California Requires Synthetic Racing Surface

The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) decided on Feb. 16 that California racing associations operating meets of at least four continuous weeks will be required to install a synthetic racing surface by the end of 2007 or face a loss of race dates. This decision was in response to concerns about the safety of California track surfaces.

CHRB Chairman Richard Shapiro made a motion to require all of California's major Thoroughbred tracks to switch to Polytrack footing. It was approved unanimously. The new regulation must be weighed for a 45-day public comment period before it's finalized.

Many people say the existing footing is responsible for the notoriously high rate of breakdowns in California (240 Thoroughbred fatalities from 2003 to 2005). Shapiro said the board will help identify potential funding sources and help push legislative support.

Some trainers have said officials need to take time and learn how Polytrack--a blend of fiber, recycled rubber, and silica sand coated with wax--will work in California climates. Polytrack was installed at Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky last year; 94% of Turfway jockeys and 85% of trainers say it's safer than the old footing.

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About the Author

Jack Shinar

Jack Shinar is a frequent contributor to The Blood-Horse magazine and is part of their Digital Media department.

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