The removable track built over an asphalt auto-racing surface for Sportsman's Park's 2000 horse racing meet turned out to be extraordinarily kind to horses, according to a state veterinarian.
Sportsman's Chief Operating Officer Ed Duffy said after spring racing ended on May 13, other tracks had inquired about the Sportsman's facility because they had heard glowing reports from horsemen. At least one track, Duffy said, planned to incorporate elements of the Sportsman's design into a reconstruction of its own facility.
The veterinary report confirming those impressions was released by Sportsman's as the Illinois Racing Board was considering the award of 2001 racing dates.
During the 54 days of racing from March 3 through May 13, three horses were euthanized because of fractures suffered while racing, state veterinarian Dr. Stephen Seabaugh found. That equates to one fracture-related death per 1,276 starters.
There also were two fracture-related deaths during training hours during the Sportsman's meet but the report did not say whether they occurred on the Sportsman's surface or at next-door Hawthorne Race Course, which also was open for training during the spring.
"Some of the best injury and accident numbers we've ever recorded occurred during the 2000 racing season at Sportsman's Park," Seabaugh said. "I can say without a doubt the new track that was put in place was a very safe race track."
The Sportsman's track was built between concrete retaining bumpers over the pit area of a new auto racing track last fall and used for training during the winter and early spring.
The surface is specially designed to drain quickly, preventing the freeze- thaw-freeze cycle that sometimes causes problems at other winter-racing venues. The design, coupled with favorable weather, resulted in a fast track on 49 of the 54 racing days during the 2000 meet.
The surface was dismantled after May 13 and will be rebuilt starting
Oct. 1 in preparation for the 2001 season.