Back to track surfaces

One of the topics highlighted in the recent edition of The Blood-Horse is the lack of information about equine breakdowns during training hours. Tuesday’s Daily Racing Form noted three breakdowns during morning training that day on Hollywood Park’s Cushion track; the item was buried in a longer piece, headlined by a story on Nashoba’s Key. The information about the three horses being euthanized came as the fourth item in the piece, and it raised several questions for me:

–Why was it so hard to find this information? Three horses fatally breaking down on one morning seems fairly extraordinary to me, and I was surprised at how difficult it was to get the information. Any number of Internet searches yielded nothing; I finally got the link from a discussion board.

–Where’s the outcry? My experience has been that whenever there’s one breakdown, much less multiple fatalities, on a dirt track, the cries come out about the danger of dirt. Yet when fatalities occur on synthetic surfaces, the voices are much more muted. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places, but I didn’t see a single article or blog post questioning the safety of this track surface, or suggesting that the surface be investigated, though some questions were raised by some posters on the forum of Thoroughbred Champions.

In a related story, I noted yesterday that all fatal breakdowns at Woodbine, regardless of when they occur, are mandated to be necropsied at the University of Guelph. As with many other issues, I feel that we have much to learn from our northern neighbors (and yes, my hockey inclinations inform that opinion); why can’t we do this? Why can’t all horses who break down at a racetrack be required to be autopsied so that the cause of death/source of injury can be determined? Seems to me that it would lead to the sort of transparency that is all too often lacking when it comes to the death of horses on the racetrack.

4 thoughts on “Back to track surfaces

  1. You’d also think that the Jockey Club or a similar centralized authority would be maintaining and analyzing statistics on breakdowns; I’m not impressed by those that come from the makers of the various types of synthetic track.You are spot on about the outcry over breakdowns on dirt track versus the silence over synthetics at this point.I’m still perfectly willing to believe there are better track surfaces for given climates, but there’s simply no firm evidence at this point.

  2. I’m still surprised that the Hollywood breakdowns haven’t made a headline anywhere. And like you, I’m all for surfaces that will make racing better, but I continue to wait for research that will make a definitive case for synthetics. Now that they’ve been down for a few years, I’m hopeful that the research will get going. And not, ahem, done by Keeneland, which makes its money from sales of synthetic surfaces. It’s kind of amazing to me that that sort of financial partnership can even be allowed to happen.

  3. Another thing about the article on the three fatalities at Hollywood Park that morning: There were THREE. Yet only the colt Wise Mandate warranted mention. The other two living-breathing animals remain nameless. And searches across the Web — racing sites, news, and blogs — return no word about these other two who lost their lives that day. Disrespect runs rampant in the industry.

  4. Anonymous: I’ve seen this mentioned elsewhere–I don’t follow racing CA racing closely enough to know whether Wise Mandate is a well-known horse, and I don’t know whether that had something to do with it.I agree that it’s odd that only he was mentioned, and again, that the incidents themselves have attracted so little attention.

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