Racehorses Test New Del Mar Polytrack Surface

Thoroughbreds tested Del Mar's new artificial surface for the first time Thursday, working out over the track ahead of next week's opening of the 43-day summer meeting.

The $9 million Polytrack, a mixture of sand, fibers, rubber, and wax, was installed recently in an effort to provide a more consistent surface believed to be safer for horses and riders. Racing on the mile oval begins Wednesday.

"We're very happy with it right now," said Jim Barnes, assistant to seven-time Del Mar training champion Bob Baffert. "The horses are going over it well. They're not leaving divots. As the horses train, it (the surface) gives and then comes back."

Several trainers said the surface had a bounce to it.

"It seemed like the horses really sensed it was a new track and they were kind of cautious," trainer Bruce Headley said. "My riders said it felt very good to them. They said the horses knew it was different but they bounced along, and so we're hopeful that it's what everybody dreams it is."

Only two horses were timed in workouts, with an estimated 400 horses simply out for a jog or gallop on the new surface.

"I'm getting nothing but positive reactions," Del Mar general manager Joe Harper said. "I had one trainer tell me the only thing wrong with this track was me standing in the middle of it asking everyone how it is."

Since the initial installation of 16,000 tons of Polytrack in January, more wax and fibers were added by manufacturer Martin Collins Surfaces & Footings staff to the mix to improve consistency.

"We're cautiously optimistic," racing secretary Tom Robbins said. "We'll continue to monitor the track on a daily basis to make sure we have it where it is right."

(Originally published at www.BloodHorse.com.)  

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