The Del Mar turf course will have a new type of Bermuda grass created by champion golfer Greg Norman when it opens for its 43-day meet July 20.The Jimmy Durante Turf Course figures to be tested immediately. The traditional opening-day feature, the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes, at one mile on the turf, usually is run in split divisions. A grass allowance race for "non-winners of two" also figures to fill.Leif Dickinson, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club's chief agronomist and keeper of the turf course, says the new surface is GN-1 Bermuda grass.The GN stands for Greg Norman, who has evolved from champion golfer into a turf business entrepreneur. Dickinson believes this new Bermuda, developed and grown in Camarillo, Calif., will make the Del Mar course stronger and safer. It was selected, he said, "because of its ability to grow well in our coastal conditions, which a lot of Bermudas will not do, mainly because it doesn't get warm enough."Bermuda likes the heat, and that kind of Bermuda does OK here, but it doesn't put on the cushion, the biomass, that we need for horse racing."We don't want the horses to run faster. We're trying to put on that cushion element. This grass seems to do that in this climate better than other Bermudas we looked at."The GN-1 Bermuda was put to the test during the 2004 racing season. It was installed on the homestretch from the mouth of the chute to the 7-furlong pole.
"We liked the way that performed, so we wound up replacing about six acres of the eight-acre track, making the whole turf oval proper GN-1," Dickinson said.