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.

sjm80s . 5 months ago
There are less breakdowns because drug policies are rounding into form.
sjm80s . 5 months ago
Surface doesn't cause breakdowns. Horses running on so much dope that they cannot feel their legs when they are sore lead to breakdowns.
russell 5 months ago
Jackson- You are spot on. I spent 10 days at Del Mar in 1987. I remember $5 Ex and DD ONLY exotics. And at 19 yrs old I had a limited budget. The days I was there was before the renovation and with attendance at 20-25k it was packed and getting a bet in was not ez. It is a beautiful track but they can't handle a BC. Im glad they are going back to dirt. I haven't bet a Del Mar race in 10 years but now I will. Just waiting for Keeneland to come to their senses.
Jackson Jackson 5 months ago
Funny to read eastern folk speculate on Del Mar dirt . Mostly people that have never been there and have no understanding of California racing politics . First off Del Mar doesn't have the dates for BC . Second Del Mar doesn't have the facility. Just try and get a bet down on opening day at Del Mar :) It ain't pretty . Speaking of not pretty . The BC doesn't want a pan shot of some hideous condo's that look like a project built in 1960's USSR as a backdrop :) Weather ... Del Mar in early November is going to be 10- 15 degrees cooler than SA, easy, maybe more . It's liable to be windy city at that time as well. Sept . Oct. Nov. is Pacific hurricane season. The hurricanes usually turn towards Hawaii but sometimes they come up Baja California Norte's coast and get within several hundred miles of Del Mar. The tidal basin would be a TV eyesore on a low tide as well. It's not like Del Mar is the Track Of The Lakes And Flowers :) When the laguna empties out it's a mud flat . Those aren't flamingos , swans & honkers . Those are seagulls & pelicans :) Look even if Del Mar had the right dates why would the BC potentially sell 20 - 30 thousand less live tickets . Del Mar is going back to dirt because Los Alamitos already has an exemption for their dirt track. Stronach hornswoggled an exemption for SA by screwing up the installation on SA's synthetic track on purpose several times . ( Nice scam . Your right hand pays your left hand for a botched job a couple of times :) Pomona has always been dirt . Del Mar is just getting in line with the others. Funny thing is ... most of the people sniveling about poly are not really going to like it when the new dirt bias changes every race depending on the tidal movement :) It only looks like a sunny day :) ... underground it's raining or draining . Going from wet fast to good to muddy and from the top it looks the same :) The poly did it too, but not as much as straight dirt :) The people crying over poly probably don't realize how much poly has been saving them . Del Mar is the only track I know of that has guys selling the Tide Tables at the gate :)
Edward 5 months ago
Is this supposed to be a joke? You talk like we all haven't seen Del Mar with dirt. It has only had a polytrack for 6 years dude, we all know what racing at Del Mar on dirt is like AND IT IS 1 MILLION % BETTER THEN POLYTRACK. More then a few serious bettors stopped betting there years ago. Best move they could make is going back to dirt.
mark oleary 5 months ago
You are so right on the money! I too mentioned the strange vagaries of a racetrack that is basically below sea level. It used to amaze me how the track could change from minute to minute. I never did get the hand of handicapping such a strange phenomenon. Thanks again for your insightful comments! Great job.
barry lloyd 5 months ago
AMen! the hadicappers will be able to handicap once again, let's hope that Keenland will soon follow suit
Bugsy Anderson 5 months ago
Look at all the comments... "its a joke for racing" "the times were slow" "the races are won by turf horses" "I hope the dirt is a fair surface" "It's difficult to handicap" lol, you people crack me up. Shouldn't the safety of the horse be first and foremost? The numbers do not lie, and there is less breakdown and injuries on poly.
Will 5 months ago
the injuries aren't down, the breakdown are. just different types of injuries. I wouldn't run my horses astrotrack. Also, why are most fake dirt tracks in the western part of the country?
Bugsy Anderson 5 months ago
no clue why there is that many out there..... and really it does not matter to me. No, injuries are indeed down too. Since most breakdowns end up as fatalities, I am more than cool with injury rather than death. But hey, at least you can handicap better
Edward 5 months ago
As you said, you have no clue.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Because the CHRB forced the polytracks on all California tracks with regular meets. Another California knee jerk reaction that never should have happened.
Anonymous 5 months ago
The breakdown #s on polytracks vs dirt is lower when you consider its a few polytracks vs ALL dirt tracks in this country. The top 10 dirt tracks are equally safe as the polytracks.
Bugsy Anderson 5 months ago
Its ratio'd out. So the number in the sample doesn't matter. It goes by break down per 100 starters.... not total breakdowns
Slew32A 5 months ago
Please get off that soapbox before you fall and get hurt.
Walter 5 months ago
If the Coastal Commission approved Polytrack near the coastline, I don't think we have to worry about them approving natural dirt.
martymar . 5 months ago
okay stop the bs, the switch has nothing to do with horses safety but more so to get breeders cup plain and simple. They had one of the safest Del Mar meet this past summer.
Will 5 months ago
and what's wrong with that?
Anonymous 5 months ago
when the foreignors set up the synthetic tracks. the surfaces were deep and slow like their turf courses in europe and australia. most california trainers were not comfortable coming from a fast track society. so the track supers sped up the tracks. so now the tracks are not a true synthetic surface from their original design. vets say it is safer to keep the racing surfaces similar to cut down on injuries. the breeders cup would rather have dirt surfaces. the synthetic surfaces had a bad effect where the california division was horrible at 10 furlong races. but please dont make the new dirt surface as compact as santa anita's.
sjm80s . 5 months ago
The euro horses do not spill as much because Their horses are not on every drug on earth. So people mistakenly think that synth is safer. FALsE.
peter jaworski 5 months ago
The quotes from Harper seem puzzling. He says the reason Del Mar went synthetic is "so we'd all have the same tracks, but that didn't happen." Weren't they mandated by CHRB to switch from dirt and didn't Del Mar, Santa Anita, Hollywood and Golden Gate all run on synthetic at the same time? He also says the decision to switch surfaces "was about safety." Does he mean the current surface is unsafe? And as for finding the "right material" to replace the synthetic surface, where is the material they disposed of when the dirt track was replaced? To me he seems insincere in his comments or has been misquoted. Any thoughts?
Lawrence Macselwiney 5 months ago
The dirt was degraded. They were going to have to replace the main track "dirt". They all were synthetic, until Santa Anita went back to dirt.
Ann 5 months ago
Yes, the change was mandated by the CHRB for the tracks that race for over a certain number of days a year, so that only the top-level tracks that were left (RIP Bay Meadows) had to install AW tracks (2007? 2008?); the fairs could continue to run on dirt. Each chose their own version - Santa Anita had Pro-Ride, Hollywood had Cushion, Del Mar had Polytrack, and Golden Gate had Tapeta. Santa Anita's management messed up the installation of its AW track royally, kept having to dig it up, add stuff to it, rework it..., until the commission finally agreed to it returning it to dirt. The rest of the tracks had no such difficulties and their AW surfaces remain in good shape to this day (RIP Hollywood Park). One has to assume that Del Mar has gotten permission from the commission to change back, too.
Will 5 months ago
not all fake dirt is the same. in fact, some are drastically different. its been about 6 years since the switch, I would bet they didn't just hold on to the dirt for a rainy day. del mar is close to the ocean so they probably want a sandier base than most tracks so that it drain/holds up properly