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Turfway Park to install Polytrack surface

Wednesday, April 27, 2005 12:00 AM
  • General
First track in North America to use Polytrack as its racing surface
FLORENCE, KY . . . April 27, 2005 . . . Turfway Park will install a Polytrack surface, becoming the first racetrack in North America to put the innovative product on its main track. The announcement came at a Wednesday morning press conference at Keeneland, which co-owns the Northern Kentucky track with Harrah’s, Inc. and G-TECH. The installation of the surface will be completed in time for the track’s 2005 Fall Meet, which begins September 7.

Keeneland began using Polytrack on its five-eighths of a mile training track in September 2004 as a test and is the North American distributor for the product. Polytrack was introduced in the United Kingdom in the early 1980s.

Polytrack offers a number of benefits compared to a conventional dirt track. Chief among those advantages is that the surface appears to be safer for horses because of its unique cushioning effect.

“Trainers using the Keeneland training track report lower vet bills and significantly fewer problems keeping their horses fit and sound,” said Turfway Park president Robert Elliston. “Trainers in Europe have seen the same kind of results, and we expect to see the same at Turfway.”

Beyond the obvious safety advantages, horsemen have been impressed with Polytrack’s reduced kickback, its adaptability for various training regimens, and its uniformity in a variety of weather conditions—the last a benefit that could be welcomed by some handicappers.

Polytrack is a unique blend of fibers, recycled rubber, and silica sand covered with a wax coating. It provides a consistent racing surface and is expected to withstand extreme winter weather conditions. The seven-inch-deep surface rests on 10 inches of porous macadam and stone that contains a vertical drainage system. Water drains through the material rather than horizontally across the surface. Polytrack also requires less maintenance.

The impact on Turfway, which races almost exclusively in the winter months, will be significant, said Elliston. “Our track crew does an outstanding job under difficult circumstances, but every year we lose racing days because temperatures in our area vary so much. The constant freeze-and-thaw cycle can make the track uneven and unsafe for our riders and horses. Sometimes the track must be closed in the mornings as well, which disrupts training schedules. We expect Polytrack to alleviate both problems.

“So while we may still lose a day or two to bitter cold, we expect to recover the nine or 10 or more days we typically lose to compromised track conditions. That means our on-track and simulcast patrons can count on Turfway running races and our horsemen can plan a training strategy and adhere to it.

“As a bonus, our maintenance costs should be reduced significantly,” Elliston continued. “Based on experience with the surface at Keeneland and reports from the European installations, we expect to reduce maintenance by many hours.”

“Polytrack has the potential to revolutionize racing in North America,” said Keeneland president and CEO Nick Nicholson. “As a Turfway partner, we are proud to be a part of this milestone decision that is a step toward improving our racing product and a giant leap forward for the racing industry as a whole.”

The favorable climate for innovation at Turfway is one reason Harrah’s partnered with Keeneland and G-TECH to purchase the track in 1999. Said Charles Atwood, senior vice president and CFO of Harrah’s, “As business partners, we urge and expect Turfway management to innovate, to keep pushing forward. The installation of the Polytrack surface meets that expectation.”

Turfway’s 2005 Fall Meet will run through October 6. The track’s Holiday Meet begins November 27, and racing continues without a break into the January-April 2006 Winter/Spring Meet.

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