Can Manufacturing Principles Build A Better Racetrack?

Next week in Lexington, Kentucky, The Jockey Club will hold its fifth Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit.  Inaugurated in 2006 and held bi-annually, these summits are designed to improve the safety and soundness of Thoroughbred horses and bring together racetrack operators, trainers, veterinarians, and scientists.

Among those presenting at the summit, which will take place at Keeneland Racecourse, is Dr. Mick Peterson, the executive director of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory and the Libra Foundation Professor at the College of Engineering at the University of Maine. Peterson is a mainstay at conferences about racetrack safety, a pioneer in the application of engineering principles to surface maintenance and composition.

A graduate of the General Motors Institute with a degree in mechanical engineering, Peterson holds and M.S. and Ph.D. from Northwestern University. He spoke extensively in 2008 at the synthetic surface summit in Saratoga Springs, New York, at a time when it seemed that U.S. racing might turn away from dirt to artificial surfaces that seemed to lower the risk of catastrophic equine injuries.

Peterson was cautious about a surface change as a panacea, suggesting that instead of rushing to replace dirt tracks, a central laboratory be instituted to compare surfaces at race tracks and linking the data collected to available information about breakdowns to investigate the relationship between the two.

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