04/04/2006 11:00PM

Synthetic surface in works


ARCADIA, Calif. - Hollywood Park is proceeding with plans to install a synthetic surface for its fall meeting, and is in the process of completing studies on drainage issues and the ideal mix of materials needed to create the surface, track president Jack Liebau said on Wednesday. The fall meeting at the Inglewood, Calif., track runs Nov. 1 through Dec. 18.

Liebau said the cost of the project has yet to be determined. Hollywood Park is holding discussions with engineers on materials to use to build the surface, Liebau said. The track is conducting a series of tests by mixing various types of sand with synthetic materials used to create the artificial surface. The tests are being conducted in a parking lot adjacent to the clubhouse turn.

"Can I tell you it's definite? No I can't," Liebau said. "We're looking at various vendors as far as material is concerned. We're still in the process of trying to put a price on it.

"With projects like this, you run into problems. We'll be talking to earthmovers and road builders about their availability" this summer.

If Hollywood Park installs the surface for its fall meeting, it will be the first track in California to do so. Turfway Park in Kentucky is the only track in the country to race over a synthetic surface. Woodbine, near Toronto, will install a synthetic surface this summer.

It is believed the synthetic courses are safer for horses and riders and result in fewer injuries.

The California Horse Racing Board has mandated that the state's five Thoroughbred tracks - Bay Meadows, Del Mar, Golden Gate Fields, Hollywood Park, and Santa Anita - have synthetic surfaces installed by the end of 2007 or lose racing dates. Del Mar is expected to install a synthetic surface for its 2007 meeting.

Liebau said that Hollywood Park could complete the installation of a synthetic surface in a seven-week period between the end of its summer meeting on July 16 and the end of the Del Mar meeting on Sept. 6.

Hollywood Park was supposed to be open this summer for training during the Del Mar meeting, but Santa Anita has agreed to stay open instead, according to Liebau and Santa Anita president Ron Charles.

Because Hollywood Park has lights, construction could be done at night.

Some aspects of the project, such as creating the actual surface, can begin long before the spring-summer meeting ends. The surface material could be stored at Hollywood Park until it's time for installation.