Does it produce faster times by horses?
Horse racing on a wet and sloppy track

Eyes popped when the time for the ninth race on Sunday (September 25) was posted by the officials. American-bred three-year-old colt Runaway Algo clocked a fast 1:30.4 for 7 ½ furlongs (1,500 metres) on a wet and sloppy track at Caymanas Park. The track record for the mentioned distance stands at 1:29.2, done in 1983 on a dirt-based surface by Sky Train carrying 98 lb. Runaway Algo had 126 lb in his back.

Rain, the result of the recent passage of Hurricane Ian, continuously pelted the sand-based racetrack at Caymanas throughout the race day, resulting in a sloppy surface, with the inevitable puddles of water visible at various sections on the track.

After the effort by Runaway Algo, the conversations started among racegoers with the main question being: do we get faster times from horses on a wet track?

"Sometimes yes, and sometimes no" was the response of Aldiene Anderson, manager for racetrack operations at the promoting company of horse racing (Supreme Ventures Racing and Entertainment Limited —SVREL).

Anderson then explained: "We also noticed the fast clocking of Runaway Algo but when the times for the other nine races on the day, under basically the same conditions are examined, you will see that the winning times were in keeping with the grade or level plus the distances the winning horses were participating in. Again, a wet track does have the ability to produce faster final times and splits, but in the main, times on a wet track are usually in accordance with general track clocking. But there are conditions. If enough time is available after a downpour and the track becomes more compacted quickly, then you will in the main have faster times."

From 1959 when Caymanas Park became operational, the track was dirt-based. In early 1998, a major overhaul of the Caymanas Park racing surface was undertaken, changing from dirt to sand, specifically dune sand. Following completion, the Caymanas track was 92 to 98 per cent sand based, a consistency that has been maintained over the years.

"Dune sand is wind-blown sand. It has an increased silica content, and smaller based particles which allow for greater resilience, that is, dune sand is harder to break down.

"We have an inclined racetrack at Caymanas Park, with the incline running from the outer rails to the inner rails. As such, on a day like Sunday (September 25), when we had persistent heavy showers, we floated the track. That floating process basically involves the pushing of water from the outside rails to the inner, gradually allowing for the water to go off the track onto the infield.

"Approximately three months ago, the track was upgraded…more dune sand was added to the surface. These regular upgrades undertaken by SVREL allow for better maintenance, as our aim, is always to produce a uniformed and level track, with a safe cushion that protects the horse population and allows for better and more competitive racing," Anderson said.

Commenting on the issue of a wet track and associated times trainer Gary Subratie said that it was an issue of timing.

"On Sunday last when we had the heavy downpours, the times would remain within the accepted range as on a regular sunny race day as it would take time for the sand to settle.

"But on Tuesday morning [September 27], following the heavy rains on Sunday and even more and consistent downpours on Monday, with the sand better settled and more compact, the track will be much faster than usual for morning exercise.

"In answering the question of faster times or not on a wet track, the horses themselves have to be taken into consideration. In my many years conditioning horses, I have seen horses who enjoy every inch of a wet and sloppy surface, while there are many others who cannot deal with it especially the splashing of mud on their faces," Subratie explained.

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