The lengthy New York Times article from March 25 about breakdowns/injuries and the state of the racing industry contained some valuable and interesting data from its analysis of more than 150,000 races from 2009 to 2011. Most revealing was its publication of US tracks listed by the number of “rates of incidence” per 1000 starts. According to the article, the rate of incidence per 1000 starts was 5.2 for the years covered in the US, with Ruidoso Downs at Billy the Kid Casino topping the list with 13.9 rates of incidence per 1000.
Not included in this list—because it’s in Canada—but mentioned in the body of the piece was Woodbine’s low rate. The article noted, “By contrast, Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, which year after year has one of the lowest breakdown rates in North America, had an incident rate of only 1.4, according to the Times analysis.”
Even lower on the scale than Woodbine was Presque Isle Downs and Casino, with 1.3, and just above Presque Isle and Woodbine was Keeneland with 1.6.
Woodbine (1.4), Presque Isle (1.3), and Keeneland (1.6) have synthetic surfaces, and Woodbine and Keeneland also card a large number of turf races, so make of that what you want.
But what’s blatantly evident from the Times data are the higher rates in the West, and the overall lower rates heading east. New Mexico has the highest numbers, with Ruidoso (13.9) just ahead of Sunland (12.8) and Zia (12.6). Next, Arizona has Turf Paradise (11.3). And California has Los Alamitos (10.8). Many of these tracks race quarter horses and mostly card sprints for TBs and are well-known for being sun-baked and hard, not ideal without throwing in the drugs and “lax oversight” mentioned in the article.
The synthetic surfaces at the major California TB tracks of Santa Anita (7.4), Hollywood (7.9), Del Mar (6.7), and Golden Gate Fields (5.5) have not had the same effects as their eastern counterparts, with the synthetic surfaces of Arlington (4.2) and Turfway (3.3) rating better in the Midwest, too, but it’s striking that even cheaper dirt tracks in the East have lower overall rates than most anything out West, with Finger Lakes (2.5), Suffolk Downs (2.3), Colonial Downs (2.5), and Tampa Bay Downs (2.8) leading the way. And these last-named four tracks card quite a few cheap races.