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A Timeline for Synthetic Racing Surfaces

Defections of Del Mar and Keeneland back to dirt have stalled synthetic surfaces.

Call it the approximate seven-year itch. In 2014—seven years after Arlington Park, Del Mar, Presque Isle Downs, Santa Anita Park, Hollywood Park, and Golden Gate Fields joined Keeneland (2006), Woodbine (2006), and Turfway Park (2005) in unveiling synthetic racing surfaces that were advertised as a panacea for horse racing—half of those facilities have returned or have announced returns to dirt surfaces, leaving Arlington, Woodbine, Presque Isle, Turfway, and Golden Gate as the only North American racetracks that will run on synthetics by 2015.

The Timeline below appears in the magazine feature, The Dirt On Synthetics, and highlights significant moments in the progression of tracks installing synthetic racing surfaces. Links have been included to aid in learning more on these events.

Read the full feature with more stats and data in the July 26, 2014 issue of The Blood-Horse 


  • 1965
    • April - Tartan Track tested with six Thoroughbred trial races at Laurel Raceway, a harness track
  • 1966
    • Nov. - First race on Tropical Park’s Tartan surface
  • 1971
    • May - Calder Race Course opens with a main track consisting of synthetic Saf-T-Turf
    • Sept. - Calder covers Saf-T-Turf with sand; special harrow built to keep a two-inch consistency
  • 1987
    • Martin Collins’ first Polytrack training facility installed at trainer Richard Hannon’s gallop in England
  • 1988
    • Aug-. - Equitrack, a mixture of sand and oil-based polymers, installed at Remington Park
  • 1989
    • Oct. - Lingfield Park in England opens with Equitrack surface; Southwell in England opens with Fibresand
  • 1991
    • July - Remington Park announces Equitrack will be replaced by conventional racing surface (Read More)
  • 1998
    • March - Trainer Michael Dickinson lays down his Tapeta surface at his training farm in North East, Md.
  • 2001
    • Nov. - Lingfield Park resurfaced with Polytrack
  • 2002
    • Jan. - Newmarket opens Polytrack gallop at Long Hill (Read More)
  • 2003
    • March - Polytrack gallop installed at Ballydoyle in Ireland; training tracks installed for France Galop at Chantilly and Maisons-Laffitte
  • 2004
    • Sept. - Keeneland unveils its Polytrack training track (Read More)
  • 2005
    • Sept. - Turfway Park opens fall meet with its new Polytrack surface (Read More)
  • 2006
    • Feb. - The California Horse Racing Board decides that state racing associations that operate at least four continuous weeks will be required to install a synthetic racing surface by the end of 2007 or face a loss of dates (Read More)
    • May - The CHRB gives final approval that all major Thoroughbred tracks in the state must install synthetic surfaces by Jan. 1, 2008 (Read More)
    • Aug. - Midway through its meeting, Woodbine becomes the second track in North America to race on a synthetic surface, unveiling its new Polytrack surface; while being installed, main track races were run on the harness track (Read More) (Read More)
    • Oct. - Keeneland opens its fall meet with its new Polytrack surface; Great Hunter wins first grade I race on a synthetic surface, the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity, the following day (Read More) (Read More)
    • Nov. - Hollywood Park opens with its new Cushion Track synthetic surface (Read More) (Read More)
  • 2007
    • May - Arlington Park opens with a new Polytrack surface a year after an unprecedented string of catastrophic breakdowns (Read More)
    • July - 42,842 are on hand at Del Mar as the Southern California track opens with its new Polytrack surface (Read More)
    • Sept. - Presque Isle opens for business in northwest Pennsylvania with a Tapeta Footings surface (Read More)
    • Oct. - The Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita opens, unveiling its new Cushion Track surface (Read More)
    • Nov. - Golden Gate Fields in Northern California opens with its new Tapeta Footings racing surface (Read More)
    • Nov. - The Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. opens its one-mile training track with its new synthetic Safetrack surface (Read More)
  • 2008
    • June - Pro-Ride surface installed at Santa Anita after Cushion Track fails to adequately drain (Read More)


  • 2010
    • March - Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) moves from dirt at Nad al Sheba to Tapeta Footings surface at Meydan Racecourse (Read More)
    • Dec. - Santa Anita moves back to a dirt surface (Read More) (Read More) (Read More)


  • 2013
    • Dec. - Hollywood Park closes (Read More)


  • 2014
    • April - Keeneland and Del Mar announce they are pulling out their Polytrack surfaces and installing dirt surfaces. Both are named Breeders’ Cup host sites shortly thereafter. (Read More)



    • May - Decision is made to change Meydan to a dirt surface in time for 2015 World Cup (Read More)


Additional Track Surface Resources:

What's Going On Here for 7/26/2014: Keeping the Promise

Peterson: Be Proactive on Surface Maintenance

Trainer Mark Casse offers comments on the trend toward racetracks converting their artificial surfaces back to dirt and what effect that might have on his stable operation during this audio podcast.

A video about the Singapore Turf Club, which touches on their training and main track surfaces.

Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Inc. Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit 2014:

Dr. Mick Peterson, Executive Director, Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, Libra Foundation Professor, College of Engineering at the University of Maine

Glen Kozak, Vice President of Facilities and Racing Surfaces, New York Racing Association


Read the full feature with more stats and data in the July 26, 2014 issue of The Blood-Horse