Are They Safer?

by Ed Meyer

posted on December 15, 2008 in General Discussion | No Comments >>

While watching simulcasting, in a span of a half-hour today, I have seen a horse break down on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track and another one over Golden Gate Fields’ Tapeta surface. Last night a horse suffered what appeared to be a bad leg fracture, and fell while in a clear lead racing over Turfway’s Polytrack.

In no way am I saying the synthetic surfaces caused these horses’ injuries. But if they had come over dirt tracks, I feel pretty confident many people would want to point a finger at the surface.

When an injury occurs on dirt, the outcry is “the track is breaking down horses.” When it’s on a synthetic surface, it changes to “those things just happen.”

These things are too complicated to readily assign blame to one factor. But it seems to me the jury is still out on whether synthetic surfaces greatly reduce catastrophic injuries in horses over the long run.

It’s interesting that NYRA chief Charlie Hayward says he believes breakdown statistics per starter are misleading and New York will stick with dirt surfaces.

Still, I don’t know many trainers who wouldn’t love to have the option of training over a synthetic surface, especially in bad weather.