Another major trainer knocks synthetics

The list of trainers who are now not so enthusiastic about synthetic race tracks continues to grow, and no, not just old-school guys like Bruce Headley, Mel Stute and Henry Moreno.

We already knew guys like D. Wayne Lukas, John Shirreffs, Bob Baffert and Nick Zito hated the stuff, but it should really make you sit up and take notice when a trainer like Todd Pletcher, who sent tons of horses to Southern California the first year of synthetics, is suddenly backing off and is now reluctant to run his horses over them.

Here’s what Pletcher told Jennie Rees of the Louisville Courier-Journal this past weekend:

“I think there was a time when a lot of people were enthusiastic about the synthetic tracks and felt like it was going to make a difference in soundness and those kinds of things,” he said. “I think that enthusiasm level has decreased significantly.”

Pletcher is not sure he wants to send his top 3-year-old colt, Quality Road, to Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7.

“I’m not keen at all,” he said. “I mean, I don’t think I’d be alone to say it was not a great idea to hold (the Breeders’ Cup) at one place two years in a row, period, much less on a synthetic surface. It creates a huge edge for the guys who are in California all the time and a big edge for the guys from Europe. So we’re going to take the worst of it in that regard.

“You don’t know how they’re going to handle it until they run on it. Training doesn’t seem to help.”

Quality Road, a lot of experts’ Kentucky Derby pick until injury knocked him off the Triple Crown trail, has never raced on an artificial track. Pletcher noted that his star sprinter Munnings ran poorly on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

“He’s been off the board once in his life, and it was there,” he said.

Asked by Rees if he will have a presence at the Keeneland fall meet this year, Pletcher said: “We will be a presence. Not a big presence.”

Bottom line, folks, is that these synthetics were supposed to end the fatal breakdowns, and they aren’t doing it overall. Plus, sometimes the tracks are dangerous because they are uneven and they cause injuries that never used to crop up before.

More than $40 million later, nobody from outside the state of California wants to run
on our race tracks. And there are plenty of trainers here who don’t want to but must continue racing because it’s their livelihood.

5 thoughts on “Another major trainer knocks synthetics

  1. I sure would like to see someone ask these guys on the record if they recieved any commissions, kickbacks, stock options, gifts, monies, or any personal financial gain from promoting or purchasing a synthetic surface.

    Start with Rick Arthur and then go down the line to all the Racing Executives. Try the top two at Del Mar for starters!

  2. SYNTHETIC TRACKS ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO HANDICAP! IT’S UNNATURAL,AND UNPREDICTABLE. FAKE DIRT HAS DESTROYED HORSE RACING. I USED TO LOVE OFF TRACKS BECAUSE IT MADE HANDICAPPING THAT MUCH MORE IMPORTANT AND THE PAYOFFS WERE NICE. NOW PICKING A HORSE IS A TOSS OF THE DICE.

  3. Pletcher should be ashamed of himself for attributing Munnings’ performance in the BC Juvenile to the surface. Munnings is a pure sprinter and was not cut out for that route race. What’s more, he was restrained in that race, not allowed to use his speed, which practically guaranteed a bad result.

  4. I quit playing polycrap races a couple of years ago when I realized they were impossible to handicap and it was better to just play numbers like at a dog track. I don`t play Keeneland any more either and that used to be one of my favorite tracks despite the obvious speed bias they had there. Last year in the BC I played a lot on the turf races, but for the fake stuff I just made a couple of small exacta/trifecta boxes and watched the races. Bad move by all involved with the switch.

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