Showing posts with label Synthetic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Synthetic. Show all posts

Monday, March 29, 2010

Great Article About Synthetic Horse Racing Surfaces

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

I copied and pasted this article from It's written by Steven Crist, publisher and editor of the Daily Racing Form.

Crist Blog | March 27, 2010

Dubai World Crapshoot

The richest horse race in history was staged in Dubai earlier today, and it was a $10 million advertisement for how synthetic surfaces can make a complete mess of so-called world-class championship racing. For all that it proved about the quality of the contestants either individually or as a group, the results of the Dubai World Cup might as well have been drawn out of a hat.


The winner, front-running Gloria de Campeao, is an admirably durable Brazilian 7-year-old who was beaten 16 1/2 lengths by Curlin in the 2008 World Cup and 14 lengths by Well Armed in the race last year. Those two editions, like the 12 before them, were run on dirt but this year's version at the new Meydan Racecourse was run on Tapeta, a synthetic surface which until this year had never been used for anything more prestigious than a Grade III race at Golden Gate Fields.

The runner-up, Lizard's Desire, came into the $10 million race with a field-low bankroll of $207,442, having finished 10th and 11th in his two prior starts in Group 1 company in his native South Africa. Allybar, who was third, was 0 for 6 in graded or group races of any kind. America's supposed synthetic specialists -- BC Classic runner-up Gio Ponti (who finished 4th), Goodwood winner Gitano Hernando and Pacific Classic winner Richard's Kid -- had no impact on the finish.

Tapeta may well be a lovely training surface, and it has gotten high marks among synthetic tracks, but no one can really explain why anyone needs a third type of horse racing to go along with the dirt and turf racing that has defined the sport and its great horses for centuries. The Maktoums' decision to replace dirt with Tapeta at their gaudy new racing palace was a premature guess that these new surfaces might somehow magically combine dirt and turf racing into one globally-accepted footing. That hasn't happened and isn't going to anytime soon, or probably ever.

Instead, it remains entirely unclear what this World Cup proved other than Bob Baffert's adage that synthetic tracks make good horses look ordinary and ordinary horses look good. (And put down your torches -- this has nothing to with Zenyatta, a transcendently great horse who handles everything and is probably as good or better on dirt than on synthetics.) Sure, plenty of major dirt races end with befuddling finishes (cf. Kentucky Derby, 2005 and 2009) and there were even bigger upsets on grass today than on Tapeta. But in the past, the World Cup was a true showcase for champions, such as Cigar, Silver Charm, Dubai Milennium, Invasor and Curlin. Now? Step right up and spin the wheel.

That's how I roll.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More Synthetic Track Uncertainty

(that was just the first horse pic I randomly found in my pics folder. I'm pretty sure that isn't a synthetic grass surface that Ouija Board is on)

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

I didn't find anything about this article to be conclusive, but I'll pass it along anyway. It's a Chicago Tribune article about the synthetic surface at Arlington. The 2009 season has seen fewer equine breakdowns but has had two jockeys left paralyzed after falling from their horses. The article speculates about whether or not a synthetic surface is any less safe for jockeys to land on after falling off their mount.

The article can be found here.

One paragraph I found to contain some concrete info was:

Data released in 2008 from 2,235 injury reports showed virtually no difference in the fatality rates for horses racing on synthetic surfaces compared with conventional dirt. The information was presented at a safety summit at Keeneland.

That's how I roll.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Synthetic Horse Racing Surfaces Not Working out so Well- Part II

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

Synthetic tracks have created a spike in injuries to horses' hind legs. Oh good. Thanks, synthetic tracks!

Pt. 1 of Synthetic Horse Racing Surfaces Not Working Out so Well

I'm T.R. Slyder, and that's how you Tangueray.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Synthetic Horse Racing Surfaces Not Working Out So Well

By: T.R. Slyder,, AndyDisco on Twitter

I shouldn't have to preface my article with this but I will anyway- I take no pleasure from any harm done to race horses. I'd rather be wrong than see any get hurt.

That being said, as you know by now, several *coughCalifornia* horse racing tracks have recently dug up their dirt tracks to replace them with a dirt-like synthetic surface that is much more unlike dirt than anyone initially though. Their intentions for doing this were altruistic though- they felt that this new surface would make for a safer running surface for the horses.

