The fifth horse of the current Del Mar meet, Maggie and Hopie, had to be euthanized Tuesday morning after breaking down in the stretch during a morning workout.
The meet total through the first five days of racing? Two racing fatalities on the so-called safer Polytrack synthetic surface, one racing fatality on the turf and two morning breakdowns on Polytrack that led to the horses being euthanized.
Perhaps all that money that was spent on these “safer” artificial tracks — more than $40 million — could have been used to improve the existing dirt tracks in Southern California. They would have had enough money left over to sweeten purses or use in any number of ways to aid an industry that is clearly struggling because of one bad decision after another by its leaders.
I didn’t see all these fatal breakdowns during the Belmont Park meet that ended over the weekend, and guess what folks? They use good, old-fashioned dirt. So does Saratoga. We’ll see how Saratoga’s numbers stack up against Del Mar’s as far as fatal breakdowns go when its meeting begins Wednesday.
I’m not saying Polytrack was the reason for the breakdowns. What I am saying is that, unfortunately, breakdowns are going to occur over any type of surface because these huge, powerful horses are so fragile. I am blaming an increase in soft-tissue injuries on these synthetic tracks, though.
As one trainer told me nearly two years ago, “They might not be breaking down as often (right now), but they’re just dying a slower death.”