NYRA mulls track surface switch

May 7, 2008 4:41:54 PM PDT
The New York Racing Association is considering replacing dirt with synthetic surfaces at its three tracks, including historic Saratoga Race Course.The conversion at Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct would cost up to $50 million if training tracks at Belmont and Saratoga are included, NYRA spokesman John Lee said.

The possible switch will be discussed this summer by the state Task Force on Retired Race Horses, which is studying the economics of the synthetic surfaces. The forum is scheduled for July 29 in Saratoga Springs during the city's racing season.

Synthetics are getting more attention as a potentially safer surface since last Saturday's fatal injury to filly Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby.

Rick Dutrow, the trainer of Derby winner Big Brown, is based at Aqueduct. While he understands the need to address horse safety after Eight Belles' death, he's not a fan of synthetic surfaces.

"I would be completely lost training and racing on it," Dutrow said Wednesday from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Dutrow said he left California after the state racing board made all its tracks switch from dirt to synthetics.

"I'll never go back when they have them out there, hopefully they don't invade New York because it's going to change the whole game," Dutrow said. "It's something that we don't need."