When it happened in the first race on the first day of racing, it seemed like a bad omen.
After her breakdown in the Inaugural Stakes on September 1, Cantrel was euthanized due to a fractured sesamoid and “disruption of the suspensory apparatus in the right front.” On September 15, Super Frolic shattered a front sesamoid in the Presque Isle Mile, and was euthanized after being vanned off. Last night (September 20), three-year-old filly maiden Risk Assessment (who had had three solid second place finishes in three previous starts at Delaware) broke down after easily winning race 4 for trainer Jonathan Sheppard. Her jockey Enrique Jurado was injured as she went down after crossing the finish line.
By all appearances, these are not ill-prepared horses fatally breaking down on the Tapeta surface. So, are these incidents preventable? Sadly, probably not. Having seen the track in person (albeit not aboard a running horse) it appears to be perfectly conditioned (except, perhaps the “deaden” rail), and comments about it from trainers and riders have been very favorable. Unfortunately, catastrophic injuries can never be fully eliminated in horse racing, unless you remove horses entirely from the equation and few people want that.
It was good to hear that, for once, Pennsylvania is taking the lead in an important horse industry issue—studying the impact of synthetic surfaces on horses’ bronchial systems.
A very nice article on Presque Isle Downs by Stan Grossfeld in the Boston Globe can be found here, where he barely mentions the fact that there is no grandstand or proper seating. And, Stan, people still do, and probably always will, call it “Dreary Erie”—come for a visit in the bleakness of winter and see for yourself why. It’s like Dante’s ninth circle of Hell.