11/04/2013 2:15PM

Santa Anita: Quarter cracks a common problem for horsemen

Barbara D. Livingston
Caracortado was one of several horses scratched from the Breeders' Cup with hoof problems.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The quarter crack that prevented Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Ron the Greek from starting in Saturday’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic is a frequent concern for Southern California trainers.

Several local trainers interviewed Sunday said they deal with quarter cracks regularly.

“I probably only have four,” trainer Bill Spawr said, shaking his head in frustration.

Spawr has a 30-horse stable.

Quarter cracks are breaks in a hoof that can cause painful instability or infections. Patches can be applied to a quarter crack to allow a horse to train and race, but those patches do not always hold, resulting in further damage.

Trainers say some horses are prone to quarter cracks and that rest is often the best remedy. Firm racing surfaces can play a factor. Many Southern California trainers consider the main track at Santa Anita to be such a surface.

On a given day, it is not uncommon to stand at the gap between the barn area and racetrack, or watch horses cool out in the stables, and see a horse walk by with a patched quarter crack.

In Spawr’s opinion, Santa Anita’s main track plays a role. He argues the surface has too much sand.

“It dries them out,” he said of how the surface can effect horses’ hooves.

Spawr said conditions can vary from track to track. He praised the surface at Barretts Sales and Racing in Pomona, Calif., as being kind on feet each summer.

“I have a little more here” than at Del Mar, he said of quarter cracks in general. “At Pomona, they get better there. A lot of guys with sore feet will go to Pomona and get sound again.”

Other trainers said privately that quarter cracks can be persistent problems for some horses.

Tim Grande, the California Horse Racing Board veterinarian, spends race mornings inspecting the day’s runners, an assignment he shares with track veterinarian Dana Stead. Grande said that horses are seldom scratched because of quarter cracks since trainers often have made that decision themselves.

“Of the horses we end up scratching, we don’t see many” quarter cracks, he said.

Grande said the confirmation of an individual horse can contribute to the presence of quarter cracks. He said trainers often use a three-quarter shoe, which leaves a portion of the heel exposed, as a way to continue training a horse with a quarter crack.

Ron the Greek’s quarter crack was detected Thursday morning, three days after he arrived from New York. Wednesday, trainer Bill Mott detected a bruise in a heel caused by an abscess. The injury was too close to the race for Ron the Greek to be treated and make the race.

Foot ailments caused the late withdrawal of two other runners from Breeders’ Cup races. Friday morning, Taptowne was withdrawn from the BC Dirt Mile because of a “slight bruised foot,” trainer Tim Glyshaw said.

Caracortado was withdrawn from Saturday’s BC Turf Sprint on race morning after an abscess was detected in his right front foot, trainer Mike Machowsky told Breeders’ Cup officials. Machowsky hopes to have Caracortado ready for the $100,000 Hollywood Turf Express on Dec. 8.

At the start of Breeders’ Cup week, trainer Todd Pletcher said that Graydar would not travel from New York after he developed a quarter crack while training on that circuit. Graydar had been pre-entered in the BC Dirt Mile and Classic.