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.