With all the problems Santa Anita Park has been experiencing recently with its Cushion Track surface, you might be wondering about what's happening in Central Florida at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co., which also has a new synthetic track. But so far, everything is going smoothly with SAFETRACK, according to OBS executive Tom Ventura and horsemen who have sent horses over the track or have watched them train.
Trainer and OBS board member Mark Casse has described the track as being as good as, or better than, any synthetic surface with which he is familiar.
"All the initial feedback has been very good," said Ventura, who serves as the general manager and director of sales for OBS. According to Ventura, he could find no standing water on the surface 20 minutes following a two-hour rainstorm recently.
"If we can just keep it where it is," he added, "we'll be really happy. There hasn’t been a variance in it from day to day. It hasn’t been tested completely as far as dramatic weather is concerned, but they have a similar surface at GoldMark Farm, and they're as pleased with it now as they were when they got it probably a year and a half ago. It’s so far, so good, on our end."
OBS will conduct its first auction of the juvenile selling season on Feb. 12. Under tack shows are scheduled for Feb. 3 and Feb. 10.
"They (SAFETRACK officials) did a really, really lovely job of laying down the track," said pinhooker and OBS board member Nick de Meric. "I think they were bound and determined to make the OBS track a flagship kind of example of what they can do and what their surface is, knowing it could result in future business for them. They went above and beyond to make sure it was as perfect as they could make it, and they did an exemplary job. Now, what the future holds for training and selling over the track, only time will tell."
Said another pinhooker, Don Graham: "If it’s safer, I'm all for it. I've watched a couple of horses work over it, and it seems like they handle it real well."
Pinhooker and OBS board member Carl Bowling of Straightaway Farm is confident the sale company made the right decision.
"What I like is that you can't hear anything (when a horse is galloping or working over it)," Bowling said. "It's like when you have a good horse on a good dirt track; you can’t hear him until he's a 100 feet away coming to you and you can't hear him after he's 100 feet away going away. With a bad balanced horse, you can hear him all the way around. Not hearing anything is a good thing."
But even though reports have been positive, pinhooker Randy Hartley is concerned.
"From what I hear, it's really fast, but I don’t like change," he said. "I would have been happy if they had left it the same. I've heard there have been a lot of sore horses that have come off of it. It's going to be interesting. I'm scared."