09/24/2007 12:00AM

Golden Gate surface nearly done

EmailALBANY, Calif. - Workers at Golden Gate Fields are expected to finish laying the Tapeta synthetic surface over the one-mile racetrack by Wednesday, and the track will open for training Oct. 6, according to the general manager of Golden Gate Fields, Robert Hartman.

Some horses will be shipped in as early as Oct. 1 to test the surface, and the barn area will be opened Oct. 5, Hartman said. The Golden Gate meeting begins Nov. 7.

Golden Gate began laying the Tapeta surface Sept. 17. Underneath the Tapeta is a 6 1/2-inch foundation that includes a drainage system, 1 1/2 inches of stones, and two inches of porous asphalt. Tapeta, which is made of sand, rubber, and carpet fibers, was created by the trainer Michael Dickinson, who has been at Golden Gate to supervise the mixture of the surface. Dickinson has used the Tapeta surface at his Maryland farm and training center.

Golden Gate Fields is the second track in the United States to install Tapeta, which is being used at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., for its inaugural meet. Debbie Howells, director of racing at Presque Isle Downs, said the horses have taken to the surface and that it has required little maintenance.

"The horsemen and jockeys here both seem to like it," she said. "I don't believe we've had to water the surface at all, but it has rained pretty good here since we've opened. We don't have anything to compare it with, but we certainly have no complaints."

Hartman has estimated the surface could reduce water use at the track by nearly 20 million gallons a year.

On close inspection, the Tapeta material resembles what might be dumped from a vacuum cleaner bag. It is slightly sticky to the touch. The surface is a light grayish-beige that will darken before the Golden Gate Fields meet begins Nov. 7, Hartman said. The light color is a result of the surface still being warm as it is shipped from a mixing location to the track.

Four large dump trucks have been making continuous trips down the Golden Gate stretch, stopping only long enough to dump part of the 13,000 tons of synthetic Tapeta surface on the asphalt sub-layer. After the dump trucks make their drops, a large bulldozer pushes a pile of the material forward, spreading it on the track.

The installation of the surface began on the stretch chute and continued down the stretch. The Tapeta has also been installed in Golden Gate's outdoor paddock.