05/28/2009 12:00AM

Study planned on racing surfaces

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A group of university researchers announced Thursday they are going to test how various racetrack surfaces affect the incidence and type of injuries in horses.

They intend to build laboratory models of synthetic and dirt surfaces, and then test the surfaces under a variety of conditions to gather data on how horses' hooves impact with the materials. The data will be fed into a computer model of a horses' forelimb to determine how likely certain conditions are to result in bone, joint, tendon, or ligament damage.

The researchers, all from University of California-Davis, are Sue Stover, Mont Hubbard, Shrinivasa Upadhyaya, and Jacob Setterbo. Stover is one of the leading researchers in the U.S. on racetrack-related injuries. The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, which distributes grants to researchers working on equine-related projects, will provide $50,000 in funding.

"We believe that, eventually, standard mechanical properties can be determined, and racetrack surface manufacturers can engineer surface materials that will minimize fetlock injuries in racehorses," Stover said, in a release. "Conducting this research in a laboratory setting can simulate an infinite number of race surfaces without having to build and test entire new racecourses."

The U.S. Thoroughbred racing industry has begun to focus more closely on the relationship between racing surfaces and injuries due to a spate of high-profile breakdowns over the past several years and the rise of the use of artificial surfaces at many racetracks.