When Del Mar kicks off its 76th summer season July 16, the seaside California oval will be marking a return to a dirt main surface after eight years with a synthetic track as mandated by the California Horse Racing Board.
In making the transition back to dirt, Del Mar followed the lead of Santa Anita Park and used El Segundo sand, a soil found in the area around Los Angeles International Airport.
"Having a uniform racing surface on the Southern California circuit is very important," said Del Mar Thoroughbred Club president and CEO Joe Harper. "The reason we went back to dirt was the same reason we went to synthetics—safety of the horses and riders."
The conversion began Dec. 8, 2014, eight days after the close of the inaugural Bing Crosby fall meet. Crews began removing the 15,000 tons of Polytrack, a process which took more than two weeks. Offered free to those who would haul it away, all 15,000 tons were recycled to 35 different equine facilities.
From January to March of this year the sub-base was removed, recycled and mostly re-used, the irrigation and drainage systems were updated, and the main track compacted preparatory to rebuilding. In March and April, 30,000 tons of decomposed granite went into the sub-base and 31,000 tons of El Segundo sand was put down for a 10-inch deep cushion. On May 14 an unnamed 2-year-old to be sold at the Barretts sale two weeks later became the first racehorse to test the track.
The track was sealed May 29 and turned over to the fairgrounds for the duration of the Del Mar Fair, returned to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club on July 6. Horses began shipping into the facility on July 8 and training last Friday, July 10.
Twenty-five horses worked out on the main track Sunday morning and approximately 80 Monday morning, clocker John Malone reported.
"The new track is settling in," veteran trainer Eddie Truman said Monday. "It will take a little time but (track superintendent) Richard Tedesco does such a great job, he'll get it just right."
Unchanged for the Del Mar meet that runs through Sept. 7 is the traditional opening day $100,000 Oceanside Stakes that drew a field of 12. The mile turf test is for 3-year-olds that have not won a stake worth more than $50,000 to the winner at a mile or over in 2015.
Co-highweights at 121 pounds are Soul Driver, who rallied in the stretch to win the Singletary Stakes at a mile on turf June 20, and Papacoolpapacool, whose three-race win streak earlier this year included victories in the Pasadena Stakes and La Puente Stakes before finishing seventh, only 1 1/4 lengths behind winner Force the Pass, in the Penn Mile (gr. IIIT) May 30 at Penn National Race Course. Del Mar, Thursday, July 16, 2015, Race 8
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Forest Blue (KY) Victor Espinoza 117 Peter Miller - 2 2Peacenluvpeacenluv (FL) David Romero Flores 117 George Papaprodromou - 3 3Tried and True (KY) Martin A. Pedroza 117 Eoin G. Harty - 4 4Fueled by Bourbon (KY) Tyler Baze 119 Dan Blacker - 5 5Royal Albert Hall (GB) Flavien Prat 117 Doug F. O'Neill - 6 6Ride Hard Kowboy (KY) Fernando Hernandez Perez 119 Molly J. Pearson - 7 7Thanksgiving Day (IRE) Martin Garcia 117 Neil D. Drysdale - 98 8Ground Rules (KY) SCRATCHED 0 UNKNOWN - 8 9Anytime Anyplace (FL) Drayden Van Dyke 119 Patrick Gallagher - 9 10Papacoolpapacool (KY) Gary L. Stevens 121 Philip D'Amato - 10 11Soul Driver (KY) Mike E. Smith 121 Jeff Mullins - 11 12Extant (CA) Joseph Talamo 119 Jedd B. Josephson -
Del Mar, Thursday, July 16, 2015, Race 8