08/28/2006 12:00AM

Polytrack impresses horsemen

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Training began Sunday morning over Woodbine's new Polytrack, and the synthetic surface drew rave reviews from horsemen.

A total of 84 horses worked over the Polytrack, which replaced the former dirt surface on the one-mile main track. Stakes winner Like a Gem drilled the fastest five-eighths, going in 1:00.

Chris Evans, Woodbine's vice-president of Thoroughbred racing, said the feedback from horsemen was better than expected.

"Everybody was raving about the Polytrack," Evans said. "The track seems to be producing the same times as the traditional old main track did."

Trainer Ian Howard, who breezed several 2-year-olds, called it a "lovely surface."

"It's a firm surface, with some give to it," Howard said. "They seem to get a hold of it really well. Some horses might not like it as much, but there's no reason that a horse shouldn't feel comfortable on it. With the rain [Saturday] night, you wouldn't have known it had rained at all. If it stays like this, I think we're all going to be much better off in the long run. It's going to be a lot kinder on the horses."

Wednesday's first Polytrack card was drawn Sunday morning. Six of the seven races on the program are scheduled for the Polytrack.