The opening weekend at Keeneland, which marked a return to a dirt racing main track for the first time since the spring of 2006, saw steady attendance and on-track wagering but total handle declined 5.7%.
On the morning of Aug. 28, Keeneland Race Course opened its new state-of-the-art dirt main track to training for the first time since the artificial Polytrack surface was replaced.
Javier Barajas, a veteran trackman with international experience managing dirt, turf and synthetic surfaces, has been named track superintendent for Keeneland, officials at the Lexington oval announced Aug. 5.
In hopes of slowing the track down a little, Del Mar added some wax to its Polytrack synthetic racing surface July 29 for the first time this year, track spokesman C.P. (Mac) McBride said.
Keeneland has begun installation of the dirt racing surface on its main track, the final step in the renovation project that is on schedule for completion next month in advance of the fall meeting.
Defections of Del Mar and Keeneland back to dirt have stalled synthetic surfaces in the U.S.
When Del Mar and Keeneland host their first Breeders' Cup World Championships, the two tracks will both be relying on relatively new dirt surfaces as their main tracks.
Two of the 3-year-olds that have looked best in the mornings working toward a start in the Kentucky Derby, Dance With Fate and Medal Count, have the biggest question marks in terms of dirt form.
With industry sources indicating a 2015 Breeders' Cup at Keeneland has a better-than-good chance of becoming reality, the president of the racetrack and auction company said April 30 it is in the due diligence phase.
- By Tom LaMarra
Catastrophic injuries in racing dropped, field size increased, and wagering reached record levels. read blog
- By Tom LaMarra
A look at 2-year-old racing, stabling changes because of a surface change, and a strong program with Polytrack. read blog
Tweets about Keeneland's decision to return to a dirt racing surface were flying fast and furious after the Lexington oval announced the removal of Polytrack April 2. Here, a selection of comments from the industry.
There was no unanimity on reactions to the April 2 announcement by Keeneland that the iconic Lexington track would replace its synthetic Polytrack surface with a state-of-the-art dirt track later this year.
Keeneland will remove its synthetic Polytrack surface at the end of the spring meet and return its main track to dirt before its fall meeting this October, the Lexington oval announced April 2.
Night School, the racing industry's national online fan education program, readies horseplayers for spring this Tuesday with an in-depth discussion on "Turf and Synthetic Surface Handicapping."
Del Mar plans to replace its Polytrack surface with dirt, track president and chief executive officer Joe Harper said Feb. 18.
Turfway Park expects much warmer temperatures the week of Feb. 16 that will allow proper maintenance of its Polytrack surface and a return to live racing Feb. 21.
After an eight-month break, Turfway Park will kick off its 38th consecutive holiday meet Dec. 1 featuring the first phase of a three-year renovation of its Polytrack surface.
Though it already has one of the safest tracks in the country, Turfway Park plans $500,000 worth of improvements to its Polytrack surface through 2015.
Fall Stars weekend brought a bevy of surprises as favorites were felled in the major races and a record rainfall pelted Keeneland on the afternoon of Oct. 5. read blog
Keeneland officials are expecting a typical fall meet from a horse-population perspective, and that's a good thing given increasing competition for racehorses at tracks around the country.
"If horses could talk, what a job this would be," said one Gary Contessa, enjoying a bountiful breakfast at Keeneland. "I'd ask that sunofagun right now, 'Do you like that track as much as you like the grass?"
Keeneland said Feb. 7 it has no intention to remove its Polytrack surface after this year's spring meet. The track responded to a request for comment based on rumors that have recently circulated.
Woodbine Entertainment Group announced Dec. 20 that handle on the Woodbine 2012 live Thoroughbred meet, which concluded Dec. 16, showed impressive growth over the 2011 season.
The $150,000 Arlington Oaks (gr. III) returns to the schedule at Arlington Park July 21 after a one-year hiatus, featuring a well-matched field of eight distaffers headed by Spendthrift Farm's Treasured Up.
