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Vic Zast

From the perspective of being an owner, an industry pioneer in corporate sponsorship, a track president and fan, Vic Zast writes the "Destinations" column for The Blood-Horse. His five-star ratings of international events have shed light on racing in all corners of the globe - from England, Australia, Hong Kong, Dubai to Japan.

Vic is a regular contributor to MSNBC.com, a columnist for the Illinois Racing News and has written on racing for ESPN.com, National Public radio and The Age, Australia's leading daily.

Vic makes his home in Chicago and lives in Saratoga Springs in August.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010


On the Seventh Day of Christmas, Synthetic Tracks


(SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – December 19, 2010) Would wanting an end to the complaints of horseplayers unable to handicap races on synthetic tracks be too big a wish for Santa to handle? On this, the seventh day of Christmas, there might be matters less pressing than care for the wagering public to put on a list, but none more confused within context.

The plight of the handicapping challenged is the least of the issues confronting the experts as they search for truth about which benefits come from abandoning dirt. Two years of study by the Jockey Club supports the conclusion of earlier studies – that racing on synthetic tracks or turf has resulted in fewer equine deaths occurring from accidents. This information should prompt racetrack inventors to work harder at making their products consistent, predictable and dependable. Equine fatalities have inched upward repeatedly in the last 15 years. The statistics provide fodder for critics.

Like other circumstances pertaining to quality of life in the USA, the horse racing product has slipped below its once enviable standard of being the best in the world. Although the sport in countries such as England, Ireland, France and Australia has its problems, horse racing retains a sufficient importance to be included in mainstream discussions there. Synthetic racecourses have gained traction of sorts in some of these places because they have more in common with grass and because they are viewed to be practical. Abandoning work on perfecting the medium is no way to keep up with the Joneses.

Every member of the horse racing community, gamblers included, would be well served in the long run if time allowed those involved in building safer racetracks to make one that’s ideal in every respect. Those who can’t wait have some ways to protest – turn the dial as they say when the viewers don’t like what’s presented. On the other hand, a modicum of patience would be the preferred reaction.

Bobby Jones using hickory sticks couldn’t bring golf to its knees and neither can Tigers Woods using titanium. Some challenges can’t ever be conquered, which is why we’re addicted to them. Once a horse track that’s entirely predictable is made, there’ll be something else to confound horseplayers. How one goes about picking winners isn’t tougher these days; only different.

Vic Zast has five more wishes for Christmas. They're his own thoughts for making horse racing better. Learn more about he thinks on Facebook.com/viczast and Twitter.com/viczast.

Written by Vic Zast

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