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While Thoroughbred trainers are unhappy with the ban on high toe grabs at California racetracks, there’s scientific research to back up claims that high toe grabs can result in serious injuries. Yet trainers maintain that they and farriers should determine which traction devices are best for various horses and track surfaces.
For track operators, the big concern about toe grabs with horses running on grass has more to do with the condition of the turf than the welfare of the horse. Unfortunately, this thinking has carried over to the new synthetic track surfaces.
With injuries occurring at an increased rate on Polytrack, Cushion Track and Tapeta surfaces, there’s no evidence to support a ban on toe grabs.
Trainers at several tracks have reported major concerns with synthetic surfaces due to temperature swings, gripping ability, balled-up fibers, fiber kickback during races and worries about the proper mixing of track materials. Polytrack is a mixture of sand, rubber, carpet fibers and wax.
Turfway Park reported four catastrophic breakdowns during the first 6 weeks of 2007 on the Polytrack surface. Last summer, new materials were added to the track which led to faster times, but disappeared once cold winter weather arrived.
Canada’s Woodbine operation near Toronto installed a 1-mile Polytrack surface in the summer of 2006. In mid-November, track stewards banned toe grabs that were more than 1/4 inch long, turndowns, jar calks, stickers, rims and mud nails to protect the surface. When horses were injured, officials relented and allowed…