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HISA Announces New Track Surface Advisory Group

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) has formed a new Track Surface Advisory Group, the members of which will be deployed by HISA to analyze dirt, turf and synthetic surface consistency at Thoroughbred racetracks across the U.S.

“This Group is crucial to ensuring that HISA can support local experts working to make the surfaces on which Thoroughbreds compete as safe as possible,” said HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus. “HISA is committed to using all resources at its disposal to help tracks under our jurisdiction meet our Racetrack Safety standards. This group of track experts will be instrumental in our ability to protect equine athletes from potential injury caused by surface inconsistencies.”

The volunteer Advisory Group will be available to conduct on-site racetrack inspections as needs arise. They will examine conditions on the ground as well as historic and pre-meet inspection data compiled by the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory (RSTL). The Group will make recommendations as needed to improve the consistency and maintenance of racing surfaces. Members of the newly formed Track Surface Advisory Group were already deployed to Saratoga Race Course to conduct a thorough review of the dirt and turf surfaces there in late August.

Going forward, the Group will advise HISA on track surface issues year-round and provide recommendations to HISA’s Board of Directors as needed.

The Advisory Group is comprised of seven seasoned track superintendents whose expertise spans dirt, turf and synthetic surfaces. The individuals include:

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Jim Pendergest, Chair, Director of Racing Surfaces, Keeneland; General Manager, The Thoroughbred Center.

Pendergest has supervised installation of six racetracks, 10 training tracks and more than 20 equine arenas in the U.S. and Canada including installation of the Keeneland all-weather surface in 2006 and the Keeneland dirt surface in 2014.

Leif Dickinson, Turf Superintendent, 1/ST Racing / Gulfstream Park / Palm Meadows Training Center

Dickinson oversaw the installation of two new turf tracks at Santa Anita and a new turf track at Del Mar with the first successful use of fiber reinforcement on both surfaces. He received his Bachelor of Science in Horticulture from the University of Maine and is an ISA certified arborist.

Sean Gault, Retired Director of Thoroughbred Racing Surfaces, Woodbine Entertainment Group at Woodbine Racetrack

Gault oversaw Woodbine’s two turf tracks, the main Tapeta track and both training tracks. He was also responsible for the installation of the new inner turf track in 2018. He received his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Guelph.

Glen Kozak, Vice President of Facilities and Racing Surfaces, NYRA

Kozak leads facility and track operations for NYRA properties, which include Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course, Aqueduct Racetrack and others. Prior to joining NYRA, Kozak worked for the Maryland Jockey Club as vice president of facilities and racing surfaces.

Jake Leitzel, Manager of Racetrack Maintenance, Penn National Race Course

Leitzel provides guidance and training to racetrack superintendents at all Penn Entertainment Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racetracks.

Dennis Moore, Track Superintendent, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club; Racing Surface Consultant, 1/ST Racing

In addition to his current roles, Moore has also overseen track surface operations at Hollywood Park, where he was instrumental in the development of the synthetic track maintenance procedures, and at Remington Park, where he oversaw the installation of the first synthetic racing surface in the U.S. in 1987.

James “Jamie” Richardson, Track Superintendent, Churchill Downs

Richardson previously served as track superintendent at Oaklawn Park. Prior to that, he was track superintendent for the Maryland Jockey Club at Timonium and also worked on opening Colonial Downs while employed there for 10 years.

Mackenzie Rockefeller and Kaleb Dempsey will provide support to the Advisory Group, including via data analysis, testing equipment operations, material testing and historical data comparison. Rockefeller and Dempsey both work for the RSTL and have extensive backgrounds in track surface testing, research and diagnostics.

This press release has been edited for content and style by BloodHorse Staff.

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