04/01/2007 11:00PM

Polytrack requires some fixing


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - With temperatures in the low to mid-40's for the first two days of the Woodbine meet, the problems with Polytrack during colder weather here last year had not abated.

On Saturday, an obviously loose surface yielded slow final clockings and a noticeable kickback that sometimes visibly hindered late-runners. Then the rains came on Sunday, and the kickback seemed to be less of a factor.

"The rain was binding the track down a little bit," said Ray Sabourin, president of the Jockey's Benefit Association of Canada, who rode on the first two cards.

The Polytrack surface, which cost $10 million to install and opened at Woodbine last Aug. 30, is supposed to be impervious to weather. But the track began to loosen up and yielded an unexpected amount of kickback as the weather grew colder last fall. According to David Willmot, chairman and CEO of Woodbine, the fibers and wax that make up the Polytrack were separating in cold weather.

"It turns out that the specs on the wax weren't right," said Willmot.

Woodbine management met last week with Martin Collins and Keeneland, who make and sell the synthetic surface, and Martin Collins and Keeneland agreed to fix the surface, Willmot said.

"The bottom line is, we want what we paid for," he said. "We want a great racetrack."

Willmot said fixing the surface is a two-stage process. First, the surface will be rewaxed using a different type of wax that contains a higher oil content. Doing the work requires a stretch of warm and dry weather, and Willmot is hopeful that the work can be completed by mid-May.

The second stage, to be done during summer, will be the addition of "jelly cable," which is the cable surrounding copper wiring.

"You chop it into small pieces, so it forms part of the rubber component," said Willmot. "What's important is it has a petroleum jelly content to it. What's becoming clear is that jelly cable is critical to holding the surface together during the colder weather, preventing separation and moderating the effects of weather change."

Work will be done on the dark days Monday and Tuesday, but Willmot said some racing days may be lost. "The important thing is not to worry about losing a day or two," he said. "It's getting this done, and getting it done right."