08/27/2006 11:00PM

Track's base to be scrutinized

Benoit & Associates
Gold Storm, winning the Arlington Sprint, will move on to Keeneland.

CHICAGO - Arlington Park plans to scrape clean its racing surface and conduct a survey of the surface's limestone base shortly after the conclusion of the racing meet, according to Arlington's president, Roy Arnold. The post-meet scraping of the dirt track has been performed for the last four years, but the limestone base has not been surveyed since the current track surface was installed in 1984.

The planned maintenance comes at the end of a difficult season for the track, which experienced a rate of catastrophic breakdowns much higher than normal during the early and middle portions of the meet. The incidence of breakdowns has subsided since early July, returning to a rate well within typical historic parameters.

Arlington scraped clean a portion of the track surface around the far turn in June, when Joe King, a racetrack consultant who designed and installed the surface here in 1984, was brought in by Arlington as a consultant after an initial wave of bone injuries to horses racing and training. No obvious problems were found with the exposed section of limestone base, but, as with the post-meet scrapings of recent years, the base inspection was performed visually, not with surveying equipment and expert engineers.

A surveying team has not yet been contracted, Arnold said, and bids will be solicited from a group of firms that have been recommended to Arlington. Arlington plans to keep its main track open for about a week after the meet ends Sept. 12, and Arnold said the training track on the northwest portion of the Arlington property will remain open slightly longer to help accommodate stables waiting to ship to Keeneland, which races during October.

Arlington trackman Javier Barajas said the process of removing the dirt track takes 1 1/2 to 2 weeks. Once complete, the survey will be performed and the results matched with the original specifications for the track. King will examine the survey results and compare them with the original track blueprints, and King also will work with Barajas to make any necessary alterations to the limestone base. Arlington may have to purchase limestone to add to the base, or it might merely need to regrade the existing material.

"We won't know what work needs to be done until the survey's complete," said Barajas.

Once work on the base is finished - if any is required - Barajas will run the dirt surface through sifters before laying it back down. Pine bark shavings, which were added to the surface in July to help provide cushion, will remain a part of the mixture. Arlington plans to complete the process during the fall, and Arnold said he hoped to bring back Michael Peterson to inspect the track in the spring. Peterson, who uses ground-penetrating sonar to evaluate track surfaces, conducted an inspection of the track in July at the behest of the Illinois Racing Board. Peterson's was the second board-mandated track inspection, the first having been called into question when a racetrack consultant met with Arnold before presenting his findings to the racing board, and sent Arlington recommendations for track maintenance that weren't part of his final report to the board.

Keeneland may be next for Sprint 1-2

Keeneland and its great unknown - the synthetic Polytrack surface - might lie in the future of both Gold Storm and Coach Jimi Lee, the one-two finishers here Saturday in the Arlington Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Both horses exited the race in good shape, their trainers said, and while Gold Storm is expected to start next in the Phoenix Breeders' Cup at Keeneland, trainer Jimmy DiVito mentioned that race as only one possibility for Coach Jimi Lee, who was beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Gold Storm.

Gold Storm, who won the Arlington Sprint for the second time and set a stakes record in so doing, has returned to trainer Bubba Cascio's base in Louisiana.

"He was pretty happy, came over and ate his feed up, so that makes you feel pretty good about him," Cascio said.

Cascio said he planned to ship Gold Storm to Keeneland early enough to work over the new synthetic track surface there, which will be ready for the fall meet.

DiVito thought Coach Jimi Lee might have won Saturday had he broken from an outside post rather than the rail. Trapped on the inside all the way, Coach Jimi Lee held his ground until deep stretch.

"I thought he ran a great race considering the circumstances," said DiVito.

DiVito said Coach Jimi Lee "might go to Keeneland, but it's a track I've never run over, that Polytrack, so who knows."