01/07/2009 12:00AM

Turfway allows rear toe grabs

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Turfway Park has lifted its self-imposed ban on rear toe grabs after eight horses suffered catastrophic injuries at the 21-day holiday meet that ended Dec. 31. By comparison, only four catastrophic injuries occurred during the 27-day holiday meet in 2007.

Veterinary officials with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission hope allowing rear toe grabs at the current winter-spring meet will help alleviate the disturbing trend. Dr. Mary Scollay, medical director for the commission, cautioned that although there could be multiple reasons for the rash of breakdowns, one theory is that a lack of rear traction over the Polytrack course might put more pressure on a horse's front end, thereby increasing the risk of a breakdown.

Front toe grabs, often likened to shoes with a small cleat, are banned by the commission at all state tracks. There is no such state ban on rear grabs.

Track president Bob Elliston said a group of veterinarians suggested lifting the ban on rear toe grabs on Dec. 22.

"Since then we don't have any data to show that there's anything wrong with the racetrack," Elliston said, "but we will turn over every stone to make sure that that's the case."

Jockey Bill Troilo said the breakdowns should not suggest that something is wrong with the track surface. "There are some pretty bad horses running here right now," he said.