Here are some things people have had to say that didn't make it into my stories. read blog
Steve and Lenny dissect the Breeders' Cup races, the many upcoming prep races leading into the Breeders' Cup and a BC Maiden Special Weight as #16 for the card.Sponsored by Darby Dan Farm watch video
Keeneland reported business gains for the first three days of its spring meet, including record attendance for a three-day period.
Officials at Turfway Park, which at the end of 2010 completed five full years of racing on Polytrack, said the results have been largely positive, and there is no thought of returning to dirt.
As Del Mar closed its 2010 race meeting, Joe Harper, CEO of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, discussed the possible new horizons of California racing.
Keeneland has offered buyouts to some of its employees in the wake of a financial crunch brought about by a number of factors.
Del Mar canceled training on its main track the morning of July 22 when it was determined that there had been some separation of its Polytrack materials in the stretch area causing some inconsistencies in the surface makeup.
The changing climate of the Thoroughbred industry and key areas of improvement were prominent topics of discussion by trainers Jonathan Sheppard and Christophe Clement at the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club meeting.
Woodbine begins its long meet April 2 with a focus on change, a strong purse structure and stakes schedule, and hope its expansion project gets off the ground.
Keeneland will offer $3.65 million in purses for 16 stakes races, in addition to a variety of on-site events and new wagering and marketing initiatives.
Bear Stables' Fatal Bullet, second in last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I), returns to a synthetic surface in the grade III Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland for its Oct. 9 opening-day program.
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.
A field of at least 10, headed by Lori and George Hall's West Side Bernie, appears likely for the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes for 3-year-olds at Turfway Park March 21.
A month after Turfway Park experienced eight catastrophic breakdowns during its 21-day holiday meet, state veterinarian Dr. Bryce Peckham and Turfway president Bob Elliston were on hand at a Feb. 10 Kentucky Horse Racing Commission meeting in Lexington to present commissioners a much more positive report.
Management at Turfway Park is continuing to be diligent in seeking answers to why the number of catastrophic (fatal) injuries doubled during the Northern Kentucky track's recent holiday meet.
Contrasting views on the future of synthetic tracks were expressed at the meeting of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities in Paris on Oct. 6, following the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) meeting at Longchamp.
Lori and George Hall's West Side Bernie made it two-for-two in his career with a victory in the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III) at Turfway Park Sept. 27 and stamped his ticket to the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Park.
Bear Stables' Fatal Bullet left no questions unanswered Sept. 27 with an authoritative track-record victory in the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Sprint (gr. III) for 3-year-olds at Turfway Park and appears headed to the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park.
Keeneland, whose fall meet begins Oct. 3, is launching a "PolyCapping" online database to provide more information for handicappers.
Churchill Downs and Great Britain's Kempton Park Racecourse have announced a race for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds that will provide a clear path for the winner to a starting spot in the field for the 2009 running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
The first Quarter Horse race at Turfway Park since 1972, and the first held anywhere on Polytrack, will be held the evening of Sept. 12 at the Northern Kentucky track.
Del Mar closed its 69th race meeting Sept. 3 with declines in handle and attendance, but track officials were left with a positive attitude in light of tough economic conditions.
Quarter Horses will race on the synthetic Polytrack for the first time Sept. 12 when Turfway Park hosts the $25,000 John Deere Turfway Park Sprint Stakes. The race will be part of the Friday night program of Thoroughbred racing during Turfway's late summer/early fall meet.
A cross-section of the racing industry addressed the New York Task Force on Retired Race Horses on the subject of synthetic surfaces at a one-day forum held July 29 at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Co. pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Water, designed to keep Del Mar's Polytrack more consistent from morning to afternoon, also led to three track records opening day, July 16, at the Southern California track. The five races carded over the synthetic surface were run at four different distances, with new marks set at 5 1/2 furlongs, six furlongs and a mile.
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