Martin Collins, creator of the Polytrack artificial surface, admitted to having faced problems in North America in an interview with the British monthly racing magazine, Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder.
Interviewed in the May edition by Tim Richards, British-based Collins was asked whether there was an inconsistency problem with surfaces in America where his company, Martin Collins International, is in a 50-50 partnership with Keeneland.
He replied: “America has been a very difficult market. The products are not the same as we use at home and we have been reinventing the wheel a bit. We have had problems in the states; separation within the surface, which has been creating more kickback than we wanted. But if you have no kickback, you don’t get sheer, and if you don’t get sheer, you will have horses breaking down.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Collins explained that sheer occurs when a horse’s hoof strikes the surface and the toe slides forward and heel goes sideways at the same time.
“We just found the kickback too extreme, but we are correcting the problem,” Collins said in the interview. “Keeneland’s track is an old-style Polytrack (with a variety of waxed plastics that have become difficult to find), and I’d say the best track in the world. We are currently doing Arlington in Chicago--that’s an old-style Polytrack--and we’re also doing Del Mar in California. There, it is the new-style Polytrack (with a plastic fiber manufactured by Collins in Belgium).
“Turfway Park is already complete, and that’s new-style. Woodbine in Toronto is new-style, but we are doing remedial work there and upgrading it as a result of a few problems.”
Collins said Polytrack “has not been performing as we would like but, having said that, it is way, way better than American dirt tracks, which are very rarely consistent. That’s the reason why there have been so many injuries out there.”
Polytrack is in place at three of Great Britain’s four all-weather tracks. A fifth all-weather track, Great Leighs, will also use Polytrack, but its opening has been delayed until August.