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Santa Anita AW track under fire from trainers

USA: AMERICAN trainers have hit out against the all-weathersurface at Santa Anita after the recent spate of breakdowns.

Although the Pro-Ride surface was widely praised at the two-day Breeders' Cupmeeting in October, five horses broke down - three of them fatally - in a week after the start of the current winter-spring meeting on Boxing Day.

Largely for equine-welfare reasons, all top tracks in California have installed synthetic tracks in place of the traditional dirt, in line with tracks like Keeneland and Arlington elsewhere in the US.

However, the move was not universally welcomed - and now the surface is under fire as critics line up to question the validity of the all-weather strip.

"The majority of trainers do not like this surface now," claimed leading trainer Bob Baffert, who has never been a fan of AW tracks, despite winning two races at the Breeders' Cup.

"You have to train differently over it, and it's tough on young horses. I'm doing well - and I still don't like them."

Colleague Darrell Vienna was dismayed after an inspection of the circuit involving about 40 trainers and track superintendent Ian Pearse.

"It was horrific," Vienna told the Blood-Horse on Wednesday. "There were holes - it was uneven and it was dangerous. It was at the end of training hours, but it still shouldn't have been like that."

Vienna, at one time a supporter of synthetic surfaces, appears to have changed his tune.

"They're no good," he stormed.

"The promises at the beginning were that they were safe, consistent, maintenance-free and all-weather. They are not safe, they are not maintenance-free, they're not consistent and they can't take water. None of it is true.

"They are going to try and manipulate the track to make it work," he added. "We should be planning to put in a better one, doing the groundwork to find out what works and is sustainable. Synthetic surfaces are not sustainable."

All-weather tracks elsewhere are also receiving a degree of flak. Turfway Park in northern Kentucky, which has a Polytrack surface, saw eight fatal breakdowns during its holiday meeting that began November 30 and ended on December 31.

Golden Gate Fields in northern Califronia, which has the Tapeta surface invented by Michael Dickinson, suspended training for two days before fibres and wax were added to the surface. Training was resumed there on Wednesday.


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