Polytrack Cleared in Problems at British Track

Investigations by racing authorities and officials at Wolverhampton Raceocurse in Britain have determined that the Polytrack artificial surface in use at the track is not responsible for five equine fatalities and a series of recent spills.

Wolverhampton, Britain's busiest racecourse, is one of three tracks in the country which has Polytrack -- the others being Lingfield Park and Kempton Park.

The surface has proved itself for many years in Britain but never before has one track raced so often on it.

Wolverhampton staged its 100th race day of 2006 on Dec. 15, surpassing the previous British record of 97 at Lingfield Park. The Midlands course is due to have another 10 fixtures by the end of the year.

Following intense scrutiny from the official bodies and investigations by the racecourse, the accidents are being blamed on inexperienced riders and bad luck.

The Polytrack surface was given the all-clear and racing took place on the track on three consecutive days from Dec. 13-15 without mishap.

The spate of incidents that led to the worries began Nov. 6 in an amateur riders' handicap when La Vie Ferrata broke a leg and culminated in a five-horse pile-up when Money For Fun suffered a similar injury and fell when in front during a 2-year-old seller race Dec. 11.

Dean McKeown, the oldest jockey regularly riding at the track, echoed the feelings of some of his colleagues when saying: "This is not a track for inexperienced riders because it is so tight. They don't react quick enough when there is a potential problem which makes the situation worse."

The 46-year-old complained that apprentices often would not listen to advice or criticism from senior jockeys.

Veterinary reports on the first four fatalities revealed the causes as two heart attacks and two broken legs.

At a meeting at Wolverhampton on Dec. 15, Richard Linley, the senior inspector of courses in Britain, gave the track a clean bill of health.

More education of riders is being brought in, while the racing at Wolverhampton will continue under scrutiny for the time being.

About the Author

Mark Popham

Mark Popham also writes for The Blood-Horse, sister magazine to The Horse.

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