09/03/2007 11:00PM

Polytrack undergoes a tweak


FLORENCE, Ky. - The place that started this whole synthetic track phenomenon has become an old hand. It was two years ago that Turfway Park began using Polytrack as its primary racing surface, becoming the first in a revolution that continues to substantially alter the landscape of North American racing.

The third year of Polytrack begins Wednesday at 7 p.m. Eastern with the first of 22 programs at the 2007 fall meet, and although Turfway has not been immune to problems or controversy with its racing surface, track president Bob Elliston is confident that two years of experience have been invaluable.

In fact, after having trouble with the surface "balling up" in horses' hooves last winter during freezing weather, Turfway decided recently to infuse the surface with an oil-based wax that Elliston said "addresses the stickiness issue." Although Turfway did not have problems with Polytrack at the 2005 or 2006 fall meets, when weather is not a major factor, "we wanted to go ahead and do this and see how it went," said Elliston.

The oil-based wax was tilled into the track over the course of several days, without disrupting training, about three weeks ago, said Elliston. The main ingredients of Polytrack include carpet fibers, recycled rubber bits, silica-coated sand, and polymer-based wax.

"The horsemen keep saying the surface is dynamite," said Elliston.

The highlight of the meet, which runs through Oct. 4, is the 14th annual Kentucky Cup series on Sept. 29. Turfway officials are hoping to get either of the one-two finishers in the Kentucky Derby, Street Sense and Hard Spun, for the signature race, the $350,000 Kentucky Cup Classic.

The only change to the five-race, $825,000 Kentucky Cup is the name of what formerly was the Turfway Breeders' Cup. The $175,000 race retains its Grade 3 status and will now be called the Kentucky Cup Distaff.

The Turfway riding colony once again will have Julien Leparoux as the main go-to guy for many trainers. Leparoux, who rode a track-record 167 winners at the 2006 winter-spring meet, will ride here for most of the meet while accepting some out-of-town engagements, said agent Steve Bass.