Woodbine Entertainment Group will make a change to its primary Thoroughbred racing surface, but it will remain synthetic.
The company that operates Woodbine in Ontario said a Tapeta surface will replace the Polytrack surface, first used in August 2006, in time for the 2016 meet.
Installation of the Tapeta surface will begin Dec. 1. The current Polytrack surface will remain in use throughout the 2015 season. The four December dates scheduled for the first week of the month will be moved to Thursdays in November, pending Ontario Racing Commission approval. Closing day for the 133-date Woodbine meet is set for Nov. 29.
"At Woodbine, it's in our mandate to act in the best interests of horse racing and a regular, thorough examination of our track surfaces is paramount in that pursuit," said Jim Lawson, chairman of the board of Woodbine Entertainment Group. "We went through an exhaustive consultation exercise in our search for the new main track. It's clear that Tapeta is the next generation of horse racing surfaces that we'll be proud to unveil in April of 2016."
Tapeta, in the United States, is used for racing at Golden Gate Fields in California and Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Pennsylvania, as well as for training at facilities such as Fair Hill in Maryland.
WEG said it began investigating options to replace its main track in mid-2014. A dialogue with industry stakeholders was opened and opinions on the direction for the surface, dirt or synthetic, were sought.
"A surface that will endure racing and training through hot and cold climate extremes for more than eight months a year is critical for our horsepeople," Lawson said. "We also considered racing fans and horseplayers through this process. Field size, the number of quality races, and wagering on Woodbine's Thoroughbred racing product has grown appreciably in the synthetic track era. We see those metrics continuing to improve with the installation of Tapeta."
"The HBPA has appreciated WEG's regular and transparent communication with the HBPA's directors and its members as Woodbine reviewed options for a new racing surface," said Sue Leslie, president of the Ontario Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "While acknowledging that HBPA members were very split on their preferred surface, we are satisfied that WEG was thorough and open-minded in its review. The change of surface announcement is a good day for horsepeople and their horses."
Two stakes, the $125,000 Kingarvie Stakes and the $150,000 Valedictory Stakes (Can-III), originally scheduled for Dec. 5 and Dec. 6, respectively, will be moved up a week to Nov. 28 and Nov. 29, respectively.