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Horse Safety and Horse Footing:
What Every Horse Owner Should Know

This Fibar white paper brings together two technical articles concerning racehorses—their training, soundness and their performance at the races.

Horses are animals of the plains. They evolved and are built for ambling through grassy fields, grazing for food along the way. Capable of impressive speed for their size, in the wild they use this speed rarely—usually when predators are near. Taking them out of their natural grassy environment and subjecting them to intensive training on harder “dirt” (clay-sand mix) surfaces often produces great stress on their delicate legs and feet resulting in serious injuries. The resilience and bounce of Fibar® Engineered Wood Fiber training surfaces mimics the horse’s natural environment and reduces that stress.

In “A Response to Stress,” an article appearing in The Blood-Horse magazine we learn how intensive training of young horses on unyielding surfaces can cause their cannon bones to develop deformities resulting in the unsound condition known as “bucked shins.” Studies by renowned veterinarians found that incidences of bucked shins were nearly three times higher when horses were trained on dirt track surfaces than when they were trained on Engineered Wood Fiber surfaces.

In “The Wood Fiber Track Report,” a research paper comparing the performance of horses trained on an Engineered Wood Fiber surface to the performance of horses trained on regular “dirt” surfaces, we see a clear demonstration that training on wood fiber results in substantially improved performance at the races.

Fibar has proven its ability to help keep horses sound by reducing physical stress from daily training and riding for over 25 years in over 2,000 installations across the US and Canada. Every horse owner wants their animals to stay sound and perform well. Training on Fibar® Engineered Wood Fiber gives you a great head start.

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A racehorse’s career can depend upon when,
and if, the runner is sidelined by bucked shins

A Response to Stress

By Les Sellnow

Every thoroughbred trainer in the United States faces one common problem when starting young horses in training—bucked shins. Estimates vary, but it is believed that somewhere between 65 and 90 percent of all Thoroughbreds in the United States buck their shins early in training.

Bucked shins can bring the training regimen to a halt for several weeks and, depending on when the problem occurs, have a direct bearing on the horse’s career. Most trainers take bucked shins in stride, feeling that the problem is going to crop up for most of their youngsters and that the quicker they get through it, the better. However, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center say bucked shins are not inevitable.

The researchers are convinced a change in approach to the training regimen can sidestep the problem. At the moment, however, they do not have all the specifics as to exactly what that regimen should be.

Leading the way in the research has been Dr. David Nunamaker, an orthopedic surgeon at New Bolton. His research began in 1982 with a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture and gained momentum two years later with a grant from the New York chapter of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. Funding from the New York horsemen’s group has exceeded $300,000.

Two major findings have resulted from Dr. Nunamaker’s work and that of Dr. William Moyer, a New Bolton associate professor sports medicine who conducted studies on Thoroughbreds in training at nearby Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland and at Delaware Park:

  1. Young horses need more speed work early in their training to prevent bucked shins.
  2. A yielding training track surface, such as a wood chip or turf surface, will reduce the toll of bucked shins.

Along the way, Dr. Nunamaker also discovered that bucked shins are not what most horsemen, veterinarians, and researchers have assumed they are. The general consensus for years has been that bucked shins are microscopic fissure fractures of the cannon bone that occur when the young, growing bone is placed under stress in training. The soreness that causes horses to be laid up when this occurs was believed to be an inflammatory reaction of the periosteum—the tissue covering the bone.

Dr. Nunamaker said his research revealed that bucked shins are actually the result of the bone trying to respond quickly to strains placed upon it. As a result, it seeks to immediately form a new layer of bone at the point of stress on the cannon bone. The quickly formed bone is periosteal or fiber bone and is more porous, and thus weaker, than the dense lamellar bone that is formed slowly over a longer period. In the process of the relatively rapid formation of bone, the periosteum is lifted and becomes inflamed, and the horse is afflicted with bucked shins.

“We found that a horse changes the shape of its bone in response to its training and, depending on what the training is like, you can just about change the bone in any direction you want,” Dr. Nunamaker said. “The way most conventional training is conducted, a horse changes its bone in an abnormal way and not the way it should change the bone, and that is why you get into trouble with bucked shins.”

