More than 80 entities, including racing venues in Brazil, Canada, Puerto Rico, and France, were represented during the 17th annual Track Superintendents Conference March 25-27 at Oaklawn Park.
This event allowed track superintendents to share their knowledge and expertise with each other while also exploring new and proven methods to protect all industry stakes holders. The conference included presentations, displays, and networking opportunities that annually benefit participating tracks in terms of maintaining safe surfaces while maximizing racing and training dates.
"This conference is unique in our industry and Oaklawn is proud to host the event," Oaklawn Plant Superintendent John Hopkins said. "Track Superintendents are responsible for providing a safe and fair racing surface for both equine and human athletes. They play a vital role in the protection of horses and riders. Getting the opportunity to host a gathering of them from around the world is important to the industry. We can learn a lot from each other."
Among the race tracks represented were Arlington Park, Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Canterbury Park, Churchill Downs, Hawthorne Race Course, Indiana Grand, Keeneland, Laurel, Lone Star Park, Pimlico, Prairie Meadows and Saratoga.
Also present were representatives from Woodbine in Canada; Hipodromo Camarero in Puerto Rico; Jockey Club Brasilerio from Rio de Jeneiro, Brazil; and Maus Implement, a race equipment supply company from France.
Industry organizations represented included the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
Other topics covered the during the conference included new turf courses, injuries on thoroughbred and standardbred tracks, equine equipment and race track geometry by Dr. Mick Peterson, a consultant on Oaklawn's racing surface this year. Oaklawn senior vice president Eric Jackson addressed the group on the colorful history of Oaklawn and thoroughbred racing in Arkansas during a session Monday.
Other sessions during the two-day event, which were moderated by Oaklawn Paddock Analyst Nancy Holthus, included such subjects as race day injuries by Dr. Kathy Anderson, DVM, and a special session concerning midwest tracks by local veterinarian Dr. Scott McClure, DVM.
Peterson held a session on racetrack geometry Tuesday morning and one of the highlights of the conference was a jockey roundtable discussion Tuesday afternoon featuring Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens, Alex Birzer and Jareth Loveberry.
The conference kicked off with Oaklawn hosting a "Day of Racing at Oaklawn Park" Sunday afternoon in the Arkansas Room in the Oaklawn Club.
The inaugural Track Superintendents Meeting was hosted by event founder Roy Smith in 2001 at Philadelphia Park and had 20 participants. It has been held each year since then at race tracks all across North America.
The Track Superintendents' Conference was the first of two important Thoroughbred Industry gatherings in Hot Springs this year.
The Associations of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) is bringing its Annual Conference on Racing Integrity and Animal Welfare to Hot Springs April 3-7.
The ARCI (RCI) is an umbrella organization of the official governing rule making bodies for professional horse and greyhound racing in North America and parts of the Caribbean. ARCI sets standards for racing regulation, medication policy, drug testing laboratories, totalizator systems, racetrack operation and security, as well as off-track wagering entities. ARCI's members are the only independent entities recognized to license, enforce, and adjudicate matters pertaining to racing.
The first full day of the conference will include a luncheon hosted by Arkansas Racing Commission Chairman Alex Lieblong that will feature a special address by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, and a presentation by Oaklawn President Louis A. Cella.