Injury concerns despite fewer fatalities.
Nationally, a study by Mary Scollay, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's equine medical director, indicated a fatality rate of 1.47 per 1,000 starts on synthetic surfaces compared with 2.03 on dirt tracks. A current study embracing over 80 tracks, expected to report early next year, should provide more robust data.
Injuries appear to be most common during the early days of race meetings, a tendency Dr Rick Arthur believes is related to the refurbishment of synthetic surfaces. "It is difficult to mix new material with old material without producing inconsistencies," he says.
Synthetic surfaces are deeper than dirt, and tend to be 'grabbier,' allowing less foot movement.
Bill Mott, who trained Cigar, says: "The problem with synthetics is that, especially if the track is freshly waxed or the weather is hot and sticky, a horse's hind legs don't slide but stick."
Earlier this month, a report was published on post-mortem examinations conducted in 2008 on every horse that died on facilities licensed by the CHRB. Of the 255 thoroughbreds examined, 112 (44 per cent) died during or immediately after a race, 82 (32 per cent) during training, and 61 (24 per cent) from accidents, colic or disease. The data provides support for a link between synthetics and hind-leg injuries. On dirt tracks, only one of 69 leg injuries was a hind-leg injury, whereas on synthetic tracks, 22 of 105 leg injuries were to hind-legs.
The report stated, "rear limb injuries were suffered almost exclusively on the synthetic surfaces," but warned, "there are not enough data to unequivocally state that there is any causal relationship between rear-limb injuries and synthetic track surfaces."
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|Publication:||The Racing Post (London, England)|
|Date:||Nov 5, 2009|
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