“A big toxic waste dump”

You might recall that those are the words that Jay Privman of ESPN and Daily Racing Form used to describe the synthetic surfaces in California during an ESPN telecast in early October. Recently, a commenter on the discussion boards at Alex Brown Racing posted this article from the New Haven Register regarding toxins in the artificial turf used on sports fields and playgrounds. She raised the question about whether we should be concerned as the rubber from the tires in the turf is what emits the toxins, and tires are an element of synthetic racing surfaces.

Seems like a reasonable worry to me; in the summer of ’06 I attended a panel at the Racing Museum in Saratoga, in which a vet, a jockey, and a trainer all expressed concern about long-term exposure to synthetic surfaces without any research done on respiratory effects on humans and horses; all said that they were optimistic about the possibility of reducing breakdowns, but none was enthusiastic about being around the stuff without knowing what might happen to them over the long haul. No direct link is made in the Register article between artificial turf and synthetic tracks, but it seems a reasonable extrapolation.

Monday night I finally sat down to watch some of Sunday’s race replays; Piquante Cat looked home free in the third until the favorite, Pletcher’s Spanky Fischbein, ran him down in the deep stretch. In the first, Swap Fliparoo made a nice run at the end; she wasn’t going to catch the horses in front of her, but she had plenty of run and as the chart notes, it was a “good finish outside.” Given the way that some of the races at Aqueduct have ended with horses strung out the length of the stretch, it was nice to see a few end with a little excitement. In the seventh race, the Duchess looked well out of it early on, as Durkin noted that she was under a busy ride heading into the far turn, trailing the field. She saved ground coming around the turn, found a hole under Chop Chop, and easily held for second as the winner, Tamberino, was tiring; a little more distance might have given her the win. Unlike Be Bullish, the Duchess rarely lets me down.

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