After several horses broke down (the industry word for breaking a leg while racing), pressure from both outside and from within horse racing mounted to make the sport safer for its horses. Everyone agreed that was necessary. Horse racing insiders knew it was time to take a long look in the mirror and drastically tighten up lax drug policies. Drug laws were becoming increasingly loose as the years went on, and eventually enough was enough for the horses- they started breaking down. Too much muscle on too small of a frame (have you seen how small their ankles are?), and too many injured horses running full bore having no idea they were injured- thanks to drugs.

Many tracks took the more shameful, but more PR-friendly way out this PR mess- to prove their commitment to equine safety they voluntarily tore up their dirt tracks and installed, a newer, therefore safer track surface. Nevermind that Japan tracks have 90% less breakdowns despite a dirt surface, because they allow virtually 0 drug usage.

Tracks putting in these new surfaces began a PR movement that I think would be similar to a politician proposing tighter laws on drunk driving- you're really not free to speak out against the changes because you'll be branded as cold-hearted. If you're against stiffer drunk driving penalties you're obviously in favor of drunk driving, and if you oppose new, synthetic surfaces (thereby making them superior, clearly), you obviously care more about upholding tradition and profit than you do equine safety.

So with the current state equine safety going through a PR nightmare, no one stood up to loudly protest their implementation (with the only exception I am aware of, of Andy Beyer).

The new surfaces being built in absence of the cooperation of tightened drug rules, has resulted in little change. May I present Exhibit A-Z.

It's a shame. 6 horses died in 10 days at Del Mar racetrack, one of the jewels of American horse racing and the most prominent track to feature a synthetic surface. One of the horses broke down on the grass course, mind you, and that can happen anywhere, but a horse is more likely to breakdown as a result of drug use than as a result of what its running on.

The story doesn't end there, however. A rationale (but uninformed) person could then ask, "Ok, so they tried to save the horses and it didn't work out. That's too bad, but at least they tried. Did an honest attempt to help horse safety really put you out?"

In a word, yes.

Firstly, and much more importantly, it was a sham in the first place, and I'd be willing to bet the "equine-atarians" who were behind this were aware of it the whole time. Secondly, the new surfaces have hurt the sport (I wrote about it here, among other occasions). California's leading trainer, Bob Bafffert, moved his stable out of California, home of a few synthetic tracks, to New York because he didn't like how the surfaces impacted his horses performances on the track. No one in California could argue that a Hall of Fame trainer in his prime leaving their state has helped California horse racing.

Furthermore, its just an alien surface. We now have grass, dirt and synthetic surfaces. Regular readers of this column are well aware of my frustration over Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra possibly never racing head-to-head. This are the two best mares since Ruffian, AND they're at their peaks at the same time! This should be outstanding for the sport, but instead it has almost the opposite effect- it just frustrates people. Zenyatta is a synthetic specialist, and Rachel a dirt horse. If synthetic tracks weren't around, Zenyatta would be a dirt horse and they'd run against each other. Now, both are afraid to try a new surface and lose to their other horse on her "home" surface and the worst part is- I really can't blame either horse's connections. I'd do the same if I owned them. Sure I want to see them race one another, but I can't blame the owners.

Another problem its causing is a decrease in betting on horses who are "crossing over". The Kentucky Derby is run on dirt. Many Derby entrants are California horses trying dirt for the first time in the Derby. Since bettors don't know what to make of them- they don't bet them. That's bad for the tracks. It's also bad for the horse players both ways- if a solid California horse, raised on synthetics loses in the Derby, they say, "I knew a horse can't win the Derby on his fist try over dirt." and if a synthetic horse were to win, the bettors who didn't bet on it because its a "synthetic" horse would angrily say, "How the hell can you expect me to bet on a synthetic runner? Finally one of them wins, and I was supposed to bet on it after I just saw 20 of them shit the bed in previous years? I'm never betting on the Derby again" And that hurts the tracks and the bettors. That saga gets far uglier when the Breeder's Cup is run on a synthetic surface- which stupidly was last year, and unforgivably will be again this year. Suddenly the specialists on the new surface, which does no good for horse safety, shouldn't even exist, and is on only a handful of tracks, have the advantage over every other horse. The result? Apathetic or angry bettors at best, apathy at worst. Running the Breeder's Cup over synthetic surface has miraculously, made horse racing less popular.

I am sorry that the horse at Del Mar died. Lets not make their deaths be in vain- tighten drug laws, and put dirt tracks back. Do what was right for the horses all along, and also what was right for the bettors and the fans all along.

I'm T.R. Slyder, and that's how you Tangueray.