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Letter to the Editor: Martin Collins

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Martin Collins, CEO and Founder of Martin Collins Enterprises

I read with interest, and a few raised eyebrows, the interview with Michael Dickinson, “American Racing Must Go Back to Synthetics.”

While I wholly agree with him that racing in the U.S. should re-visit synthetic surfaces, we must first educate and deliver proof to the American racing industry that synthetic surfaces, e.g. Polytrack, can deliver a commercial advantage to the stakeholders, while at the same time providing a safer environment for their horses, reducing considerably such catastrophic break downs that are associated with dirt tracks.

I was the first person to formulate and introduce synthetic surfaces over 40 years ago, and the following decades have seen us spend huge amounts of time and money into research and development in order to ensure that any product we manufacture is safe and durable.

The Martin Collins Group is a global company that has experience of providing and installing synthetic surfaces for all climatic conditions. As the world’s number one, we have installed over 25 Polytrack racetracks and over 1,000 synthetic training tracks worldwide. The Polytrack product is incomparable with other brands of synthetic surface in that we specifically manufacture our surfaces based on local climatic conditions; it is not ‘a one size fits all.’

The British Horseracing Authority has approved Polytrack, recognising its contribution to the racing industry; also, over 90% of The Jockey Club’s two central training venues have Martin Collins surfaces. In addition, Martin Collins Enterprises is greatly honoured to be the only surface provider to be granted the Royal Warrant by Her Majesty The Queen.

Following the success of our product in Europe, the growth of Polytrack race and training tracks in Australia, the largest racing jurisdiction outside of the U.S., has been substantial over the past few years. This is testament to our synthetic surfaces that deliver both a significant commercial contribution to their racing industry, as well as enhancing the welfare of their horses. They enable year-round racing, thereby bringing an increase in revenues to the racecourses. Stakeholders and premier trainers alike testify to the positive value that Polytrack brings.

Our business has just completed or is currently undertaking installations at Pau (France), Dundalk (Ireland), Warwick Farm, Ballarat and Flemington (Aus).

Whereas the object of writing this letter is not to have a ‘tit for tat’ with Michael, his comment, “The other tracks weren’t good enough, period,” was a rather sweeping statement that is factually incorrect. The Polytrack surface at Del Mar was removed in favour of a dirt surface so that the course could be considered to run the Breeders’ Cup. Not because it “failed.”

The research paper prepared by Rick M. Arthur for the 56th AAER conference held on 4 January 2010, shows that there was a reduction in fatal injuries as a result of the installation of synthetic tracks, illustrating that they have the lowest rate of all surfaces, including turf.

Summary from the paper:

“Racing fatalities declined 37% after main track dirt racing surfaces at four major California racetracks were converted to synthetic racing surfaces over the period of this study, January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2009. The racing fatality rate was 3.09 fatalities/1,000 starts on dirt before conversion to synthetic surfaces and 1.95 fatalities/1,000 starts after conversion to synthetic racing surfaces. The racing fatality rate on turf was 2.44/1,000 starts over the same 6-year period. The fatality-rate difference between dirt and synthetic was significant (p 0.001). Author’s address: School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, 1 Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616; e-mail: [email protected]. © 2010 AAEP.”

In summary, it is my belief that synthetic surfaces have a place in the great American racing scene, as Arlington clearly demonstrates. All over the racing world, fans are demanding that the safety of racehorses is of paramount importance. The Martin Collins Group is developing a strategic programme in the U.S. to reach out to the trainers and racetrack stakeholders to give synthetic surfaces another chance to prove their worth.

Martin Collins, CEO and Founder of Martin Collins Enterprises

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