Old as dirt
Is Santa Anita's new traditional dirt surface the remedy to California racing's many woes -- or an ill-advised return to the past?
“"I think it was well-intentioned, that the people really did believe it was going to be a safer racetrack, but it didn't turn out to be that way," he recalled. "The people supporting it at that time were the chairman and the board of the Thoroughbred Owners of California and the director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers and his board of directors, plus some other very well-known trainers in the room. I thought this was happening very quickly, a little too fast for such a major move. But there was a tremendous amount of support for it." Moss, a longtime California thoroughbred owner best known for his campaign of the unbeaten mare Zenyatta, wanted to wait until further data was available on the synthetics. He also believed the CHRB was out of line, instructing stakeholders to spend millions of dollars to change their track within a certain amount of time. And he could see how the change would make California runners less competitive in key Triple Crown races, since big East Coast tracks, such as Churchill Downs, Pimlico, and Belmont Park, weren't changing their surfaces. "There were a number of factors that pushed the decision forward," he said. "Del Mar had just experienced a very difficult season and everyone wanted to do whatever they could to help create a safer environment for the horses. We were also told by people selling all these different kinds of synthetics that you didn't have to water it, all you had to do was lay it out there and it would sort of take care of itself, so not only was it safer for the horses, but it would last without tremendous maintenance." The next four years proved otherwise, and in June of 2010 when a year worth of data from the Jockey Club's equine injury database revealed no statistical difference in the fatality rate for horses starting on dirt tracks versus synthetics, the push to install a new dirt track began.
I think it was well-intentioned, that the people really did believe it was going to be a safer racetrack, but it didn't turn out to be that way.” -- Zenyatta owner Jerry Moss
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