You can take the scientist to the racetrack, but is it possible to take the racetrack to the scientist?
A research article, published in the open-access journal, PLoS ONE, suggests you can.Racetrack surfaces present a risk in terms of racehorse injuries and fatalities.
Current research indicates that race surface mechanical properties may be influenced by material composition, moisture content, temperature, and maintenance.
Mechanical testing of race surfaces in a controlled laboratory setting would allow for objective evaluation of dynamic properties of surface and factors that affect surface behavior.
American researchers set out to develop a method for reconstruction of race surfaces in the laboratory and then validate the method by comparing its performance with the actual racetrack surface.
Track-testing device (TTD) impact tests were conducted to simulate equine hoof impact on dirt and synthetic race surfaces; tests were performed both at the racetrack and using laboratory reconstructions of harvested surface materials.
Clegg Hammer measurements were used to guide surface reconstruction in the laboratory.
Dynamic surface properties were compared between the real track and recreated surface in the laboratory. The researchers found the differences were small.
“Most dynamic surface property setting differences (racetrack-laboratory) were small relative to surface material type differences (dirt-synthetic),” they found.
“Clegg Hammer measurements were more strongly correlated with TTD measurements on the synthetic surface than the dirt surface. On the dirt surface, Clegg Hammer decelerations were negatively correlated with TTD forces.
“Laboratory reconstruction of racetrack surfaces guided by Clegg Hammer measurements yielded TTD impact measurements similar to in situ values. The negative correlation between TTD and Clegg Hammer measurements confirms the importance of instrument mass when drawing conclusions from testing results.
“Lighter impact devices may be less appropriate for assessing dynamic surface properties compared to testing equipment designed to simulate hoof impact (TTD).”
The researchers said their research showed that dynamic impact properties of race surfaces could be evaluated in a laboratory setting, allowing for further study of factors affecting surface behavior under controlled conditions.
Setterbo JJ, Chau A, Fyhrie PB, Hubbard M, Upadhyaya SK, et al. (2012) Validation of a Laboratory Method for Evaluating Dynamic Properties of Reconstructed Equine Racetrack Surfaces. PLoS ONE 7(12): e50534. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050534