- I was quite alarmed by this article on Polytrack from the LA Times that reader Cookie Jill sent along. It paints a not-so-pretty picture, noting the severe problems encountered at Turfway, where there was said to be 14 fatalities this year, and at Woodbine, where CEO David Wilmot called the surface "broken." Martin Collins, the British developer of the surface, is quoted as saying:
"We are on a learning curve here....The waxes alter in hot and cold temperatures. It swells in the hot and tightens in the cold…. We never had to deal with [such variables] in England. It's a very difficult job." [LA Times]But then, I saw Collins and racing secretary Tom Robbins on TVG's Racing Roundtable, and suddenly, as if by magic, everything was mostly fine. Or so they would have us believe. Just after I got through praising TVG in my last post, they presented this toothless interview - bordering on infomercial - that skirted past and glossed over the serious issues raised in the article. In this softball forum, Collins never raised the concerns about Polytrack in the varying climes of North America that he did in print. When asked by Todd Schrupp why a track should pick Polytrack over its competitors, he responded: "If you want a Rolls-Royce, get a Rolls-Royce." A very curious choice of words, because in the LA Times piece, Wilmot said that "we paid for a Cadillac and got a Chevrolet."
Schrupp didn't press Collins when he basically gave a one-word "yes" response to his asking if the Del Mar surface was different from the others. In fact, according to the Times piece, the difference could be significant. Environmental regulations at the seaside track prohibit the inclusion of a substance called "jelly cable" due to concerns about copper contamination.
The substance is a waste product imported from China — chopped-up, lubricant-coated plastic previously used to insulate stripped copper wire. It was used in Polytrack turf installed at Chicago's Arlington Park and at Keeneland Race Course in Kentucky, where officials call the racing surface "outstanding."But Robbins didn't mention the reduction of the horse population, and instead spoke about how well the track has handled all the traffic. Both he and track president Craig Fravel referred to "minor glitches," whereas the Times piece talks of costly repairs that have already taken place. Robbins did explain a problem that occurred on Monday, when some trainers canceled workouts due to track being too "tight," but it was more in the context of showing the track's responsiveness to horsemens' concerns.
Without the jelly cable, Del Mar's new surface reportedly became "loose" and "soupy" in the warmer afternoon hours, forcing eleventh-hour repairs.
Track officials, exercising further caution in advance of a 43-day meet, informed owners and trainers that they would stable only 2,200 horses during the race meet this year, a reduction of about 200 horses.
Ironically and tragically, there was a fatal breakdown on opening day; but it occurred on the grass course when Mayor Bozarth had to be put down after the last division of the Oceanside. But the Polytrack seemed to receive positive reviews, though it was most definitely slow. I'd mentioned the slow fractions in the baby race; but as Walter pointed out, it wasn't a case of the riders trying to slow things down. The track is just s-l-o-w, at least at this point. Richard Migliore told the Form:
"It's a very tiring surface....They're gripping it, but it's a lot different from anything they've ever been on. It's going to take some time for some of them to get used to it."- Discreet Cat is back on the track! Godolphin Guy Rick Mettee told the Form: "He's jogging sound and we're real happy with him....He'll probably start galloping by the time we get up to Saratoga." But no target return date or race has been announced. Seems a long road to the Classic, even if we really knew that he could get a mile and a quarter.
As an aside to handicappers, Migliore added, "You're going to want a horse that makes one run. You don't want a horse that's going to be fighting you."