The process that ends up in bucked shins begins, Dr. Nunamaker said, as the young horse’s bones become fatigued during training. He explained it this way:

“When you take a specimen of anything and you cycle it for a long enough time, it eventually will break. This is called fatigue failure. When you take a piece of bone and cycle it, what happens first of all is that it starts to lose stiffness and bends more. As it starts to bend more, there are higher strains on the bone, then suddenly something happens.

“To accommodate the strains, the bone tries to change its shape and make itself larger. There is a fourth power involved in the equation here, and it takes only a little larger bone mass for it to become very much stronger. Normally, the bone changes itself very slowly and lays down lamellar (strong, dense) bone, but when stresses are suddenly applied, it moves to fiber (periosteal) bone formation. What happens, then, is that the horse changes the kind of bone it lays down. This fiber bone lifts the periosteum and makes the horse sore.

“When you have a horse that is starting to buck its shins, you have a horse that is starting to lose stiffness in its cannon bones and the bone is trying to compensate.”

When the sore-shinned horse is removed from training the bone reconstitutes itself or remodels, the inflammation dissipates, and the horse is ready to go back to the track. Left, however, is a layer of periosteal bone that is prone to another common problem—saucer fractures.

“Horses that buck their shins are usually the ones that later will have saucer fractures,” Dr. Nunamaker said. “Horses that don’t buck their shins usually don’t have saucer fractures, so the old adage that if you’re going to buck them, buck them good, is probably not a good one because it merely insures that you will have further problems down the road with saucer fractures.

“Usually what will happen is the horse will buck its shins during its 2-year-old year, within the first six month of training. The saucer fracture usually follows that by another six months or a year.”

A Timetable for Bucking

Dr. Nunamaker’s research has not only revealed just what constitutes bucked shins, but also the timetable as to when they will occur under conventional training programs. Normally, he said, the problem will manifest itself after about 50,000 cycles, with each cycle being equated with one fast stride a horse takes.

However, if the horse is training on a more yielding surface than dirt, such as a wood chip track like the one in use at Fair Hill Training Center , the number of cycles might reach 85,000 to 90,000 before bucked shins show up, and the problem will be much less severe. The milder form of bucked shins normally means a shorter lay-up period.

The prime problem with conventional training programs relative to bucked shins, Dr. Nunamaker said, is that the horse is not being trained in a way that signals its bones to prepare for the concussion and fatigue that comes when running at speed.

As part of the research project, the cannon bones of four groups of 2-year-olds were studied. One group was not involved in a training program and merely roamed a pasture. A second group was trained at the Fair Hill wood chip track in the conventional manner with long, slow works. A third group was trained at Delaware Park , also in the conventional manner. A fourth group was trained a Delaware Park with a training regimen that called for short, sharp bursts of speed three days a week.

When the bones of these horses were examined, it was found that there had been very little change in the structure of the cannon bones of the group that roamed the pasture. In the group trained with frequent bursts of speed, it was found that the cannon bones of the 2-year-olds had, in only a matter of months, developed to the stage equivalent to that of most 4-year-olds which had been involved in a training and racing program. There was almost no periosteal bone growth.

The cannon bones of the group trained the conventional way at Delaware Park showed heavy concentration of periosteal bone growth. The group trained in the conventional way on the wood chip track showed some periosteal bone growth of the cannon bone, but to a much lesser degree than that noted for horses trained the conventional way at Delaware Park .

“The reason that speed work is so important,” said Dr. Nunamaker, “is that when a horse is going slowly, the principal angle of strain is about 40 degrees out of his vertical axis. When this happens, the bone is going to remodel to the direction of magnitude of the strains. When a horse runs at speed, the angle of strain is much greater. So, horses on long, slow works remodel their bones for training while horses that breeze more often remodel their bones for racing.

“The Standardbred doesn’t have a problem with bucked shins because it trains at the same speed at which it races.” He added. “You never see a pacer do anything but pace, but a Thoroughbred will train while walking, trotting, and cantering. Rarely do Thoroughbreds run while in training. They only run every 10 to 14 days. Therefore the bone remodels to what it feels; which is not racing.”

The question yet to be answered is how much high-speed work is required to signal the bone to remodel itself correctly and not form the weaker periosteal bone. The Grayson Foundation has provided a grant to New Bolton Center to help find the answer. In the meantime, it will remain guesswork.

