Safer, consistent surfaces focus of superintendents’ conference

Posted: June 14, 2017

An emphasis on safer and more consistent racing surfaces, aided by science and technology, was the primary topic of the 16th Track Superintendents Conference held at Canterbury Park in Minnesota June 11-13.

There were 120 registrants from the U.S. and six other countries—a record—for the conference put on by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. Other topics included biosecurity, racetrack geometry, and best-practice turf management.

“There are many factors involved in racetrack safety but it starts with the track surface,” said Dr. Mick Peterson, director of the University of Kentucky’s Ag Equine Programs and Dickson Professor of Equine Science and Management, as well as founder of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory. “Superintendents must be able to provide a surface that builds confidence with owners and trainers concerning the safety of their horse.”

Peterson also spoke about the science behind racetrack geometry, banking, and gradients for various surfaces.

In other presentations:

  • Dan Wiese and Blair Scheibel of RDO Integrated Controls offered a live demonstration of how to measure slope in a racetrack turn using dual slope lasers.
  • Jockeys’ Guild representative and retired rider Jeff Johnston discussed best-practice design and installation options for modern race rails, presented with video footage of on-track incidents that illustrate the role rails play in jockey and horse safety.
  • Glen Kozak of the New York Racing Association reported on the track renovation project now underway at Aqueduct, while Sean Gault of Woodbine Entertainment Group documented the successful first year of Woodbine’s new Tapeta surface and future investments planned for Woodbine turf racing.
  • Roberta Dwyer, professor at the University of Kentucky’s Department of Animal & Food Sciences, spoke on the importance of having a plan for biosecurity—procedures intended to protect against disease or harmful biological agents—in place before it’s needed.
  • Lynn Hovda, chief veterinarian for the Minnesota Racing Commission, reviewed best practices from the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ race-day injury management guidelines, including communication, equipment, planning, and special considerations such as heat stroke and fatalities.
  • Ken Brodbeck of Precision Inflation listed the benefits of proper tractor-tire inflation, which include a larger footprint on the ground, minimizing compaction, eliminating power hop, lowering maintenance costs, and increasing fuel efficiency.

“The Track Superintendents Conference is the industry’s only continuing education opportunity for these men and women who play a key role in protecting horses and riders,” said Steve Koch, executive director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. “The advances discussed will continue to make the management of racing surfaces more of a scientific process and less about assumptions and guesswork.”

“Canterbury Park was honored to host the 16th Annual Track Superintendents’ Conference,” said Andrew Offerman, senior director of racing operations at Canterbury Park. “We have often promoted the open exchange of ideas by participating in numerous industry conferences and events. This program provides a great forum for track superintendents to share information and best practices.”

Along with Canterbury, the Track Superintendents Conference was sponsored by John Deere, Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, The Jockey Club, NTRA, Office Depot, Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, and Sherwin-Williams.

(Coady Photography photo courtesy of NTRA)