09/07/2005 11:00PM

A mix of winners on Polytrack


FLORENCE, Ky. - The first North American program run over Polytrack went off without a hitch Wednesday night, when Turfway Park unveiled the revolutionary racing surface before a festive crowd and an appreciative group of jockeys and trainers.

Regal Reproach, a 13-1 shot under Inocencio Diego, won the first of nine races when coming from off the pace. Winners on the remainder of the program, which was conducted amid impeccable weather conditions, represented a mix of closers and speed horses, from both inside and outside paths, as well as favorites and longshots.

Horsemen were unanimous in their praise of Polytrack, the synthetic track composed of rubber bits, carpet fibers, and wax-coated silica sand.

"It's awesome," jockey Calvin Borel said minutes after returning from the first race aboard third-place finisher On the Border. "I love it, especially compared to the way it was."

"It's like snow," said McKee. "There's no kickback, which makes it great for the jocks and the horses."

Times were relatively slow, with two six-furlong races going in just under 1:14 and another taking more than 1:15. Borel, who won the second race on Estedad, said he suspected his mounts were running slower than usual. "They're not going to run fast over the stuff," said Borel.

Turfway reportedly spent more than $4 million on the new track and other upgrades, including a new safety rail and paddock and winner's circle areas. Track officials are hoping Polytrack's weather-resistant features will enhance safety and substantially reduce the number of cancellations the track normally has been forced to make during winter months.

Turfway president Bob Elliston said he was very pleased with how the night unfolded, despite the fact fields were short on quantity and quality because of the ongoing controversy over medication rules that has kept most Louisville-based trainers from entering their horses.