Horses break from the gate in the first race at Woodbine as the track unveiled its synthetic surface Wednesday.

Horses break from the gate in the first race at Woodbine as the track unveiled its synthetic surface Wednesday.

Michael Burns

Woodbine Debuts New Polytrack Surface

Demi Song bounced his way into Canadian Thoroughbred record books at Woodbine Aug. 30 when the gelding won the first race over the track's new Polytrack surface.

Woodbine is only the second track in North America to hold a race meeting on the wax-coated sand, fiber and recycled material surface. It offers a high and even absorption rate and a much safer and softer surface for racehorses.

Certainly Demi Song, ridden by longtime Woodbine jockey Emile Ramsammy loved the spring to his step, winning by 10 3/4 over his five rivals.

"From the moment I heard about (Polytrack) and what it did as far as reduction of injuries to horses, I was determined that we had to do it," said David Willmot, president and chief executive officer of Woodbine Entertainment.

"For someone like me who has had two Horses of the Year destroyed on the racetrack, we owe the horses this. We also owe the public who have had to watch Barbaro."

It took just seven weeks to install and replace the old Woodbine main track with Polytrack while racing continued over the inner harness track.

After five training days and the six races run over the surface last evening, it is virtually unanimous that it was worth the wait.

"Woodbine Entertainment has made a great move," said Ramsammy. "You can definitely feel the difference (riding the horses). When there are horses around you, you don't even hear them, you don't even know they are there.

"That will help front running horses not be too aggressive and horses who need to be aggressive not worry about the clickety-clack (of hooves) behind them."

Polytrack, which cost Woodbine $10 million to install, is an invention born in England by Martin Collins, who addressed eager Woodbine horsemen earlier this week to answer questions about the surface.

While Polytrack did yield some kickback to trailing horses, a problem that affected Turfway this winter, riders equated it to feeling like "snow" and not the painful dirt that hit horses and jockeys in the face on the old track.

"I don't think there will be any bias to the track,' said Ramsammy. "I think the track is very fair. There is a little bit of kickback but nothing compared to the original dirt track which stung and hurt."

"It revolutionizes horse racing," said trainer Vince Tesoro. "This is a genius move by Woodbine. They have done it for the horses and in turn, the horsemen and the fans. Everyone is in awe of the surface."

Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., is the only other track on the continent to have a race meeting on Polytrack.