“The problem with recommending high speed work,” said Dr. Nunamaker, “is that if you tell someone they should do high speed work and they go out and do it for a half mile three times a week, they’re going to break that horse down. What we’re talking about may be two furlongs, maybe one furlong. Maybe it won’t even have to be that far. We don’t know. We know there is a fine line in the critical timeframe as to what is too much and what is not enough.”

Still another question to be answered, in addition to the distance factor, is the rate of speed required to send the bone the correct message. The goal, Dr. Nunamaker said is to achieve the correct bone changes at the slowest speed possible over the shortest distance possible in order to prevent other injuries to the young horse.

Once the bone has responded correctly to the stimulus and has changed its shape by adding more density at the points of stress for maximum strength, it will remain that way.

“At this point,” said Dr. Nunamaker, “after the bone has changed shape (the process normally is concluded at four years of age) you could take the horse out of its training program and put it in any training or racing program you want, because its bone won’t change back again.

“The interesting thing was that when we looked at the timing of the injuries that occurred in horses that have shin injuries, we found that when the horse reached four years old, it no longer had shin injuries. It may develop injuries to other parts of its body, but not to the shins. It is in the first two years of its training program, if it starts at two years of age, that it is going to have shin injury problems. After that no more shin injuries.”

Conversely, if a 4-year-old never has been put through a training regimen that stimulate changes in the bone, it could find itself in the same position as a 2-year-old as far as the potential for bucked shins is concerned.

“If you start a horse in a conventional training program at four years of age,” Dr. Nunamaker said, “it will likely buck its shins. It has to go through this transformation of shape of its bones.”

Bone Stress, Growth, & Exercise

One of the tools used by Dr. Nunamaker in his research, a strain gauge, is attached to the cannon bone in a surgical process. The gauge measures the degree of give or bend to the bone at various speeds.

It was found during the research that the strain on the bones of young horses in training was much greater than on those which had gone through the process and had reached four years of age.

While the research carried out at New Bolton Center has answered many questions, it has also stimulated others. For example, what happens to the bone of a 2-year-old which must be taken out of its regimen due to a respiratory problem or something else that curtails its training program?

Researchers know that when a horse is in training, it is constantly modeling or making new bone for additional strength. However, if the training comes to a sudden stop, some of this bone is resorbed.

“If you take a horse that has been training hard and put him in a stall for 10 days to clear up a respiratory infection, he may resorb an awful lot of his bone very quickly,” explained Dr. Nunamaker. “Then after 10 days, you put him back into training. A lot of horses buck their shins very quickly under those circumstances. The reason may be that the strength of the bone has decreased, and very quickly the horse reaches a point where fiber bone is being produced and you have bucked shins.

“At this point, the trainer has no idea at what level to reinstitute training, relative to the bucked shins problem. We don’t have a good idea, either, but we would like to find out.”

While an as yet unknown quantity of speed work during the early training process appears to be a prevention factor for bucked shins, a more yielding surface than that provided by most dirt tracks also may be significant. Researchers long have been aware that bucked shins are not as big a problem in Europe as they are in the United States . The reason, it is believed, is because most European training centers feature turf training tracks and gallops.

For more than two years, Dr. Boyer has been conducting a study at Fair Hill Training Center with its wood chip track. Horses studied were Thoroughbreds that were training at Fair Hill and going from there to compete at racetracks around the country. Later, he conducted a study of horses in training at Delaware Park.

After examining some 200 horses in training at Fair Hill and another 100 in training at Delaware Park, Dr. Moyer found that the incidence of bucked shins at Delaware Park’s dirt track was nearly three times higher.

“The lamenesses in general were higher at Delaware Park,” Dr. Moyer said, “but the difference in bucked shins was dramatic.”

The percentage of horses that bucked their shins while involved in a conventional training regimen at Fair Hill was less than 20 percent, Dr. Moyer said.

When using the strain gauge on young horses in training, Dr. Nunamaker said, researchers were surprised to find that strain levels were extremely high when compared to other mammals.

“The maximum strains you will see in most animals is 3,000 micro-strains,” he said, “and the horse, it went over 6,000. Yet when a horse that has been in training reaches four years of age, its strain level drops back to become comparable with other mammals.”

