Tip of the hat to Equidaily for pointing me in this direction, to an article by Art Wilson in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, in which the president of Hollywood Park calls for a summer forum on the pros and cons of racing on synthetics. Oak Tree executive vice-president Sherwood Chillingworth (The Scarlet Letter, anyone?) sets out eight issues to address:
- How many catastrophic injuries have occurred over what period of time?
- How many soft tissue injuries have been reported and what part of the horse’s body was affected?
- How do the number and types of injuries vary between morning exercise and workouts and afternoon racing?
- Is there a history of injury to the horse involved?
- Do injuries occur more frequently in horses in the lower-claiming ranks?
- How about age correlation?
- What was the injury pattern at each track before the installation of a synthetic surface?
- Identifying, at each particular track, the spot or the area where the injury occurred or might have occurred.
I’d add a ninth, and that is (broken record alert) the respiratory effects of synthetic tracks on both horses and humans. The idea that synthetics have no kickback has called into question both on the West Coast (if there’s no kickback, why are jockeys wearing masks and shields?) and in Kentucky (see Jen Morrison’s observations at her Thorough Blog).
In other bad racing news, the New York Times highlighted this weekend the return to racing of harness driver Eric Ledford to the track following a suspension for doping horses. Nobody except Mr. Ledford seems to be too happy about this state of affairs, but it doesn’t appear that anyone can do anything about it. Alan at Left in the Gate covers this in much more detail. At least it’s not a case of the Times publicizing only the bad news in racing; in the last few months the paper has carried two nice features, one about Karakorum racing and one about the keeper of the jockeys’ silks.
And in a piece of good news, John Pricci over at HorseraceInsider publishes his first annual “Insider Awards.” Definitely worth a look, if only to recall with fondness the many horses, people, and events worth celebrating in 2007. In the category of Insider Racing Organization of 2007, Pricci chooses the Belmont Child Care Association, which he describes as “a small, hard-working racetrack-community-based charity, almost every cent and pool of sweat goes into the preparation of pre-kindergarten backstretch children from Anna House for entrance into elementary education.” Hear, hear, John—great recognition for a worthy organization. Check out the comments section as well.
As I write this on Monday evening, I imagine that many of you are getting ready to settle down on the couch, perhaps with a beverage, to watch the TVG telecast of the Eclipse Awards from California. Urban co-op dweller that I am, bereft of access to satellite television, I’ll read the results on Tuesday morning. I’d love to see a deserving Kiaran McLaughlin take home the award for training.