(from Arlington Park)
State-of-the-art track maintenance equipment in use for less than two weeks on Arlington’s Polytrack course has already led to positive feedback from local horsemen.
“I haven’t heard any criticism at all,” said Tony Petrillo, Arlington’s vice president of facilities and operations. “So far, everyone seems to like it. Christine Janks told me that whatever we were doing to the track – keep doing it, and Chris Block said that his horses were running truer to form, and that their times were more like what he was looking for.
“We’re always looking for ways to upgrade,” said Petrillo, “so during the offseason we sent Javier Barajas (who oversaw the installation of Arlington’s Polytrack in 2007) up to Canada to check out some new equipment Woodbine was using for their Polytrack course. Irwin Drieger was their advisor up there, and he was instrumental in teaching Javier about it.
“What Javier found was that Woodbine was using some equipment that loosens up their track a lot in cold weather, and once the Polytrack people saw the use of it, they were quick to endorse it,” Petrillo said.
“In simple terms, when our tractors go over the surface after training hours in the morning and again after the races, what you might call the ‘teeth’ on the rollers they are dragging fluffs up the track, giving it more cushion underneath and allowing air to get into it,” Petrillo said. “It’s a little like watching how the bow of a boat cuts through water. It takes the tightness out of the track.
“Then, when the tractors go over the surface again with the ‘gallop master,’ it firms up the very top portion of the surface and evens it out once again,” said Petrillo. “We sent Ricky Malagon (Arlington’s new synthetic track superintendent) up to Canada, and he worked that surface for a couple of weeks before returning to Arlington.
“Now, if you go down to the rail and listen to sound of the horses going over the track during training hours in the morning,” Petrillo concluded, “it’s a lot quieter out there.”