The Biz of Horse Racing


From protective vests to synthetic dirt, a number of small companies play a big role in the world of horse racing.

Horse racing is a dangerous sport, for both horses and humans. To protect jockeys who fall from their mounts, Santa Anita stretches this blue safety netting, made by Los Angeles — based Canvas Specialty, over the concrete surface between the grass and dirt tracks.

During a race, horses apply up to 5,000 pounds of force per square inch of ground. That’s why many racetracks have switched to synthetic, shock-absorbing surfaces, which reduce equine injuries compared with dirt tracks. Santa Anita’s track is made with roughly 15,000 tons of material from Pro-Ride Racing, based in Yarra Glen, Australia. It’s a patented mixture of sand, polymers, and cushioning agents.

When jockey Julie Krone was stepped on by a horse in a 1993 race, she credited a vest with saving her life. Not just any vest: a lightweight, foam, Tipperary-brand vest made by Phoenix Performance Products of Vaughan, Ontario. Phoenix was the first company to measure jockeys and ask for their input in designing protective vests, and it now captures 80 percent of the market.

Photo by winterdove.

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