This research has unearthed another question that researchers have not yet answered: Is the bone stimulated to remodel by the amount of strain or the strain rate—the speed at which the strain reaches its peak?

“One thing is certain, Dr. Nunamaker emphasized, the bones are the slowest component in the body to be trained. In many instances, the cardiovascular system and even the soft tissues are ready for the stress of racing before the bones.

Speed and the Training Surface

To get the bones ready for racing, some speed work is needed in the youngsters’ workouts, and if that speed comes over a yielding surfacing such as the wood chip track at Fair Hill, the research indicates, benefits will increase.

The person who is responsible for the wood chip track at fair Hill is Dr. John Fisher, who is both a veterinarian and a trainer. He also is president of the 13-member group that owns the 396-stall facility. The group is known as the Fair Hill Condominium Association.

“I have felt,” he said, “that race tracks spend their time, their money, and most of their talent in trying to build better facilities for their customers. I understand why they’re doing that, because the customers are the ones who pay for it, but I’ve never felt they designed a racetrack explicitly for the horse.

“I wanted to design a training center with the horse in mind—to provide the safest track possible. I’ve always had the philosophy that horses don’t break down; they’re breaking down. Every time you go out there and use him one more time, there’s an incremental degree of more risk. If you were to go to a trainer after his horse breaks down and if he were to be honest with you, he’d probably tell you the horse hadn’t been moving well for maybe as long as two months before he broke down. The trainer knew he had problems.

“It seemed to me that if you could eliminate a certain amount of stress from that horse and eliminate some of the strain on the legs when you work them, you would be able to keep them sounder longer,” said Dr. Fisher. “The longer they’re sound, the more money they generate, and so it seemed to make good business sense too.”

Dr. Fisher took construction of the track one additional step beyond using wood chips in his quest to provide a safe surface for the horse. He banked the turns at 10 percent.

“That was just an arbitrary figure,” Dr. Fisher said of the 10-percent banking. “I knew the three or four percent at most tracks was too level. George Pratt (a professor of engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a strong advocate of more steeply banked turns) said that optimally, you might want to go to 20 percent. I felt that would be impractical because you couldn’t keep the material from sliding down, so we went to 10 percent.”

Horses that train on the wood chip track can transfer to dirt tracks for competition with no ill effects if trained properly, Dr. Fisher said. The wood chip track, which is now five years old, got a bad knock early on, he said, when a trainer brought in a group of young horses, trained them for a short time, and moved them to a dirt track just when they were at the stage where they would be apt to buck their shins.

“You can’t take horses from wood chips and put them on dirt when they are in that critical stage of bone remodeling,” Dr. Fisher said. “If you do, they’ll buck their shins. We have found that when you get to where you are breezing them on the wood chip track, you can then take them to dirt, but the first few times you don’t work them as hard.”

Dr. Fisher has seen few problems with bucked shins on the wood chip track, and he said the incidence of other bone problems has been less as well.

While the wood chip track has been beneficial in keeping horses sound, Dr. Fisher admitted there are problems with it. For one, he said, it requires a great deal of water to maintain the proper resiliency. Then there is the matter of deterioration of the chips themselves. The maximum life of the track is five years, then the chips must be replaced.

Dr. Fisher already is looking toward the future. He has his eye on Equitrack, which he believes is as yielding as wood chips. He is considering putting down Equitrack when it is time to replace the chips that now comprise the Fair Hill surface. Whether the next surface is Equitrack or wood chips, Dr. Fisher will maintain the same degree of banking.

In the meantime, research at New Bolton and Fair Hill will go on, as money is available, to find out just what is required in the way of a training regimen to avoid bucked shins and the saucer fractures that almost inevitably follow. ◘

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The Wood Fiber Track Report

SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

The Wood Fiber Track Report outlines the history, facts and fallacies of wood fiber training tracks. More importantly, it analyzes 12 months of extensive data collected at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland , a training facility for over 400 horses that race at more than 10 different racetracks on the East Coast. Fair Hill horses train on both a wood fiber and a dirt track, except in the winter months when only the wood fiber track is kept open.

