At its Tuesday meeting, the IRB heard a staff report on the 17 breakdowns that have occurred during racing in the current meeting –- a number comparable to 12 fatal breakdowns during the entire 2005 season. Arlington officials have closely examined the racing surface, added pine bark shavings to retain moisture and analyzed racing patterns without coming to any conclusions about a cause for the incidents.
The IRB study also identified no cause. But several commissioners still maintained they can see no way the racing surface is not the problem. The only factor running consistently through the incidents, said commissioner John Simon, "is that the horses were running on the same track."
The board staff was instructed to hire an outside expert to conduct a more thorough, impartial examination of the Arlington racing surface and to report back. IRB executive director Mark Laino said that effort will be launched as soon as possible.
Other potential explanations for the spate of breakdowns include pressure to race horses more often to compensate for a shortage of available stock and simple statistical aberrations that might average out over time.