Safety over the jumps: France Galop announces the installation of new take-off rails

jump on a racecourseDuring meetings of the France Galop Committee and the Conseil d’Obstacle (Jump Racing Advisory Committee), Jean d’Indy, Vice President of France Galop in charge of jump racing, presented the new take-off rails which will be installed at Auteuil and Enghien as well as in the training centres managed by France Galop.

A year ago France Galop launched a lengthy process to identify new materials designed to replace our racecourses’ old wooden take-off rails to reinforce the protection of both man and horse. The four models of rails were field tested over six months at Chantilly, Maisons-Laffitte and Senonnes as well as at Clairefontaine under the control of Hugues Girard on behalf of the management of France Galop’s sites. These field tests were then complemented with laboratory tests carried out by Valutec, well known for their expertise developed for the car and rail industry.

Duralock has been chosen

Based on the analyses of these tests, France Galop chose to opt for the take-off rails made by Duralock, though it should be noted that none of the other rails which were tested had a negative evaluation. France Galop will therefore gradually replace the take-off rails at Auteuil and Enghien as well as those used on jumping courses at training centres in Chantilly, Maisons-Laffitte and Deauville. In addition, France Galop is making itself immediately available to regional racecourses so that they can benefit from tariffs negotiated with Duralock.

A different model from the one chosen for Clairefontaine

Since the safety aspect of the jumps is fundamental to the project, France Galop, via the Commission d’Équipement à la Fédération Nationale (the National Federation’s Equipment Committee) is examining the possibility of allocating a budget taken from the common fund to help companies who would not be able to meet the cost individually. The objective clearly stated by Jean d’Indy is to equip the greatest number of racecourses before the end of 2012. Some of them, such as Compiègne have already gone ahead and the project is under way at Pau, Auteuil and Enghien, whilst Clairefontaine is also proceeding but with a different model from that recommended by France Galop.

How France Galop chose their new take-off rails

France Galop first began by carrying out two types of tests:

“Laboratory” tests: the rails were hit by a sphere covered in sensors, replicating a 4.8kg head launched at an angle of 45°. The principle being to compare the rails one with another, but also with a “classic” wooden rail. This was not the modelling of a fall.

Two biomechanical criteria were studied:

  • The H.I.C.: “Head Injury Criterion”: the risk of irreversible injuries is established above a value of 1 000.
  • The “80 g below 3 milliseconds” criterion: the length of time the head is exposed to an acceleration equivalent to or superior to 80 g is limited to 3ms. Beyond 3ms, the risk of cerebral lesions is probable.

These laboratory tests are not mathematical models of the fall of a jockey and/or horse on a take-off rail, but rather a comparison of the take-off rails with one another and also with the classic wooden rail currently in use.

“Field” tests: the rails provided by the four suppliers were installed at the training centres in Chantilly, Maisons-Laffitte and Sennones in October 2011 on sand and on grass. They were therefore regularly tested by trainers over six months. The rails provided by Clairefontaine which were suggested at a later date, were not tested under the same conditions.

Weighing the results

Each of the four selected criteria (laboratory tests, field tests, price and delivery times) were weighed in order to increase or decrease their impact on the final “score”.

  • "laboratory" tests: security tests carried out by Valutec, specialised in automobile "crash tests". These are factual tests which illustrate one rail’s safety compared with another rail and compared with the wooden rail which is usually used. This criterion is considered to be central in any decision; it counts for 40% of the final result (x 4).
  • “field” tests: tests carried out at the three training centres. They took into account both the opinion of the trainers who have tested the rails since the month of October 2011 (six months), as well as the opinion of the centres’ management with respect to upkeep, daily use (fixing, moving, cleaning etc.) and also their performance in bad weather conditions (cold, rain, snow, blackening…); this criterion accounted for 30% of the final result (x 3).
  • price: this is obviously a crucial criterion, after the two other criteria cited above. It accounts for 20% of the final result (x 2).
  • delivery times: this important criterion accounts for 10% of the final result (x 1).

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