06/21/2006 12:00AM

Track chooses new surface

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Hollywood Park will replace its main track with a synthetic surface made by Equestrian Surfaces of Burnley, England, at the conclusion of its current spring-summer meeting on July 16, track officials announced Wednesday.

The new surface is known as Cushion Track and consists of silica sand mixed with synthetic fibers, elastic fiber, and granulated rubber. The material is coated with a blend of wax.

Hollywood Park is the first California track to announce plans to install a synthetic surface. The project will cost an estimated $8 million, according to Hollywood Park president Jack Liebau.

The new surface will satisfy a California Horse Racing Board regulation that all California tracks conducting more than four consecutive weeks of Thoroughbred racing have a synthetic surface installed by Dec. 31, 2007.

Many believe synthetic surfaces are safer than conventional dirt surfaces, providing less concussion for horses and reducing injuries.

Synthetic surfaces have been in use in England for more than a decade and are growing in popularity in this country. A Polytrack surface was installed at Turfway Park last September, and a similar surface is being installed at Keeneland in Kentucky and later this year at Woodbine, near Toronto.

Hollywood Park looked into four synthetic surfaces before settling on the Equestrian Surfaces track. Track officials met with representatives of Polytrack; Tapeta Footings, a material designed by Maryland-based trainer Michael Dickinson; and Stabilizer Solutions, a surface material company in Phoenix.

"We looked at all the surfaces around and what was available, and we decided this was the surface we wanted to put in," Liebau said. "We had multiple trips to Kentucky, trips to Maryland, we've looked at them all."

The Hollywood Park project will begin days after the spring-summer meeting ends and must be completed by the end of August, Liebau said. The track will complete the project before the end of the Del Mar meeting on Sept. 6, so that stables based at Hollywood Park on a year-round basis can resume training when they return from that meeting.

Hollywood Park opens a 36-day fall meeting on Nov. 1.

The project will consist of the removal of the top 12 inches of the current racetrack, then installation of an extensive drainage system that will include 4 1/2 miles of pipe, a base of porous rocks, and nine inches of Cushion Track.

Hollywood Park's track is lighted, which will allow work during the evenings, if necessary, Liebau said.