A former trainer who wished to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the subject told me recently that, while the proponents of synthetics had only good intentions, the artificial tracks have turned into a disaster.
“The synthetics are terrible,” he said. “I can tell you, they suck, and if I was (still) training horses, I would not know my (butt) from first base.”
Asked if he felt synthetics will still be a part of California racing in five years, he didn’t hesitate.
“I don’t see how,” he said. “The only thing is the dollars that have gone into them, but maybe after going through this they’ll figure out another way to keep improving them. I really think we were sold a bill of goods. All the stuff they were supposed to do, they didn’t do any of that stuff. Will they still be here in five years? No, I don’t think so.”
Add this former trainer to a growing list of horsemen who maybe at the beginning of synthetics were pro-artificial tracks, but they’ve since adopted a new attitude after seeing how they perform.
“There have been more injuries that you can’t bring horses back from than the regular dirt track,” the ex-trainer said. “I think the overall horse population has suffered more with synthetics than dirt.”
But he does feel the majority of officials responsible for synthetic tracks meant for them to be a positive.
“I feel terrible for all the people who tried to do the right thing,” he said. “Santa Anita tried to do the right thing. You don’t put $10 million up to try to screw up racing. They didn’t spend their $10 million thinking what they were doing was going to be a bad thing. They thought they were really doing something special, and they intended to do something special.
“Hindsight being an easy deal, obviously it looks like it maybe would have been better to try it on maybe the training track at Santa Anita and saw how it handled the winter and the traffic and had a little better idea with it. It was a rush to action. I believe everybody believes that now. What do you do? You try to take action and do the right thing, and as it turns out it might not have been the right thing. But it wasn’t because people didn’t have great intentions.”