"Our objective is to be finished around April 1," said Craig Fravel, executive vice president of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. "We began taking rails out in December in preparation for the new track."
Fravel said that the dirt surface would take less than a week to remove, which would be followed by installation of the drainage system. The track configuration will not change, though a hedge on the clubhouse turn is being removed, giving the track about seven feet of additional width on that turn.
Because Del Mar is installing the same synthetic material Keeneland did in Kentucky, Fravel, DMTC vice president of racing Tom Robbins, and track foreman Steve Wood plan to spend time at the Lexington track during its spring meeting to help develop a maintenance program. Fravel and Robbins had joined Hollywood Park’s Martin Panza, Del Mar director Rollin Baugh, and Thoroughbred Owners of California’s Wilson Shirley on the initial visit to England to investigate synthetic surfaces in March of 2003.
By April, Del Mar hopes to be able to bring in a few horses to test the surface. However, because the June 8-July 4 San Diego County Fair takes place at the track, horses will not be able to come in to train until just before the summer meeting. The surfaces of the track devoted to the fair, such as the stretch, where a large stage is installed, will be covered with HexaDeck, a temporary heavy-duty flooring/roadway, to protect the Polytrack surface.
Last year, Del Mar had a higher incidence of breakdowns than normal. One of the difficulties, officials said, is the number of horses stabled at the seaside track, which does not have a large training oval. Though one of the Los Angeles-area tracks remains open during the Del Mar meeting, both Hollywood and Santa Anita are located about 100 miles north.
"We’re going to try to cut back on the numbers if we can," said Fravel. "We will be having talks with the horsemen to see what the optimum number is."
The Polytrack surface may also help to increase morning training time because less maintenance is required.
For 2007, Hollywood Park is scheduled to remain open during the Del Mar meeting while Santa Anita installs a synthetic surface. Hollywood installed Cushion Track last summer during the Del Mar meeting, and the summer of 2007 will be the first time that most Southern California runners will be able to train and race on a synthetic surface.
Del Mar is scheduled to open its summer meeting July 18 and run through Sept. 5.