Thursday, August 7, 2008 12:00 AM
American Quarter Horses will race over the newest generation of synthetic track surfaces for the first time on Friday, September 12, when Turfway Park hosts the $25,000-guaranteed John Deere Turfway Park Sprint Stakes.
The last time American Quarter Horses raced at the Florence, Kentucky, oval was in 1972 when the track was known as Latonia. American Quarter Horses currently have two pari-mutuel dates in the Bluegrass state, running at the Red Mile in Lexington in July. At that recently-concluded meet, horses from 25 different states competed.
The John Deere Turfway Sprint Stakes, for three year olds and upwards, will be contested at 330 yards over Turfway Park's Polytrack. The $25,000 purse, which carries black-type status in American Quarter Horse racing, includes a $5,000 John Deere premium for Bank of America Challenge-enrolled horses.
"Our patrons have long enjoyed Quarter Horse racing via simulcast but it's a special treat to be able to bring that excitement to them live again," said Robert N. Elliston, president and CEO of Turfway Park. "Our Polytrack has been a laboratory since it was installed in 2005, and we're eager to see racing's fastest horses in action over it."
The race promises to be closely observed by those involved in American Quarter Horse racing from coast to coast. "To be running at Turfway Park is just another great opportunity for American Quarter Horse racing to be seen by horse racing fans in Kentucky, and on the national scene via the Turfway simulcast signal," said Trey Buck, executive director of racing for the American Quarter Horse Association.
"It's also a tremendous opportunity to see how our athletes perform on an artificial surface, and to be a part of Turfway Park's race program," Buck said. "Bob Elliston and his staff have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome. All of us at the AQHA are looking forward to this significant day to our industry."
Turfway Park, which hosts Thoroughbred racing in three separate meets, was the first pari-mutuel track in North America to install Polytrack. The inaugural meet with the new surface was in September of 2005. Nationally, American Quarter Horses last raced on an artificial surface at Remington in the late 1980s. That surface, known as Equitrack, was unable to withstand Oklahoma's summer heat, and it was replaced with the traditional dirt after only a couple of seasons.
"The question of how racing American Quarter Horses will perform on a synthetic racing surface has been discussed numerous times since the 2006 Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit," said Ed Ashcraft, treasurer of the Kentucky Quarter Horse Racing Association and a licensed trainer.
"While a limited number of running Quarter Horses have trained on new synthetic surfaces around the country, there has never been a pari-mutuel Quarter Horse race over one," he said. "With several racetracks that conduct American Quarter Horse racing considering installing a synthetic surface, that question needs to be answered sooner rather than later."
Preference for the Turfway stakes event is based on money earned since September 1, 2007, with second preference to Bank of America Challenge-enrolled horses. $100 early nominations must be postmarked by Wednesday, August 20 and there is an additional $250 starting fee due at time of entry. Mail nominations to Anne Doolin, KyQHRA, 3271 Foxtale Court, Lexington, KY 40517.
Entries close at 10 a.m. on Sunday, September 7. Turfway Park race office phone is 859-647-4705 or 800-815-2806.
For further information on the race, contact KyQHRA Executive Director Anne Doolin at 859-983-0520 or visit the Kentucky Quarter Horse Racing Association website at www.kyqhra.com.