Turfway Works to Dry Out Saturated Surface

Turfway Park, which has lost several million dollars in revenue in recent weeks because of multiple live racing cancellations, is "airing out" its racing surface in the hope the worst of the winter weather is a memory.

The Northern Kentucky racetrack received about five times the normal amount of precipitation this winter, track president Bob Elliston said. It appeared as though the surface wouldn't dry that quickly on its own, so work began in earnest the week of March 3.

From Jan. 1 through March 2, Turfway had lost all or most of 15 programs. Most have occurred since Feb. 13, when the freeze-thaw process left the surface unsafe for competition.

"A portion of the surface was saturated with moisture," Elliston said. "We're taking off the saturated portion, or the muck, and replacing it. (March 4) was the first day we've had with real drying conditions, so we took an opportunity to remove a portion of the track, let it dry, and add sand to the surface.

"A lot of tracks just add sand on top, but we're not doing that. We think we'll have a pretty fresh surface."

Elliston said the process appears to have removed all the ice from the surface. Rain was in the forecast for the evening of March 4 and morning of March 5, but the temperature was expected to drop only a tad below freezing.

Training may be halted the morning of March 5 to get the surface in shape for the live racing program that evening, he said.

The loss of 15 programs has cost the track $2.5 million to $3 million in revenue, Elliston said.

"It's very difficult with all the competition we have to lose live racing days," he said. "It's also the part of the year when we make significant financial inroads. We'll just have to look to other opportunities at our other race meets."

Some of the lost racing opportunities will be made up with special Monday afternoon programs in March, though racing was canceled after three races on the first make-up day. In addition, a purse hike is in the works.

"We'll likely be increasing purses, and right now, we're reviewing by how much," Elliston said.

Turfway, which relies heavily on off-site handle on its product, is scheduled to race live through April 3. (Keeneland opens April 4). On March 22, Turfway will offer the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes for 3-year-olds on the Kentucky Derby trail.