This report shows that horses that trained at Fair Hill:

  • Won over 5 times more stakes races than the National Average.
  • Won twice as much money per non-stake start than the National Average
  • Earned 185% more money than their immediate competition.
  • Won $1,282 more per horse each time they were in the money.

These startling figures support the findings that horses training on a wood fiber track earn more money and win more races than those who do not.

EARLY HISTORY

It is hard to determine exactly when the first wood fiber gallop was installed. It seems that it might have originated in Ireland sometime in the early 70’s. The early wood fiber gallops were made with crude bark mulch (a/k/a tanbark) which was dusty, lacked quality control and broke down rapidly…little attention was paid to drainage. Once the obvious benefits of a soft but stable surface became apparent, various people started to make significant refinements to the original concept. The two radical improvements were the type and configuration of the wood used for the surface and a sophisticated drainage design.

By 1979, there were several wood fiber gallops in England . All the top trainers like Barry Hills, Fulke Walwyne and Ian Baldwin had them installed and rave notices soon hit the equestrian press. Despite synthetic surfaces such as Equitrack and Fibresand having entered the market since then, all of the leading trainers in the United Kingdom still have their original wood fiber gallops. They are in heavy use almost every day of the year.

WOOD FIBER COMES TO THE UNITED STATES

In 1979, wood fiber was introduced to the United States by and under the brand name of Fibar®. Skip Brittle, a leading Steeplechase rider and now trainer, installed the first wood fiber gallop in the spring of 1981. That gallop is still in constant use today.

At the urging of the HPBA in 1982, Finger Lakes racetrack was the first major racetrack to install a wood fiber training track – ½ mile by 40 feet. Given the fact that up to 400 horses use the track, everyone at Finger Lakes would agree that the track has been very successful. Don Croteau, track superintendent, is able to open the training track in the last week of March often despite 4-foot snowdrifts and 3 feet of frost.

Since 1979, Fibar® wood fiber tracks have been installed at Garden State (1984) and Ak-Sar-Ben (1986) as well as at hundreds of private training tracks throughout the country.

The Fair Hill track was installed in 1983 under the supervision of one of the leading wood fiber manufacturers from England.

FACTS AND FALLACIES ABOUT WOOD FIBER

ALL WEATHER

Along with any “new” product one typically hears claims that are clearly overstated. The common belief early on was that the wood fiber track does not freeze. That is simply not true; any material that has the ability to retain moisture will freeze. Winter training and racing in cold climates is a track superintendent’s nightmare! When the temperature really drops below freezing, the only way to save the track from freezing is constant round-the-clock harrowing. Fair Hill keeps the wood fiber track open through the winter, but with considerable effort. However, the dirt track might be even more difficult and more expensive to keep open. The real advantage of a wood fiber track is that particularly in spring and fall, it is able to withstand any amount of rain without any change to the condition of the going. Compared with dangerously sloppy, muddy dirts, this is a considerable benefit.

MAINTENANCE

The other big myth is that the wood fiber track requires little or no maintenance. Not true! Typically one piece of equipment, a Pulvi-Mulcher, is all that is needed to groom the surface, but it must be done frequently, probably once before work and once again at the mid-morning break.

WATERING

Although unaffected by heavy rainstorms, the wood fiber track has to be watered – obviously more during the hot summer months than the cooler and wetter spring and fall. Ak-Sar-Ben installed a sprinkler system for under $25,000 that is extremely economical compared with the cost of running a water truck (or two) for several hours each day. Trainers and exercise jockeys are unanimous that the wood fiber track has to be kept slightly damp for optimum condition.

REPLACEMENT

The breakdown of wood fiber tracks is mostly due to mechanical action of horses galloping, NOT biological decay or rotting as is commonly thought. The rate of breakdown is directly proportional to the amount of use. Commercial tracks like Ak-Sar-Ben budget about 15% addition of new material each year. Garden State has added material as needed (approximately 7% per year) and then in the fall of 1988, 4 years after the original installation, removed worn material from the inside section of the track and replaced it using about 25% of the original amount. Finger Lakes added 45% more material after 3 years and then 30% more material after 6 years in 1988. It seems that one can figure on somewhere between 10% and 15% new material each year will keep the track in good shape.

