11/21/2006 1:00AM

Del Mar to install Polytrack


The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club announced Tuesday that it will install a Polytrack artificial surface on its main track for the 2007 summer race meeting.

Del Mar is the third California racetrack to select an artificial surface after the California Horse Racing Board directed the state's five major tracks to convert their dirt surfaces by the end of 2007, citing safety concerns. Hollywood Park was the first and is racing on Cushion Track for its autumn meeting. Golden Gate Fields announced last month that it would install a Tapeta surface during the summer and fall of next year. Santa Anita and Bay Meadows have yet to decide.

"Polytrack is going to make our racing surface a safer place for our horses and riders," said Joe Harper, Del Mar's president and general manager, in a statement. Work is expected to begin on the one-mile main track in January, pending final approval. Del Mar's selection of Polytrack was made by a five-member panel that included trainer Richard Mandella, Del Mar board member Rollin Baugh, and three members of a state district agricultural committee.

Artificial surfaces are in use at four North American racetracks: Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., Turfway Park in northern Kentucky, Woodbine Racecourse in Canada, and Hollywood. All except Hollywood use Polytrack, which is manufactured and marketed by a company co-owned by Keeneland. All of the artificial surfaces use wax-coated synthetic materials, but the formulas for the components vary.