Keeneland's main track passes review

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TwinSpires Staff

October 12th, 2015

After the fatal breakdowns suffered by Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) contender Rock Fall and Tacticus in morning works, and by Shore Runner in the off-the-turf Woodford (G3), Keeneland conducted a review of its main track. The Lexington, Kentucky, venue will host the Breeders' Cup on October 30-31, further raising the profile of the recent fatalities.

On Monday, Keeneland issued the following press release regarding the results:

Keeneland announced today that Dr. Mick Peterson, University of Maine Professor and executive director of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, was on site this weekend, working with track officials to review testing and daily measuring procedures to ensure the safety of the dirt track. The review found that Keeneland’s dirt surface met all of the pre-meet test criteria and all maintenance had been performed in accordance with protocols developed for the track. 

The findings were similar to those reported in Dr. Peterson’s Composition and Performance Testing review, conducted just before the start of Keeneland’s 2015 Fall Meet.

Dr. Peterson performs a review of Keeneland’s dirt and turf surfaces prior to the start of every race meet. In addition to the pre-meet testing, daily measurements are taken on both racing surfaces every race day by Keeneland officials and complete electronic records are maintained and reviewed by Dr. Peterson.

“Keeneland, along with a small group of industry leaders, has made a commitment to advancing knowledge and providing the most consistent surfaces in the industry,” Peterson said. “By participating in the maintenance tracking system to measure and monitor the surface performance, Keeneland both defines the state of the art and is helping to advance our understanding of racing surfaces. When questions arise these records allow us to review all of the maintenance and operating conditions as well as the daily surface inspections, that help to ensure that the most consistent possible surface is provided. Because the racing surface is a critical safety system, all of the maintenance must be performed in accordance with best practices in the industry.”

Keeneland’s 1 1/16-mile main track was converted from an all-weather to a dirt surface during the summer of 2014, and racing first was held over the new track during the 2014 Fall Meet. Today, the dirt surface is among the most extensively researched and most sophisticated in North America, with data collected and monitored by state-of-the-art technology and equipment.

“The safety of our horses and riders is priority No. 1, and we remain confident in the performance of our race track,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing W.B. Rogers Beasley said. “Our team works very hard every day to carefully maintain and monitor the race track.”

“We have the best people in the industry on our track crew, led by Track Superintendent Javier Barajas, who are using state-of-the-art technology in consultation with the industry’s most knowledgeable experts,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. “The data we retrieve is part of an ongoing dialogue among major North American race tracks about surface safety and maintenance.

“The status quo is unacceptable to Keeneland when it comes to safety and other issues critically important to the future of our industry,” Thomason said. “We want everything we do here to be shared with the industry in an effort to benefit racing as a whole.”

The follow-up review at Keeneland was performed in the wake of catastrophic injuries to three horses – one during racing and two during training – in the opening week of the Fall Meet. 

“These equine injuries are complicated, multi-factorial events,” Dr. Mary Scollay, equine medical director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, said. “The Commission conducts a mortality review for every exercise-related fatality. Information is currently being acquired and compiled for these case reviews.”