.

    In the Ca.race horse world ,politics and face saving trump honor all the time.

    We need new leaders.

  4. Non consistency with the synthetics and there is no such thing as current form when the horses go to different tracks now. Big players are leaving and either wagering at other circuits or playing a different game which means lost revenue for the state. It’s a shame and most of us knew this from the beginning when the CHRB was cramming this down everybody’s throat. The numbers tell the story that track management and the CHRB were sold a bill of goods.

  5. Andrew, the racing officials in California are idiots. Oh, wait. There I go again with more personal insults! LOL I’d like to know where Richard Shapiro is right now when this has blown up in everybody’s face. He left the spotlight at the right time.

  6. The synthetics tracks have made California racing completely irrelevant to the rest of the country. California horses do not do well in the triple crown races any longer and will again get beat by the Europeans in the breeder’s cup.

  7. Who are the trainers of the horses who broke down during races? Doug O’Neill (poly), Jeff Mullins (poly), Mike Mitchell (turf). See any similarities there? I think Peter Miller conditioned the horse who broke down during training. He’s not in the same category as the other three.

  8. Who are the trainers of the horses who broke down during races? Doug O’Neill (poly), Jeff Mullins (poly), Mike Mitchell (turf). See any similarities there? I think Peter Miller conditioned the horse who broke down during training. He’s not in the same category as the other three.

  9. Steve, all those Trainers win a lot of races and have big stables. I’m sure the injuries and breakdowns on the ultra safe poly track will be distributed equally by the end of the meet!

  10. Fatality numbers used by CHRB pooh-bahs are just smoke and mirrors. They keep using only the 2006 fatality figs to compare dirt to synthetic because fatalities very high that year and other years can only show improvement no matter the surface. The 2006 kill rate makes synthetic appear better. If all horses suffering from season and career-ending soft-tissue and other injuries –which unlike with serious fractures can be kept alive long enough to be shipped out– and killed at slaughterhouses were counted as track fatalities, these numbers would be horrific on dirt and synthetic alike and public outcry would shut racing down.

    That is why the CHRB and CA racing keep using only 2006 fatality numbers as a base, not an average of 04, 05 and 06 or injury numbers.

    Thank you Art for opening the door to the mushroom factory, because the press and the public are being treated like mushrooms and fed the most convenient and incomplete figures to make racing appears as if it cares and is making big progress. NOT. Racing leaders and insiders continue to avoid addressing its most important issues like drugs and abusive owners, trainers and all who allow infirm horses to race and generate the high injury and kill rate. It is business as usual and transparency is not part of the deal. The press needs to scratch below the veneer, ask tough questions and demand the public release of season and career-ending injury figures, not just fatality figures then figures than one half of these horses are a training and racing fatality.

  11. Greg, she’s too busy presenting trophies in the winner circle in scantily clad garments to be bothered by such things.

  12. Synthetic surfaces were originally introduced in Europe for training, then as a way to have expanded racing during the winter as it mimics turf which is the surface of choice for most stock there. Not sure who came up with the idea it was any safer. WO and TP have had issues with it in cold weather. TP now allows rear toe grips again. WO seemed to have cured it with some trainers still using Pam to prevent clumping in hooves.

  13. Lest we forget how short the fields were on dirt before mandate. Or how many scratches there were when it rained in the winter. Or how about 2yo starters? Care to look at the numbers of starters or races run for 2yo? Let’s not lose the ground we have gained over 1 week period. We need to remember how it was!!!!!

  14. Well racing fan,
    When these synthetics were installed, we were promised:
    (1) Larger fields — field sizes have not increased
    (2) Maintenance free — turns out, these tracks need a lot of constant maintenance
    (3) Less fatalities — this is still to be determined, and it says a lot in my book that these tracks have not distributed releases supporting these claims. Also, trainers are reporting more soft-tissue injuries. Are the major CA tracks having a lot less fatal breakdowns than tracks like Churchill, Belmont, Saratoga??? I don’t think so, and if they are, I wish they’d come up with numbers to support their claims.
    (4) Everyone will want to run over ‘em — uh huh, right. Some of the most respected trainers in the history of this sport — i.e. Frankel, Zito, Pletcher, Asmussen — don’t like ‘em and in some instances go out of their way to avoid them. We aren’t going to see Rachel Alexandrra at this year’s Breeders’ Cup because of synthetics.

    My question — where is the evidence that we have gained ground with these things over the past two years?

  15. Thank you Richard Shapiro!!
    When you’re not busy “keying” someones car or entrusting your life savings to Bernard Madoff, you find the time to ruin the great sport of racing in California. Thanks again Richard!

  16. Racing Fan !!! The fields sizes are larger? I think not! As far as the baby races, yeah they need to run more of them to fill the races! The trainers and owners are leaving California in droves because of the plastic tracks! I’d take a muddy track and a few scratches in the old days anytime over this B.S. Where the !@^%$ you been?

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