Racing surface projects continued Aug. 24 at two Kentucky tracks, with a new mix of materials being placed on top of the Polytrack at Turfway Park, and construction crews laying the asphalt layer for the new Polytrack that will debut at Keeneland in October.
Turfway, which unveiled its Polytrack last September, closed for training Aug. 24 but will be back in action Aug. 26 or Aug. 27. Track president Bob Elliston said the top two inches of the synthetic surface are being replaced with a new mix that includes Spandex and cabling material in an effort to keep the material more compact.
Turfway's live meet begins Sept. 6 and ends Oct. 5. Elliston said the track received about 1,400 applications for 900 stalls.
"I'm cautiously optimistic we'll have good, full fields," Elliston said. "The surface is such a draw. We continue to receive positive (feedback) from trainers."
Turfway has been home to about 700 horses for summer training. Trainers such as Patrick Biancone and Dale Romans have had 35-40 horses in training at Turfway, but when the meet begins, trainers will be capped at 26 head, Elliston said.
Many 2-year-olds are on the grounds, as are stakes horses. For instance, Gorella, impressive winner of the Aug. 12 Beverly D. Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington Park, has trained this summer at Turfway for Biancone.
When the Turfway meet ends, Polytrack racing will continue Oct. 6 at Keeneland, which will have an artificial surface for the first time. The afternoon of Aug. 24, workers were in the process of laying the porous macadam. That will be followed by installation of the top layer of material.
Turfway has held its Kentucky Cup day and Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) day programs on Polytrack. The first grade I stakes raced on Polytrack in the United States, however, will be held at Keeneland Oct. 7--the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity for 2-year-olds. The following day, the Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (gr. I) for fillies and mares will be offered.
"We were not satisfied with the status quo," Keeneland president Nick Nicholson said during the Aug. 20 Jockey Club Round Table in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. "We felt that in these modern times, surely there was a better way. We didn't rush into (the decision to install a non-dirt track) or reach it lightly. We understand it could have significant implications to the industry."
Nicholson suggested the mix of fiber, rubber, sand, and other materials is actually "more natural" because it is kinder on horses.
Elliston said the Turfway meet could be interesting because for the first time it will be followed by another Polytrack meet.