The news that the Santa Anita racetrack in Arcadia is going to remove its synthetic racing surface at the end of its current meeting in April and probably (we say “probably”) replace it with a dirt track goes against all safety studies.

I thought that since 2006 , all major tracks in Califorina (mandated by the Ca. Horse Racing Board) had to install manufactured tracks. This, for horse safety.

Seems like synthetic tracks do not do well in wet weather and can cost a track some dates.

Too bad.  I say.

I’m for horse safety.

Santa Anita lost 11 racing days due to bad track conditions on rainy days in 2007 and had to cancel more racing during California’s recent downpours.

Given that economic threat to a sport already in precarious straits, the racing board understandably is willing to allow the return to dirt tracks.

On the other hand, tracks like the Del Mar club are not going back to dirt.

Studies by the state’s equine medical director and the Equibase Company show how beneficial the synthetic track has been to horse safety at Del Mar and statewide.

Fatalities at Del mar declined from 2.47 per 1,000 starts on dirt from 2004-2006 to 1.67 per 1,000 on the Polytrack from 2007-2009.

The average for all the major tracks – Del Mar, Santa Anita, Hollywood Park,  Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows – fell from 3.09 to 1.68 per 1,000 over the same periods.

Del Mar also has reported fewer injuries on the synthetic surface.

Let’s hear it for Del Mar… which while it needs to run a business, is also cognizant of equine safety.

I’m all for horse racing. I love it.

But safe horse racing.

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