All the Tapeta material has been laid for the main racing surface at the new Meydan racecourse, which could be ready for use soon, said Michael Dickinson, who created and now markets the synthetic racing surface.
It marks the third Tapeta surface in Dubai. A Tapeta training track was installed earlier at Meydan, which will replace Nad Al Sheba racecourse beginning in 2010.
Dickinson was asked about comments made by prominent Thoroughbred owner Jess Jackson, who has said synthetic surfaces are unsafe, and that his star filly Rachel Alexandra wouldn’t compete in this year’s Breeders’ Cup or next year’s Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) because both will be run on what he calls "plastic."
"I think it is grossly unfair that Jess Jackson is criticizing Tapeta at Meydan before it is even laid down," Dickinson said. "How unfair is that? He has never visited Presque Isle Downs, but his trainer (Steve Asmussen) had horses there in 2007 and 2008, and this year applied for 50 stalls. Because they were oversubscribed, he was only granted 20 stalls."
In Great Britain, Dickinson said trainer Mark Johnston since June has trained horses almost exclusively on Tapeta in Yorkshire. Johnston this year broke the record for number of wins by a trainer in one year.
"After we installed the training track at Meydan last March, trainers from Europe, Australia, Japan, and South Africa reported that they loved the surface," Dickinson said. "(Tapeta surfaces) handle the heat very well."
For racing purposes in the United States, Tapeta is in place at Golden Gate Fields in California and Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Pennsylvania. After a flurry of synthetic-surface installations earlier in this decade, no new ones have been announced in a few years in the U.S.
Dickinson, however, remains bullish on the synthetics. Dickinson retired from training Thoroughbreds so he could further develop and market his product.
"A few people are nervous, and not everyone likes synthetic tracks in the U.S., but the rest of the world does," Dickinson said. "Some claimed that there were hind-end injuries occurring from the synthetic surfaces. We have not had a single hind-end fatality since Presque Isle Downs opened three years ago.
"Last year, the top 20 trainers did not have one strained tendon between them. The Tapeta track at Presque Isle Downs has been very well-received and is well liked by the jockeys and trainers. Slowly but surely the good word will spread, and after the facts and figures are unveiled, the results will ultimately speak for themselves."
Dickinson said there were four catastrophic injuries in six months of racing at Presque Isle in 2008, and this year, the injury rate "continued to remain very low." He said catastrophic injuries won’t be eliminated, but reducing them by 50% is an attainable goal.