California Senator Dean Florez is developing legislation to address the issue of funding for the state's major Thoroughbred racetracks to install Polytrack-like surfaces in order to reduce injuries to horses and riders.The California Horse Racing Board has given preliminary approval to a rule requiring the major tracks to install the new racing surfaces by the end of 2007.Senator Florez and CHRB Chairman Richard B. Shapiro have had numerous discussions about Polytrack and the need to better protect racehorses, which are suffering serious injuries at an alarming rate. Synthetic polymer-based surfaces are considered safer than the traditional organic-based surfaces in use today.Racing commissioners voted last month to begin the regulatory process to require any track that operates four weeks or more of continuous Thoroughbred racing in any calendar year to install a polymer-type surface. The proposed rule will be noticed to the public for 45 days, and then the board will conduct a public hearing before taking final action.Florez, the chairman of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee, has demonstrated considerable interest in the horseracing industry. He indicated the Polytrack funding legislation is a "high priority" for him. He is working with the CHRB and the industry on the details for what will be SB 1805."The installation of Polytrack is one of many long-term steps needed to ensure that we have a healthy and prosperous racing industry in California," said Florez. "I'm committed to developing a sensible funding mechanism that will accelerate its introduction in our state.""There is strong evidence suggesting that using new technology to improve our racing surfaces will make them safer for horses and riders," Shapiro said. "We also feel these surfaces will increase field size and help improve our racing product. I would hope that all racing participants and fans alike would support our efforts to do what is necessary to accomplish these important goals."
Two meetings have been scheduled by a CHRB ad hoc committee to gather information and address any concerns related to synthetic racing surfaces. Representatives of Keeneland Race Course will provide a full briefing and answer questions pertaining to Polytrack at the first of those meetings on March 21 at Santa Anita Park.Polytrack is a blend of fibers, recycled rubber, and silica sand covered with a wax coating. It is installed on top of a vertical drainage system. Keeneland installed Polytrack on the training track in 2004 and is scheduled to convert the main oval this summer.The second meeting, to be held April 4 at Santa Anita, will be with trainer Michael Dickinson, who developed the state-of-the-art Tapeta Farm training center in Maryland in 1998.