Turfway Park president Bob Elliston said he expects the Kentucky racetrack's new Polytrack surface to be ready for horses to train on by mid-August, when trainers are expected to begin arriving for the fall meet that begins Sept. 7.
"The construction project is right on schedule," Elliston said. "We haven't encountered any problems. We have a great team. They continue to work hard ensuring that the project is on track and met to our specifications."
Preparation to replace the existing one-mile dirt track with the synthetic surface and install a new safety rail began April 27.
Turfway Park, owned by the Keeneland Association in partnership with Harrahs and G-TECH, will be the first racetrack in North America to install Polytrack. Keeneland began using the synthetic surface on its five-eighths-mile training track in September 2004 and it has been met with high praise from horsemen, who consider it a major step toward safer and more consistent racing conditions.
So far, installation of a unique drainage system, which uses longitudinal drains together with cross drains, has been completed, Elliston said. The system is to be combined with a layer of porous macadam, and a clean stone base that will lie beneath seven inches of Polytrack material: a wax-coated blend of polymer fibers, silica sand, and recycled rubber.
"The beauty of the Polytrack surface is its completeness," Elliston said. "It's a system in addition to a type of material. By that I mean there is an extensive sub grade and drainage system that sits below the actual Polytrack material and you can really get an appreciation of that when you see it being constructed."
Keeneland also partners with Martin Collins International as the North American distributor of Polytrack and has begun manufacturing the surface material, which is now being trucked to Turfway and stockpiled until installation.
Elliston said warm temperatures have already tested the material, but fairly stable weather conditions this spring have helped keep the project on target.
"It's showed no signs of problem with the weather," Elliston said. "As matter a fact, we had a big rain (recently) and it went right through the material and drained out. "You can hardly tell within an hour or so that it had rained on the Polytrack material or on the drainage system on the racetrack itself."
Elliston said he continues to receive positive feedback about the innovative surface, which is designed to be safer, more consistent, and require less maintenance than conventional dirt tracks.
"We're very excited," Elliston said. "We've had a lot of conversations with folks from around the country talking about it, both in terms of other racetrack operators who are curious about our progress, as well as horsemen who continue to tell us they're excited about it."