10/05/2007 12:00AM

Horses try out Tapeta

EmailALBANY, Calif. - The new Tapeta surface at Golden Gate Fields got its first test Friday as 10 horses trained over the newly installed surface.

Mowgli, a 4-year-old gelding, recorded the first work on the surface, going a half-mile in 49.20 seconds under Russell Baze. The other nine horses simply galloped.

Mowgli, who is not a particularly good work horse when on his own, according to trainer Gloria Buckley, had worked a half-mile in 50 seconds Sunday at Solano.

Baze said there was a lot of give in the surface, which he considered a positive.

"When I asked [Mowgli] a little bit coming home he kind of struggled, but he handled it well when I had him in hand," Baze said.

Jockey Joe Castro and exercise rider Troy Kuhlmann galloped horses over the surface.

"It felt like you were stepping on a wet sponge, but it didn't give that much," Kuhlmann said.

Castro said he found the surface consistent from inside to outside.

Michael Dickinson, inventor of Tapeta, was in attendance and was happy with the way the track responded to its first test.

"I was delighted to see no kickback," he said. "And I was delighted to be able to watch the horses and not hear them.

"It will take two weeks for the track to cure. We need to work it, and it needs air. It will be much better in two weeks."

Golden Gate was closed to training during the summer to install the track. It began laying the Tapeta surface Sept. 17 and the project was completed last week. The track will open for works Sunday and the fall meet begins Nov. 7.

Golden Gate Fields is the second track in the United States to install Tapeta, a surface made of sand, rubber, and carpet fibers that was used at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., for its inaugural meet. The California Horse Racing Board mandated that the state's major tracks install synthetic surfaces by the end of the year. Four of the five major tracks in California now have synthetic surfaces, with Hollywood and Santa Anita having installed Cushion Track and Del Mar Polytrack. Bay Meadows is expected to close after the 2008 season and was given a one-year exemption on installing the surface by the board.