Another one goes down at Del Mar

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.”

3 thoughts on “Another one goes down at Del Mar

  1. They could have put in new dirt tracks for $40 million with a new base which is all that was needed. Question is now, do the tracks have the finances needed to keep the plastic tracks maintained? I doubt it.

  2. It is my understanding that each year Del Mar is supposed to recondition the surface with new wax and other materials to replenish it. I know it is expensive (I have heard 100k but I don’t know)! Does anyone know if they did?

  3. Andrew,
    I heard Hollywood Park is supposed to do the same thing before each meeting, but they didn’t this year and as a result, its Cushion Track was playing more like a dirt surface than Pro-Ride or Polytrack. Now, after the first five days of the Del Mar meet when speed is holding much better so far than during the first two years of Polytrack, it makes you wonder if maybe Del Mar didn’t do the same thing as Hollywood Park and forego maintenance because of cost. I’ll try to get an answer for you and include it in Friday’s notes section of my column.

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