The Polytrack surface on Keeneland's training track.

The Polytrack surface on Keeneland's training track.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Keeneland Going With Polytrack; Other Track Renovations Planned

The Keeneland Association board of directors gave its approval to install a synthetic surface known as Polytrack on the main racetrack during an April 19 meeting. Construction is scheduled to begin in May and the track will be ready for racing when the fall meet opens Oct. 6.

Keeneland becomes the third North American racetrack to make the switch from dirt to Polytrack on its main racetrack. Keeneland installed Polytrack on its training track in September 2004.

Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky, in which Keeneland is half owner with Harrah's Entertainment, installed Polytrack in September 2005. Woodbine in Canada plans to begin racing on the surface in September.

"With these renovations and improvements, we hope to have one of the safest and most modern racetracks in the world," said Keeneland president Nick Nicholson. "We believe that by taking advantage of the latest, cutting edge advancements and creating the safest racing environment possible, we further the mission laid out by our founders to build a model racetrack."

Keeneland is using the Polytrack installation as an opportunity to reconfigure the track's turns to make them wider and more symmetrical. It will also lengthen the stretch.

The new track will remain a 1 1/16-mile oval, but the stretch length to the main finish line will increase to 1,235.6 feet from its current distance of 1,124 feet.
According to a timetable laid out by Keeneland officials, training on the main track will end May 15. The training track will be open for limited hours, 4:30-7:30 a.m from May 15-30. No horses will be allowed on the grounds after May 30.

During construction, horses that normally stable at Keeneland will be relocated to the The Thoroughbred Center or Turfway Park, which will be open as a year-round training center.

"Sometime around late August we expect this project to be completed," Nicholson said.

In addition to Polytrack, additional space along the apron will be added as will a new LED tote-video board in the infield. Also in the plans are the installation of lights that will be used during morning training hours and the placement of antennas around the track to collect handicapping data using microchips placed inside the horse's saddlecloths.

More than 13,000 square feet will be added to the trackside apron in the grandstand, enough to accommodate approximately 2,660 additional spectators. Additionally, 4,300 square feet will be added to the clubhouse lawn, which should accommodate 860 more fans.

The new tote-video board is comprised of five separate sections that have more than 1,500 digital LED tiles that provide crisp, clear color video, photos, and mutual graphics. The entire tote board is mobile and each section can be disassembled and reassembled as needed. More than 15 miles of conduit will be installed underground, allowing Keeneland to take advantage of new high-definition technologies and radio frequency technologies.