Could a Synthetic Surface Have Prevented Eight Belles’ Injury?

Let the debate begin.  I have no knowledge of the pros and cons of synthetic tracks verses dirt tracks in horse racing (other than what lies before me on the world wide web), but there is a push in the sport to switch all horse tracks to the synthetic surface because it’s a safer surface for horses to run on.  Is it safe enough to have prevented Eight Belles’ injury yesterday in the Kentucky Derby?  I don’t know and it’s something that no one will ever be able to determine.  But, invariably the synthetic surface argument will carry on throughout the race for the Triple Crown, and beyond.  And, I agree that this is a conversation we should have, but I much fear that we will carry the conversation too far.  We tend toward the “knee-jerk” in the USA.  We flock to a cause célèbre, and rattle the cage until some action (and it usually doesn’t matter what action) is taken to “fix” something we perceive as broken.  Here’s what really irks me.  Congress will probably hold hearings.  Never mind the economy is in the toilet, there’s a war being waged, and we still haven’t found Bin Laden.  We need to investigate the very public death of a beautiful filly (insert sardonic tone here).    

Eight Belles’ death was a terribly sad spectacle, but the worse thing we as a society can do is demand change for the sake of change.  Keep in mind experts at one time told us cigarettes were safe and cocaine was good for you.  Let the debate run its course before taking action. 

My two cents – The injury had little to do with the surface of the track, and more to do with the anatomy of the horse.  I found the blog, Racehorse Memorial Wall, Worldwide™, and it lists several horses that were fatally injured running on artificial surfaces. 

BTW – The New York Times fired the first shot in the mainstream media.  They brought up the surface debate in their article titled, Filly’s Death Casts Shadow Over Big Brown’s Derby Victory.  I have no doubt someone in Congress will bring this up on the floor of the House or Senate in the coming days.