Keeneland has completed the installation of a Polytrack surface on its five-eighths of a mile training track located adjacent to its main track. It is the first of its type at a public racing or training facility in North America. Used successfully throughout Europe for more than 15 years, Keeneland officials believe that Polytrack is safer for horses, requires less maintenance and holds uniformity in various weather conditions.Created by Martin Collins of England, the track is a combination of conventional and synthetic materials. Its unique formula is comprised of polypropylene fibers cut at various lengths and mixed with other materials including recycled rubber and silica sand that are then covered in a wax coating. The new surface is installed in layers. Beneath a seven-inch layer of compacted Polytrack material is clean stone aggregate, a drainage system and a layer of porous macadam. "Our plan is to conduct a deliberate and objective analysis of the surface over the next several months," said Nick Nicholson, Keeneland's president and CEO. "We know the track surface has held up well under heavy use and severe climatic conditions in Europe over the past two decades."However, we want to solicit first-hand feedback from owners, trainers, jockeys and other industry experts exposed to the surface here at Keeneland. Through this collaborative effort, we hope to fine tune the surface to the point where it might gain widespread acceptance throughout North America." Collins installed his first Polytrack in the late 1980s for English trainer Richard Hannon. A number of other well-established racing and training venues in Europe now use it, including Lingfield Park Racecourse, Wolverhampton, Jockey Club Estates in Newmarket, Artificial Gallops, Ballydoyle, Kingswood House Stables, Whatcombe Racing and Kingsdown Gallops. Trainers including John Gosden, John Dunlop and Mark Johnston use the Polytrack surface regularly for training purposes. Rogers Beasley, Keeneland's director of racing, conducted extensive research, including in-depth discussions with Collins about his product and with European horsemen who are familiar with the surface.
"The feedback was extremely positive," Beasley said. "The apparent benefits of the surface made our decision easier. Keeneland is committed to the future of our sport and therefore anything we can do to advance its safety and its appeal is worthy of our attention." Keeneland manufactured all of the Polytrack material onsite under the supervision of Collins and his team of experts, Beasley, Keeneland's project manager John Howard and track superintendent Mike Young.