April 25, 2009: Dirt or Synthetic: Which Is Safer?

  • April 21, 2009
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The Thoroughbred industry’s biggest call to action has been to improve racehorse safety. At $10-million apiece, are synthetic tracks the answer?

The loss of Barbaro and Eight Belles attracted unprecedented media attention to Thoroughbred racing. Since then, virtually every aspect of the industry has been publicly scrutinized, including safety.

Without a doubt, the most important development in the past five years in terms of maximizing racehorse safety has been the installation of synthetic racetracks at select locations throughout North America.

In December 2007, The Blood-Horse published a special report on synthetic surfaces that examined the new racing surfaces. The key question at that time was, “Are synthetic surfaces safer?”

While this question was important in 2007, it has become even more so over the past year. This article provides up-to-date analysis of the synthetic vs. dirt debate and attempts to answer the question, “Dirt or synthetic, which is safer?”

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