12/09/2011 4:03PM

Keeneland, Martin Collins dissolve Polytrack company partnership


LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Keeneland Association and Martin Collins Equine Services are dissolving their partnership in a company that manufactures and markets Polytrack, the synthetic racing surface in place at a number of racetracks in North America, including Keeneland.

Officials for the companies said that the production and marketing of Polytrack will be taken over by a new North American subsidiary of Martin Collins, and that the new company will continue to provide services to North American clients. The companies filed an article of dissolution with the state of Kentucky in late September, according to state records.

Julie Balog, a spokesperson for Keeneland, said that the dissolution was “solely the result of market conditions in the United States and in no way reflects diminished confidence in the company’s products or expertise.” Balog said that Keeneland has no plans to replace its synthetic surface.

“We are proud of the work that was accomplished by the company and remain fully committed to the surface and its continued improvement,” Balog said. “We are equally proud of our contributions to creating a safer environment for racing and training, and one which functions at a high level in every season and weather condition.”

Keeneland entered into a partnership with British-based Martin Collins in 2004 to manufacture and market Polytrack. The surface has been installed at Turfway Park, Woodbine Racecourse, Arlington Park, Del Mar, and a number of overseas racetracks. Keeneland is a part owner in Turfway.

Supporters of Polytrack and similar artificial surfaces claim that the tracks reduce the number of catastrophic injuries suffered by horses during racing and training, a claim that has been backed up by data collected as part of an ongoing project to monitor racing injuries. Supporters also claim that the artificial surfaces are easier to maintain than dirt surfaces, particularly in cold-weather climes.

However, the surfaces have their critics. Some horsemen contend that artificial surfaces lead to higher rates of soft tissue injuries, while many horseplayers complain that the surfaces make races troubling to handicap.

Jamie Martin, the executive vice president of racing for Woodbine, said that he felt the dissolution was “a reflection of the number of tracks that are considering artificial surfaces right now,” and that Woodbine is not worried about the level of service that will be provided by the new North American company.“We continue to have conversations with Martin [Collins] when they’re required,” Jamie Martin said. “They’re not required a lot, to be honest.”