New Bermuda Grass Installed on Del Mar's Turf Course

Del Mar has installed just under six acres of new Bermuda grass on its Jimmy Durante Turf Course, allowing for nearly a year of growth before the Southern California racetrack returns to action next July.

The new sod--purchased, placed, and amended at about $140,000--is GN-1 Bermuda, a resilient warm-season grass that "does well in this coastal environment," Del Mar's turf course and grounds superintendent Leif Dickinson said in a release.

During the past year, Dickinson conducted an extended experiment with several different grasses planted on the turf course backstretch. He monitored the grass for growth and its ability to withstand horses running on it.

The GN-1 (GN stands for Greg Norman, the golfer who bought the patent to sell the turf) outperformed the other grasses and was installed during a six-day span at the end of September, Dickinson said.

About one acre of GN-1 Bermuda had been planted on the turf course in September 2003 in a 30-foot-wide swath out from the rail beginning near the chute and continuing past the finish line into the clubhouse turn. After Del Mar ran a seasonal record 99 races on it in 2004 with good results, the track committed to fully resodding its course with the GN-1 Bermuda and installed 5.8 acres of it around the course.

Previously, the Del Mar turf course consisted of a combination of three grasses: Coast Bermuda, Hybrid Bermuda, and Kikuyu grass. Dickinsons aid the three grasses all had different growing patterns and watering needs, which made it challenging to grow a uniform course for turf racing.

The seven-furlong Del Mar turf course is 63 feet wide through the homestretch and 54 feet wide on the backstretch. It has banked turns and a chute used for 1 1/16 mile and 1 1/8 mile races. The lightly used chute area was not resod.

Dickinson also noted that grading, or smoothing, of some areas of the turf course base was performed during the re-sodding.

Del Mar's 2005 racing season will run for 43 days from July 20-Sept. 7.