With the recent trend toward installing synthetic surfaces at racetracks and training centers around the country, Skylight Training Center, located near Louisville, Ky., is the first North American facility to install Pro-Ride Racing, a non-wax-based synthetic surface.
Installation of the surface on the six-furlong track began this month. Horses are expected to be breezing around the new surface Aug. 25.
Skylight, owned by Bill Wahl, is home to trainers Carl Nafzger, Niall O'Callahan, Ian Wilkes, Tom Dury, and Donnie Grego.
Wahl said he chose to replace the traditional dirt surface with a synthetic surface on the recommendation of trainers who use his facility. "The trainers all really felt that going with a synthetic surface would be the safest thing for the horses," Wahl said. "We had a first-class dirt track here, but everyone involved wanted to do the best thing for the horses."
Before choosing Pro-Ride, Wahl also considered Polytrack, Cushion Track, and Tapeta Footings, but chose to go with the Australia-based company because its surface does not use wax. "I looked at all the companies and instead of a wax, Pro-Ride uses a polyurethane compound. I think their binding agent is just dramatically better," Wahl said.
The Pro-Ride surface is made of graded sands and Pro-Ride's patented polymeric binder, combined with a cushioning agent to produce a two-phase cushioning technology.
“The big difference between Pro-Ride and other synthetic tracks is the technical breakthrough in two-phase cushioning technology," said Ian Pearse, developer of Pro-Ride Racing. "Horses work on top of the surface with the whole profile cushioning impact. Every stride of the horse should be consistent and have minimal kick back."
Pearse added that the principles of the binding technique and two-phase cushioning have been refined for the racing industry in the United States using a U.S. raw material base. That assists in developing high-quality footings at a reduced cost that can be adjusted for any climatic conditions.-- Leslie Deckard