Harper: Synthetic surface to stay at Del Mar Racetrack
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club President Joe Harper says the synthetic surface at the seaside racetrack won’t be changing anytime soon.
Despite Santa Anita Park’s recent admission that it will consider returning to an all-dirt track, Harper maintains that the Polytrack surface installed at Del Mar in 2007 is as safe as it comes. Santa Anita will lose millions of dollars after canceling several meets last week due to the heavy rains that its Pro-Ride track was unable to effectively drain.
“If it’s all slop, it’s fine; if it’s all dry, it’s fine; but if it’s dry and you hit slop, that’s when the horses have a problem with it,” Harper said, adding that Del Mar’s track has different drainage technology than Santa Anita’s. “Santa Anita probably right now is wishing they had our track.”
Del Mar’s season takes place in the summer months, when rain is even more rare in Southern California.
Some people in the racing industry are critical of synthetic tracks because they say they are associated with various types of injuries to the horses. But Harper cites a recent study by Equine Medical Director of California Dr. Rick Arthur that not only shows synthetic surfaces have resulted in a decline in the number of racehorse deaths, but also in “did not finish” injuries.
The study found that fatalities at Del Mar dropped from 2.47 per 1,000 starts from 2004 to 2006 on the all-dirt track, to 1.65 per 1,000 from 2007 to 2009 after it switched to the Polytrack surface.
“With the stats we’re seeing not just in California racing but from other states as well, it certainly seems to us that these engineered tracks, these synthetic tracks, are ahead of the dirt as far as safety is concerned,” Harper said.
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