Independent Inspection Shows Arlington Surface Safe

Edited press releases

A two-day examination of the dirt surface at Arlington Park revealed nothing that would lead officials to believe the track is unsafe.

Because of the 17 breakdowns thus far at the meet, the Illinois Racing Board authorized the hiring of Charles E. Coon & Sons, an independent copmpany that designs, constructs, and maintains racing and training tracks for Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds.

In a July 15 letter addressed to IRB executive director Marc Laino, Gregory Coon confirmed he had conducted a two-day inspection of the track surface that included measurement of the depth of the cushion and evaluation of the stability and firmness of the pad. The analysis was performed under both wet and dry track conditions and at various positions on the track.

Coon found that the surface was "remarkably consistent and uniform." He observed no aspect of the track that he would consider unsafe, and remarked positively upon the knowledge and abilities of the Arlington track superintendent. The results confirm the analysis previously performed by an outside expert obtained by Arlington Park.

"This report from Mr. Coon is the latest in the board's efforts to analyze every factor that might have caused or contributed to this cluster of breakdowns," Laino said. "Mr. Coon's analysis, taken with all other information available at this time, has not identified any defect in the track surface as a cause or contributor to these breakdowns. Regrettably, neither the board nor Arlington Park has been able to identify a unifying cause for these events.

"Our ongoing efforts will include close examination of the affected horses' veterinarian records and discussions with those trainers involved, the racing secretary, and our own staff. In the meantime, we have stepped up our pre-race examinations of horses in order to make doubly sure every horse that goes to the post at Arlington is sound. This is a matter of profound importance to the entire racing community, and the public should be aware that the IRB is doing everything it can to protect our jockeys and horses from injury."

Arlington president Roy Arnold issued a statement on the independent examination.

"We are extremely pleased that the Illinois Racing Board investigation found that Arlington's racing surface is 'remarkably consistent and uniform,' and that their expert observed that no aspect of the track is unsafe and that he remarked positively upon the knowledge and abilities of Arlington track superintendent Javier Barajas," Arnold said. "This verifies what our expert Joe King concluded and what we have believed all along.

"We are also very appreciative of the efforts of the IRB and their expert in addressing this critical issue as quickly as they have. Arlington Park will continue to cooperate fully with the racing board to address all issues concerning the safety of the horses and jockeys who race at our track."