Communication, Technology Spotlighted As Track Superintendents’ Field Day Concludes

by | 06.25.2019 | 6:12pm
Roy Smith (left) accepts a plaque for his service to the Track Supers’ Field Day from longtime NYRA track superintendent Jerry Porcelli.

The 18th Track Superintendents' Field Day wrapped up Tuesday at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races after a variety of speakers and panelists covered a range of topics, often with a recurring theme about the importance of communication and technology. The two-day event attracted more than 100 track supers and their crews from Thoroughbred and Standardbred tracks in the United States, Canada and Dubai.

Hall of Fame harness racing driver John Campbell, who retired in 2017 with more than 10,000 wins and nearly $300 million in earnings, talked about issues related to track surfaces in the Standardbred racing world as well as the racing industry in general.

“This is a critical time for racing, for all breeds,” said Campbell, who now serves as president and CEO of The Hambletonian Society. “The general public can't always distinguish between Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds; they just see horse racing. We are all in the same boat, and this is something we all need to be on board for and work together.”

Campbell also mentioned how track surfaces are important not just to horses, horsemen, drivers and jockeys but also to a sometimes-overlooked group—bettors.

“Track surface is important to keeping horses on the racetrack but also making sure the races are fair and entertaining to bet on,” he added.

Keynote speaker Jolene Brown, a farmer, author and speaker known as “The Dr. Phil of Agriculture,” addressed the group and spoke about how today's fast-paced and technology-driven society is affecting just about everything, including track maintenance.

“Everything is so fast now with technology; it's not the have and have-nots, like it used to be, it is the have and have right now,” she said. “Communication is the bloodstream of business. The pace has changed in our world and so has the process—everything needs to be measured and documented. The world is asking for documentation.”

Brown talked about how farming has changed in recent years and how the supply chain—from farm to table—now demands documentation with specific details about when and where a crop was planted and harvested, what temperature it was stored at and other minutiae. She suggested track supers use the latest technology and communication methods and have as much documentation as possible.

After Brown's address, the group presented Roy Smith with a special plaque honoring his commitment to the annual meeting and to bringing track supers together to share information and best practices. Smith, who serves as track superintendent at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino, founded the Track Superintendents' Field Day in 2001.

“Roy has done so much for this group and the horse racing industry over nearly two decades that it was hard to even fit all the text on the plaque,” said Steve Andersen of title sponsor Equine Equipment. “Track supers and their crews work long hours with little recognition, but the men and women who get up well before the crack of dawn to ensure our track surfaces are as safe as possible are a vital part of this industry. I know I speak for all the sponsors of this event in saying that we are proud to play a part in helping this group get together and share information and friendship.”

A track executive panel included Chris McErlean of Penn National Gaming Inc., Derron Heldt of Prairie Meadows and Sal Sinatra of the Maryland Jockey Club. The panel talked about the importance of two-way communication between track management and track superintendents and that ultimately both have the same goal of a safe racing surface that will reduce injuries as much as possible and help ensure larger fields to drive handle.

“Communication is 1,000-percent important, not just within your own track but also including the horsemen and jockeys,” said Sinatra. “No one is ever going to be completely happy, but without a good surface and a safe surface you don't have good racing.”

Other speakers on the second day covered topics including stress fractures and how they relate to track surfaces, tractor technology and disaster preparation/recovery.

The 2020 Track Supers' Field Day will be held at Remington Park in Oklahoma City.

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