02/18/2014 10:24PM

Del Mar plans to install dirt track for 2015

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Del Mar plans to install a dirt track for its 2015 summer season, replacing the existing synthetic surface, track president Joe Harper said Tuesday.

Harper cautioned that the move to a dirt track was contingent on finding the “right material” and gaining the necessary permits, including approval from the California Coastal Commission.

“I hope it happens,” he said. “I think that’s our plan. It’s one step at a time with making sure we get the right permits.

“It’s a matter of finding the right surface. It’s a long list to check off before we can say it.”

Harper said that track officials are currently searching for material for a dirt track. Del Mar has had a Polytrack synthetic surface since 2007 and is the only Southern California track with such a surface. Barretts Sales and Racing at the Los Angeles County Fair, Los Alamitos, and Santa Anita have dirt tracks.

Hollywood Park, which closed permanently in December, had a Cushion Track synthetic surface. Santa Anita had a synthetic track from 2007 to late 2010 but reverted to a dirt track because of drainage problems. Golden Gate Fields in Northern California has a Tapeta Footings synthetic surface.

Harper said the absence of another synthetic surface at Southern California tracks has hastened Del Mar’s decision to replace its synthetic track.

“The bottom line is we can’t be the only one,” he said. “That’s a dangerous situation. The reason we put it in was so we’d all have the same tracks, but that didn’t happen.”

Harper said the decision to go back to a dirt track is not based on the track's desire to host a Breeders' Cup meeting in the future.

"The U.K. and Europe guys like the polytrack," he said of foreign trainers. "This decision wasn't about the Breeders' Cup. It was about safety and about being the only track on the circuit with a dirt track."

At the earliest, Del Mar could begin to replace its existing track in December. The track will host two race meetings this year – the summer meeting from July 17 to Sept. 3 and an autumn meeting from Nov. 7-30.