11/22/2006 12:00AM

Del Mar awaits Polytrack approval

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Del Mar announced on Tuesday that it intends to install a Polytrack synthetic surface for its 2007 meeting, but the project still must be approved by the California Coastal Commission.

The California Coastal Commission regulates land and water uses in areas near the coastline. Changes to coastline property require permits from the Coastal Commission.

Craig Fravel, Del Mar's executive vice-president, expressed optimism on Wednesday that the Coastal Commission will approve the track's request at a meeting in San Francisco on Dec. 12. The track has received support from the city of Del Mar and the 22nd Agricultural District, which owns the racetrack's land.

"We've responded to all of the Coastal Commission's requests for information and design issues related to water," Fravel said. "I feel confident that it will be a favorable outcome."

Del Mar chose Polytrack over Cushion Track, the material being used at Hollywood Park, after vendors went through a request for proposal process earlier this year, Fravel said. Fravel said the selection of Polytrack was based on cost and because the surface is being used at three other tracks in North America - Keeneland and Turfway Park in Kentucky and Woodbine, near Toronto.

"There has been more experience with Polytrack on tracks in North America, and the price was better, significantly," he said.

Fravel said that Del Mar is hoping to launch construction of the new surface in January and finish by mid-March.

The decision to select Polytrack was made by a five-person committee comprising Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, Del Mar director Rollin Baugh, and three members of the 22nd District Agricultural Association.

Mandella said he favored Polytrack because of the reviews it has received at Keeneland and other tracks. He said Del Mar is in need of a surface change after a meeting last summer that was plagued by injuries to horses.

"We haven't had much luck the other way," he said. "With the weather at Del Mar, it should be the best synthetic track, not too hot and not too cold. There is not much weather to worry about."

Del Mar's decision to install a Polytrack was endorsed by trainer Howard Zucker, who heads the California Thoroughbred Trainers' racing surface committee.

"It's a perfect climate" for Polytrack, Zucker said. "I think we'll wind up with a whole variety of synthetic surfaces, and we'll see what's best over time."

Del Mar becomes the third track in California to announce plans for a synthetic track. Hollywood Park installed a Cushion Track surface in August and began racing on the surface earlier this month. Earlier this fall, Golden Gate Fields announced it will install a Tapeta surface next summer. Tapeta is a synthetic surface designed by trainer Michael Dickinson.

Last February, the California Horse Racing Board mandated that California's five Thoroughbred tracks install a synthetic surface by 2008 or lose racing dates. Synthetic surfaces are considered by many to be safer than conventional surfaces.