Updated on 09/18/2011 12:34AM

Track cancels 7 of 9 Sunday races


An unseasonable amount of rain continues to play havoc with Woodbine's inner track, a seven-furlong Standardbred oval that has been converted for use by the Thoroughbreds while a Polytrack surface is installed in place of the former main track this summer.

Woodbine was forced to cancel the last seven of its nine scheduled inner-track races Sunday, when the track marked its 50th anniversary, although the Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup Turf and Ontario Jockey Club Stakes proceeded on the grass as scheduled.

Woodbine was also forced to cancel its entire program last Wednesday and its final dirt race last Friday.

"We took down some of the slope on the harness track, but there's still a grade on the turns," said Chris Evans, Woodbine's vice president of racing. "It's great for the sake of the horses negotiating the turns, and the jockeys love the banking. But when you put a Thoroughbred sand cushion on top of that hard harness track, then you do run the risk of losing that track during heavy rain. The water just washes the sand right off."

After a short delay before the start of Sunday's program, the first and second races were run without incident over a sloppy and sealed track. The remaining seven inner-track races were then canceled, including the $125,000 Ontario Matron Stakes, which has been rescheduled for Friday. Because of medication requirements, the Ontario Jockey Club Stakes and Northern Dancer were run at their scheduled post times, resulting in a wait of more than 1 1/2 hours before each race.

The inner track opened July 8, with racing Wednesdays and on Fridays through Sundays. Turf racing, except for those races rescheduled for the inner track, has not been affected.

The good news is that the Polytrack program is slightly ahead of schedule.

"We're looking at Aug. 19 to try training on it, and to race on it Aug. 23 to race," said Evans.

Gerri Kretschmer, project coordinator for the Polytrack installation, is very pleased with the progress made thus far.

"Right now we're putting in the tile drain for the base of the Polytrack," said Kretschmer on Monday morning. "We're starting to put some of the clear drainage zone down, for the base. Basically, we're looking at Aug. 7 to start laying the macadam down. Then, the Polytrack cushion goes above that."

The macadam, a material consisting of successive layers of broken stone of nearly uniform size, is the final sub-layer and has to be paved and then left alone for several days. During that time, horses will not be able to reach the inner track.

Monday, Aug. 7, is a holiday, and the macadam phase of the project could begin that evening. With Thursday, Aug. 10, already a scheduled dark day, Woodbine has received permission from the Ontario Racing Commission to cancel the card of Wednesday, Aug. 9, to facilitate the process.

Woodbine has applied to the Ontario Racing Commission for a makeup date on Sept. 7.

The meeting, slated to end Sunday, Dec. 3, also has been extended by five racing days, Dec. 6 through Dec. 10.

The $125,000 Valedictory, the traditional closing-day highlight, has been rescheduled accordingly.