FAIR HILL

Fair Hill installed a wood fiber track in 1983. A study has been going on at Fair Hill since 1985 by Drs. Nunamaker and Moyers of New Bolton Veterinary Hospital, investigating the effects of the wood fiber track on lameness, particularly with reference to bucked shins. The July 1, 1989 The Blood-Horse article entitled “A Response to Stress” summarized some of the findings to date. The article points to the overwhelming evidence that horses training on the wood fiber track may not buck their shins at all, or when they do, they do so much later and less severely. These finds are consistent with previous data that show the incidence of bucked shins in England is only 12% compared with as high as 70% in the U.S. Almost all horses in England are trained on grass or wood fiber gallops.

REACTION FROM THE RACING COMMUNITY

Sadly, this dramatic information, which, if acted upon, could drastically change the welfare of thousands of racehorses in the U.S. , has had little or no impact on the management of racetracks throughout the United States . The training track facilities provided at most racetracks are often poor relations to the main track. They are often too deep and/or too hard, do not get the same care and attention the main track does, and yet typically get used considerably more.

REACTION FROM THE PRESS

Several articles have been published each year in the major publications bemoaning the wasting of young racehorses whose bone formation is at a critical point in time. Thousands of the 2-year-olds never get to race due to unsoundness, some of which would have to be attributed to the training surface conditions these horses are asked to endure.

The Arizona Racing Symposium has, on at least 4 occasions, addressed the subject of track surfaces. On each of these occasions, track superintendents from tracks with wood fiber surfaces and other experts like Dr. Pratt from M.I.T. have extolled the benefits derived from wood fiber surfaces.

Trainers and exercise jockeys have been interviewed extensively and all attest to the safer, more forgiving going the wood fiber track affords. Private owners agree that the wood fiber track makes for a safer surface that is little affected by weather, particularly in the spring and fall.

STATISTICS

Although the veterinary findings are well documented, no data have been available to date that evidences the financial ramifications of horses training either partly or wholly on wood fiber surfaces. In February of 1988, Jane Luri of Fair Hill started extensive record keeping of all the horses that were stabled at Fair Hill. She identified them by trainer, class of race, track, winning and placing (14) and many won. This information was the catalyst for the attached tables. Professor Robert Lawrence, head of Equine Studies, University of Louisville , writes a report annually entitled, “All About Purses.” The wealth of data in this report provided some of the information used in the tables. Mark Simon, Thoroughbred Times, provided the purse data for each track so that exact comparisons could be made – same track, same type of race, etc.

THE DATA

It was very important in making any comparison that the data be valid. The first thing we did was break out the Fair Hill horses by class of race (Allowance, Maiden, Claiming) and by the racetrack the race was run at (Aqueduct, Delaware Park, etc.). This was essential because, for example, the average daily purse for an allowance race at Aqueduct was $28,648 compared with $11,116 at Delaware Park . We also decided to compare only those horses that finished “in the money,” i.e., the first 4 places (even though New Jersey , Maryland and others pay through 5 th place).

Table 1 – Average Money Won by Fair Hill Horses

Dividing Table 8 by Table 3 gives the average money won by Fair Hill horses by racetrack and class of race.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Tracks Average

All Races
All Tracks Average

Track

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

 

 

ALL

7,162

10,336

1,532

2,779

5,360

4,682

6,156

3,213

4,308

5,627

$5,115

 

MDN

5,208

7,109

2,006

3,671

3,335

7,600

3,940

1,350

3,061

3,102

4,038

 

CLM

2,868

3,700

1,214

1,906

1,927

2,988

2,415

1,324

1,594

3,417

2,335

$2,775

 


Table 2 – Average money won by all other horses (total purse / 4 places)

This was derived from regularly published tables in Thoroughbred Times which shows for each track, the number of days, number of races and the average Daily Purse for each class of race.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Tracks Average

All Races
All Tracks
Average

Track

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

 

 

ALL

3,750

3,470

1,630

2,340

3,450

1,990

1,830

3,400

2,486

2,890

$2,724

 

MDN

1,860

1,940

440

690

1,340

1,150

1,080

660

800

950

1,091

 

CLM

1,550

1,450

190

340

940

570

640

140

350

500

667

$1,493

Race Code: ALL-Allowance MDN-Maiden CLM-Claiming STK-Stakes
Track Code: 1-Aqueduct 2-Belmont 3-Delaware Park 4-Garden State 5-Laurel 6-Meadowlands 7-Monmouth
8-Penn National 9-Philadelphia Park 10-Pimlico

