Dr. Mick Peterson, executive director of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, was on hand at Keeneland the weekend of Oct. 10-11 to review testing and measuring procedures to ensure the safety of the dirt track, on which there have been three catastrophic breakdowns since the fall meet began Oct. 2.
Keeneland officials Oct. 12 said the review found the dirt surface, first used for the 2014 fall meet, "met all of the pre-meet test criteria, and all maintenance had been performed in accordance with protocols developed for the track." Keeneland said the findings were similar to those reported by Peterson in a "composition and performance testing review" conducted before the meet began.
Peterson performs a review of Keeneland's dirt and turf surfaces prior to the start of every race meet, officials said, and the electronic records of measurements are maintained by Peterson.
There have been two catastrophic breakdowns on the main track during training hours: grade I winner Rock Fall and multiple stakes winner Tacticus. On opening day multiple stakes winner Shore Runner broke down in the Woodford Stakes Presented by Keeneland Select (gr. III).
"Keeneland, along with a small group of industry leaders, has made a commitment to advancing knowledge and providing the most consistent surfaces in the industry," Peterson said in a release from Keeneland. "By participating in the maintenance tracking system to measure and monitor the surface performance, Keeneland both defines the state of the art and is helping to advance our understanding of racing surfaces.
"When questions arise, these records allow us to review all of the maintenance and operating conditions as well as the daily surface inspections that help to ensure that the most consistent possible surface is provided. Because the racing surface is a critical safety system, all of the maintenance must be performed in accordance with best practices in the industry."
Dr. Mary Scollay, equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, said equine injuries are "complicated, multi-factorial events." The KHRC conducts necropsies for exercise-related fatalities and is reviewing the Keeneland cases, she said.
Keeneland president Bill Thomason credited the crew led by track superintendent Javier Barajas for using state-of-the-art technology to monitor the racing surfaces.
"The data we retrieve is part of an ongoing dialogue among major North American race tracks about surface safety and maintenance," Thomason said. "The status quo is unacceptable to Keeneland when it comes to safety and other issues critically important to the future of our industry. We want everything we do here to be shared with the industry in an effort to benefit racing as a whole."
A fourth catastrophic breakdown during the meet occurred on the turf course: Skyring in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT).
Keeneland will host the Breeders' Cup World Championships Oct. 30-31 for the first time.