The final plenary session of the 37th Asian Racing Conference in Seoul was chaired by Mr John Ridley, Director of Racing Capital Projects at The Hong Kong Jockey Club. He opened with a call for the industry to strive for greater safety and consistency in racetrack design.
Mr Ridley noted that, at present, there is a lack of information available on racetrack design and that the approach varied greatly from one jurisdiction to another with a reliance on local expertise.
“Currently, there is very limited information available concerning the design of a racing or training surface, with the vast majority of new projects and major refurbishments being undertaken by ‘local experts’ who will be influenced by the local environment issues, including climate, the size of venue, availability of resources including financial and most importantly, stakeholder expectations.
“Stakeholders are subsequently looking to the ‘local expert’ to provide them with the technical expertise to construct and advise on future maintenance of a safe and consistent racing and training surface,” Mr Ridley said.
Mr Ridley outlined the following as the key factors generally addressed. Design criteria, including the length of the track; incorporation of transition curves between straights and turns including transitional banking; avoiding over-slope in the straight to facilitate better drainage; understand the turf species you have selected and understand the relationship between the climate and the track surface.
“The track risk factors for injury that the design expert needs to consider are track-surface properties; vertical hardness; horizontal shear strength; rebound timing; the difference between training and racing surfaces along with the banking and layout of the track. All of the above is required to produce a sustainable, safe and consistent track,” he said.
Mr Ridley added that there were many other injury risk factors, not track-related, some of which was the focus of the address presented by Dr Makoto Inoue, Presidential Counsellor for International Affairs, Japan Racing Association.
Dr Inoue outlined various strategies and achievements of the JRA Injury Task Force which has been successful in minimising horse injury in training and racing. Facility improvements, the collation and study of injury statistics and the implementation of new systems and rules had been key to reducing the incidence of horse fractures.
“The incidence of fatal injuries is decreasing which is very encouraging. We have had a marginal rise in the incidence of fractures since 2001 but this statistic is influenced by improved diagnostic capability and increased reporting of incidents,” he said.
Dr Inoue detailed a number of changes over a long period of time which have all contributed to increased safety. They included training track improvements; work to improve the shock absorption of turf tracks; capping of field sizes; restrictions on the use of anti-inflammatory medications; the use of alloy shoes and financial compensation for horse owners which helped ensure proper periods of recovery for their injured horse.
“In summary, the important factors are good communication between all industry participants, accurate recording and study of injury statistics, facility improvement and the revision of systems and rules especially with medication control,” Dr Inoue said.
Mr Graeme Logan, Grounds Manager at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, was able to bring a different perspective given more than thirty years experience in the area of sports field preparation and maintenance.
Since joining the ANZ Stadium team in 1998 as Head Curator, Graeme has overseen the preparation of the facility’s playing surface for between 40 and 50 events each year across multiple sporting codes as well as entertainment events such as concerts and one-off spectaculars.
Mr Logan conceded his knowledge of racing and racetracks was limited but said sports ground managers and track curators faced similar issues. “We would replace 10 to 15,000 square metres of turf annually at ANZ due to the wear caused by the wide variety of events,” he said.
Mr Logan said his many challenges included having to have the area arena ready for sporting competition within days of concerts or exhibitions when the grass may well have been covered for as long as seven days.
“We do let fans on the arena after many events as they want to touch the hallowed turf their beloved teams have played on. That’s a challenge too but perhaps it’s something racing should consider - let the fans on the track after a race meeting. The only person complaining would be the track manager,” he said.
Issued on behalf of the Asian Racing Federation