10/12/2006 12:00AM

Golden Gate chooses Tapeta

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Golden Gate Fields in northern California will install a synthetic surface manufactured by a company owned by trainer Michael Dickinson in 2007, the racetrack's parent company, Magna Entertainment, announced on Thursday. The surface is called Tapeta and it is manufactured by Tapeta Footings.

Golden Gate is the second racetrack in California to announce a vendor for the installation of an artificial racing surface, following Hollywood Park. Earlier this year, the California Horse Racing Board mandated that all five of the state's major racetracks install artificial racing surfaces by the end of 2007.

The Golden Gate surface will be installed during the summer and fall of 2007, according to Peter Tunney, the general manager of Golden Gate Fields. The renovation will also include changes to the track's barn area, which is open year-round for training. As a result, horses will be required to vacate Golden Gate during the project, Tunney said.

Golden Gate was scheduled to go before the CHRB on Thursday to ask for approval for the 2007 schedule, according to Tunney. The project will require Golden Gate to close in mid-June and then begin racing over the new surface for a meet that begins in November.

Dickinson has spent 12 years developing his artificial surface, which is in use at his Tapeta Farm and at the Fair Hill Training Center, both in Maryland, and at several private training facilities.

Dickinson said on Wednesday that his surface was "perfectly suited" to the rainy northern California climate, citing the results at his training farm when Hurricane Floyd hit the area in 1999.

"We had 12 inches of rain in 12 hours, and [the track] was still fast," Dickinson said. "That was the true test."

Artificial surfaces are in use at four North American racetracks: Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Turfway Park in northern Kentucky, Woodbine Racecourse in Canada, and Hollywood Park in Southern California, which will run its first meeting on the artificial surface next month. All but Hollywood - which uses a surface called Cushion Track manufactured by the British company Equestrian Surfaces - use the Polytrack surface manufactured and marketed by a company co-owned by Keeneland.

Polytrack is also considered the front-runner to be installed at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club outside San Diego. That track is expected to request permits from local authorities for the renovation project later this year, with the hopes of having the new track in place by the summer meet in 2007.

All of the artificial surfaces are similar in that they are made up of wax-coated synthetic materials. In addition, all of the surfaces make use of vertical drainage systems that allow water to pour through the surface rather than off to the side. However, the formulas and components for the mix of materials are different.

Supporters of artificial surfaces contend that the tracks are far safer to horses and riders, and that they withstand wet weather conditions far better than traditional dirt tracks. At Turfway Park's fall and winter meetings in 2005 and 2006 - the first meets held on a synthetic surface - catastrophic breakdowns were down tenfold compared to the same period in 2004 and 2005.