With track safety being one area of the racing industry under scrutiny, the seventh annual Track Superintendent Field Day conference at Keeneland June 2-3 seemed an especially timely opportunity for questions to be answered by synthetic-track maintenance professionals from around the country.

During a synthetic-surface panel involving track superintendents Mike Young of Keeneland, Richard Tedesco of Santa Anita Park, Steve Wood of Del Mar, Irwin Driedger of Woodbine, Javier Barajas of Arlington Park, Jeff Chapman of Turfway Park, and Michael Dickinson of Tapeta Footings, it wasn”t surprising the first topic centered on the widely publicized deterioration of Santa Anita”s Cushion Track surface.

“Anybody that”s dealing with any of these synthetics should not take the word of anyone building it,” Tedesco said. “I think you should do your own testing to find out if there are any ingredients that shouldn”t be there.”

Tedesco explained that Santa Anita was told the Cushion Track would be ready to use upon installation, and that it would be identical to Hollywood Park”s surface, so it wasn”t monitored as well as it should have been.

“There could be a mistake—we got the wrong sand, and that caused the compaction ratio to go way up,” he said. “It also caused the drainage to not work properly because we were always working with the top layer. What was going on down below, we didn”t have any idea until the first rain storm, and then after that, it just kind of went out control.”

After extensive testing, Tedesco realized the track was comprised of an alarming 8.3% silt and clay.

Santa Anita lost several days of racing in January because of the track”s drainage issue, and Pro-Ride Racing Australia representatives installed materials in an effort to repair the surface and get the track through its winter meet. Replacement of th