12/12/2006 1:00AM

Del Mar gets key approval

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Del Mar received approval from the California Coastal Commission on Tuesday to install a synthetic surface in 2007, a vital stage in the track's plan of having a new surface in place for the start of its annual race meeting that begins in July.

The Coastal Commission, which regulates land and water uses in areas near the coastline, approved the track's proposal at a meeting in San Francisco. The project has already received support from the city of Del Mar and the 22nd Agricultural District, which owns the racetrack's land.

Construction is scheduled to begin in January, according to Del Mar's executive vice president, Craig Fravel. Fravel said that a bidding process for construction of the sub-surface will take place later this month. The track intends to have horses test the surface this spring, well in advance of the 2007 meeting.

Del Mar will become the second Thoroughbred track in Southern California to install a synthetic surface. Hollywood Park races on a Cushion Track synthetic surface. Golden Gate Fields announced that it will install a Tapeta Footings synthetic surface next summer.

California's Thoroughbred tracks that run more than three weeks of continuous racing must install synthetic surfaces by the end of 2007.