A six-hour meeting yesterday reviewed the status of synthetic racing surfaces at Thoroughbred tracks in California.
The California Horse Racing Board organized the meeting, which was attended by about 150 people, according to the Daily Racing Form.
I have reviewed three quite different reports on the meeting and extracted a few key quotes that relate to the concerns of Hoofcare and Lameness readers. Here are some key quotes, but I hope you will read the reports in their entirety:
Veterinarians Sue Stover of the University of California at Davis and Northern California track vet Diane Isbell reported that injury rates on synthetic surfaces often dropped when horses ran without toe grabs behind. Dr. Isbell said that some trainers have had success training their horses without shoes and urged the CHRB to allow horses to race barefoot. (from Blood-Horse report)
Jeff Blea, a private vet in Southern California, provided evidence that the number of shin X-rays conducted by his five-person practice had dropped since synthetic tracks were installed, but that injuries related to the pelvis and feet had increased. (DRF report)
Rick Arthur, D.V.M., the CHRB’s equine medical director, presented statistics showing that fatalities have decreased by 60% in racing over synthetic surfaces in California, compared to the previous dirt tracks. (TT report)
Trainer Bob Baffert: "I think these surfaces disrespect the ability of a horse and they disrespect the contest of horse racing, where the best horse is supposed to win.” (BH)
Trainer Ron Ellis: "I can unequivocally say that horses stay a lot sounder." (DRF)
Trainer John Shirreffs: “It’s like being in quicksand.” The Blood-Horse also attributed Shirreffs as saying that he sees more hind-end injuries, hoof bruises, and gravel (hoof abscesses). (BH)
Dr. Greg Ferraro of the University of California-Davis called for a five-year study on synthetic racetracks to gain information on how the tracks change over the short and long term. "You want consistency day to day," Ferraro said. "These synthetic surfaces are engineered surfaces and are the beginning of a new science to construct racetracks. This isn't the end, it's the beginning." (DRF report)
Read the Racing Form's report on the meeting, posted on the CBS Sports site so subscription is not required.
Read the Blood-Horse 's report.
Read the Thoroughbred Times report.