 


Table 3 – Total number of Fair Hill horses in the money (1st through 4th places)

This show the number of Fair Hill horses in the money at each of the tracks by same class of race. Philadelphia Park attracts most of the horses (179 or 25%), but it can be clearly seen that all ten tracks get a representative share of Fair Hill horses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totals

Grand Total

Track

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

 

 

ALL

11

10

12

17

21

9

14

9

35

16

154

 

MDN

5

7

17

18

12

3

3

9

50

23

147

 

CLM

5

6

86

39

33

4

5

87

94

28

387

688

 


Table 4 – Horses in theMoney (1st through 3rd) Wayne Lukas, Fair Hill Compared with All U.S. Starts

Statistics were only available for Lukas’ 1 st through 3 rd placing. However, the table vividly shows that the aggregate of trainers at Fair Hill look pretty good. It should be noted that 5 Fair Hill trainers out of a total of 15 had win percentages that were in excess of the 21% that Lukas achieved. While it would be invidious to suggest that these margins of success were exclusively due to the training surface, the results are certainly substantial and beg attention.

 

Total Starts

1st

%

2nd

%

3rd

%

Total in Money

% in
Money

Lukas (All Races)

1,500

318

21%

238

16%

192

13%

748

49.87%

Fair Hill (All Races)

1,519

234

15%

203

13%

181

12%

618

40.68%

National (All Races)

723,027

79,589

11%

79,589

11%

79,589

11%

238,000

32.92%

 

Table 5 – Increase (Decrease) in Money Won by Fair Hill Horses Compared with All Others, Same Conditions

Here we show the difference in money won by Fair Hill horses compared with other horses, same race, same track. It is immediately apparent that except for allowance races at Delaware Park and Penn National, Fair Hill horses were considerably ahead of their competition.

Track

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

All Tracks

All Races
All Tracks

ALL

3,412

6,866

(98)

439

1,910

2,692

4,326

(187)

1,822

2,737

$2,391

 

MDN

3,348

5,169

1,566

2,981

1,995

6,450

2,860

690

2,261

2,152

2,947

 

CLM

1,318

2,250

1,024

1,566

987

2,418

1,775

1,184

1,244

2,917

1,668

$1,282

 

Table 6 – % Increase (Decrease) in Money Won by Fair Hill horses Compared with All Others, Same Conditions

This table shows Table 5 in percentage terms. Taken as a whole, Fair Hill horses earned 85% more money than similar horses under the same conditions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Tracks

All Races
All Tracks

Track

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

 

 

ALL

91%

198%

-6%

19%

55%

135%

236%

-6%

73%

95%

88%

 

MDN

180%

266%

356%

432%

149%

561%

265%

105%

283%

227%

270%

 

CLM

85%

155%

539%

461%

105%

424%

277%

846%

355%

583%

250%

185%

Race Code: ALL-Allowance MDN-Maiden CLM-Claiming STK-Stakes
Track Code: 1-Aqueduct 2-Belmont 3-Delaware Park 4-Garden State 5-Laurel 6-Meadowlands 7-Monmouth 8-Penn National 9-Philadelphia Park 10-Pimlico


Table 7 – Money Won by Fair Hill Horses Compared with Same Races, Same Courses, Same Class of Horses

Here we see the real economics of the game. All the Fair Hill horses that were in the money earned almost twice as much money as the horses that they were competing against.

 

Total

Difference

 

668 Fair Hill horses in the money

$1,909,140

$881,498

86%

668 Other horses in the money

$1,027,642

 

 


 

Average

Difference

 

668 Fair Hill horses in the money

$2,775

$1,282

86%

668 Other horses in the money

$1,493

 

 

 

Table 8 – Total Money Won by Fair Hill Horses

This table shows the total money won by Fair Hill horses at the ten tracks by the three classes of races. (Stakes races were excluded since they represent less than 2% of all races. In addition, Stakes races typically award much higher prize money than the Allowance, Maiden and Claiming Races and would, therefore, likely distort the figures.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totals

Grand Total

Track

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

 

