Everyone Loves Poly!
Demi Song bounced his way into Canadian thoroughbred record books last night at Woodbine when the gelding won the first race over the track’s revolutionary new Polytrack surface.
Woodbine is only the second track in North America to hold a race meeting on the wax-coated sand, fibre and recycled material surface which offers a high and even absorption rate and a much safer and softer surface for racehorses.
Certainly Demi Song, ridden by longtime Woodbine jockey Emile Ramsammy loved the spring to his step, winning by 10 3/4 over his five rivals.
“From the moment I heard about (Polytrack) and what it did as far as reduction of injuries to horses, I was determined that we had to do it,” said David Willmot, president and chief executive officer of Woodbine Entertainment.
“For someone like me who has had two Horses of the Year destroyed on the racetrack, we owe the horses this. We also owe the public who have had to watch Barbaro (the Kentucky Derby winner who suffered a near-fatal breakdown in the Preakness Stakes).”
Incredibly, it took just seven weeks to install and replace the old Woodbine main track with Polytrack while racing meet continued over the inner, harness track.
After five training days and the six races run over the surface last evening, it is virtually unanimous that it was worth the wait.
“Woodbine Entertainment has made a great move,” said Ramsammy. “You can definitely feel the difference (riding the horses). When there are horses around you, you don’t even hear them, you don’t even know they are there.
“That will help front running horses not be too aggressive and horses who need to be aggressive not worry about the clickety-clack (of hooves) behind them.”
Polytrack, which cost Woodbine $10 million to install, is an invention born in England by Martin Collins, who addressed eager Woodbine horsemen earlier this week to answer questions about the surface.
While Polytrack did yield some kickback to trailing horses, a problem that plagued Turfway this winter, riders equated it to feeling like “snow” and not the painful dirt that hit horses and jockeys in the face on the old track.
“I don’t think there will be any bias to the track,’ said Ramsammy. “I think the track is very fair. There is a little bit of kickback but nothing compared to the original dirt track which stung and hurt.”
The winners of last night’s races came from all parts of the track, inside and outside paths, and on the lead and from off the pace.
Longshots and favourites won and the running times seemed to be on par with times posted on the old main track.
The only curious result was that of Demi Song, the first Polytrack winner, who ran considerably faster in that claiming event than the fillies did in the Eternal Search Stakes later on the card. Be interesting to see what the Beyer folks do with that discrepency.
*Seven-furlong races have been postponed for a couple of weeks while the chute is completed with Poly.
*Some horsepeople have complained that the stickiness of the waxy Poly is hard to get out of horses' hooves. And, if you are walking on the track, be prepared to track the surface throughout the grandstand!
*Media coverage for last night's opening was sparse but positive and $1.4 million bet on just seven races was certainly positive.
*Willmot hopes that in 5 years, Poly will pay for itself with added revenues from (hopefully) bigger fields and less maintenance costs to the tune of savings of about $750,000 each year.