The folks at Hollywood Park would like the race fans to know that during all the rain this week, at a time when Santa Anita had been forced to cancel three cards because its Pro-Ride surface did not drain, they’re doing just fine in Inglewood.
“With the old dirt track we would have missed a couple of days,” Martin Panza, Hollypark’s vice president of racing, said. “It would have been sealed and closed. Cushion Track is draining perfectly — just as designed.”
Trainer John Sadler has also been mighty pleased.
“It’s been excellent,” he said. “I’ve been there the last two mornings and it’s been super, really holding up well.”
But it doesn’t surprise me.
Del Mar also reports its Polytrack is holding up well through all the rain, and Santa Anita might be too if not for the faulty material used when its Cushion Track was installed. Golden Gate up north, with its Tapeta Footings synthetic, has been draining.
These cancellations at Santa Anita are not because it’s a synthetic track, but that it’s a synthetic track that was laid down with bad materials.
That being said, just because Hollywood Park and Del Mar are draining well does not mean artificial tracks are a good thing. Far from it.
We continue to see catastrophic injury reports that exclude morning workouts, and of course that’s not even taking into account all the new types of injuries that have cropped up since synthetics hit Southern California.
And how about the jockeys? Respected Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas says we’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the dangers these riders face when they are thrown onto an artificial track.
So yeah, let’s not blame synthetics for the mess we have at Santa Anita. That’s unfair. But at the same time, just because Hollywood Park, Del Mar and Golden Gate are all draining does not make them good for the sport.
Like former CHRB chairman Richard Shapiro finally admitted months ago, there should have been a lot more study put into these tracks before they were installed. We’re still learning about them, and these horses and jockeys should not be the guinea pigs.