Synthetic Surfaces Under the Microscope

With the Breeder’s Cup looming and the fact that Rachel Alexandra will not be attending, the talks about synthetic surfaces have begun again. It is a known fact that principle owner of Rachel Alexandra, Jess Jackson, is not a fan of synthetic surfaces, and the main reason that his champion filly will not be competing. In addition, there are new rumors circulating that many racecourses will be reverting back to dirt tracks. Scientists have put synthetic tracks under the microscope, and have revealed that they are not as safe as once thought.

Last year, the legendary Curlin proved his discomfort with synthetic surfaces, by fall back into a fourth place position during the running of the Breeder’s Cup Classic, and Jackson is not prepared to put another champion horse through the same drama. Plus, with her magnificent performances, there is nothing to gain by running Rachel Alexandra in the Breeder’s Cup, as she has already shown her worth. A new study, by the University of Cal-Davis seems to have uncovered a fatal flaw in synthetic surfaces, which is now being looked at with great urgency.

It seemed as though the number of fatal injuries on the racetrack had subsided due to the installation on synthetic surfaces, but there is one injury that was found in a high number of the cases on synthetic surfaces, namely hind-end leg injuries. Strangely enough, fewer horses were euthanized on dirt tracks over the same time period, and for various different reasons, with only one horse suffering from the hind-end leg injury, making authorities question the safety of horse on synthetic racecourses. The study showed that 111 horses were euthanized in the year 2008, on synthetic surfaces, opposed to the 65 on dirt tracks. Now the big wait lies ahead, to see if racecourses will revert back to dirt tracks.

Horses such as Zenyatta, Henrythenavigator, Rip Van Winkle, Raven’s Pass and Mastercraftsman, are trained on synthetic surfaces, so they do not show any discomfort on synthetic surfacces, and are all successful and competitive horses. The Breeder’s Cup will most definitely be an exciting event, with many champion horses being pre-entered into the various events.