 

ALL

78,780

103,360

18,385

47,245

112,559

42,140

86,180

28,914

150,789

90,030

$758,382

 

MDN

26,040

49,760

34,101

66,070

40,015

22,800

11,820

12,148

153,043

71,345

487,142

 

CLM

14,340

22,200

104,426

74,325

63,601

11,950

12,075

115,222

149,805

95,672

663,616

$1,909,140

 

Table 9 – Money Won Per Start – Fair Hill Horses Compared with All U.S. Starts

Now we look at actual money won per start. Fair Hill is 90% ahead of the National Average, and when stakes money is taken out, they are ahead 118%. Fair Hill horses earn more than double the National Average each time a horse goes out to race.

 

Average Per Start

Difference

 

 

Fair Hill ALL Starts

$1,943

$925

90%

U.S. ALL Starts

1,018

 

 


 

Average Per Start

Difference

 

Fair Hill NON STAKE Starts

$1,667

$903

118%

All U.S. NON STAKE Starts

764

 

 

 

Table 10 – Stakes Winners – Fair Hill Horses Compared with All U.S.

Up till now, we have not looked at how Fair Hill horses have done in Stakes races. In Stakes races, compared with the National Average, Fair Hill shows a 1.38 ratio win out of all horses that started compared with 9.24 ratio for all U.S. starters. Fair Hill is better than five times the National Average!

 

# Starts

# Stakes Wins

Ratio

 

Fair Hill, ALL Starts

1,519

21

1.38

575%

U.S. ALL Starts

723,029

1,729

0.24

 


 

# Runners

 

 

 

Fair Hill Runners

419

21

5.01

262%

U.S. ALL Runners

90,479

1,729

1.91

 

Race Code: ALL-Allowance MDN-Maiden CLM-Claiming STK-Stakes
Track Code: 1-Aqueduct 2-Belmont 3-Delaware Park 4-Garden State 5-Laurel 6-Meadowlands 7-Monmouth 8-Penn National 9-Philadelphia Park 10-Pimlico

Yes, but… before we make any conclusions, let us put some facts in perspective. Fair Hill does have available both wood fiber and dirt tracks. Exact data as to how many horses use either track and for what period of time is not known. However, talking to several trainers, we were told that the wood fiber track is an integral and essential part of their horses’ training schedule. Certainly when the weather condition make the dirt track too sloppy, almost all horses use the wood fiber track. Although the “all-weather” track (see remarks, Facts & Fallacies earlier) has distinct advantages under adverse weather conditions, clearly its major advantage is its contribution to getting horses fitter, staying sounder and, as a net result, earning more money.

The other question that has been raised is about the quality of horses at Fair Hill being better than the average. Clearly, Tables 5 and 6 show that no matter where the Fair Hill horses go, whether it is to Aqueduct in an Allowance race (total average Purse - $41,344) or a Claiming race at Penn National (total average Purse $560), they perform substantially better than their peers. There is no doubt, however, that Fair Hill horses are not “encouraged” to fill a race by the Racing Secretary at any given track. Therefore, when a horse is sent out to race from Fair Hill, the trainer might weigh his changes of winning more carefully than a trainer on the backside of each of the tracks. But tables 1-7 show only those horses “in the money,” so we are only comparing horses that were ready to make a decent showing and did so.

CONCLUSION

This report shows that horses that trained at Fair Hill:

  • Won over 5 times more stakes races than the National Average
  • Won twice as much money per non-stake start than the National Average
  • Earned 185% more money than their competition
  • Won $1,282 more per horse each time they were in the money

The veterinary studies by Drs. Nunamaker and Moyer have, we believe, been finally converted into economic reality. Sore horses don’t win races, even “slightly” sore horses are clearly handicapped not to perform at their best. The fact is that Fair Hill’s horses perform almost twice as well as the horses they ran against, as well as the National Averages.

What is the difference? We know that these horses run under a variety of trainers, in a variety of race conditions, and at top-class tracks right through lesser class tracks.

We firmly believe that the one major difference is the wood fiber track and the part it plays in the training regimen.

This report is the property of The Fibar Group, LLC. All information contained herein is copyrighted. Any unauthorized use will be subject to the Copyright and Trademark Laws of the United States.

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