Dirt is Back This Summer at Del Mar

Dirt is Back This Summer at Del Mar
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

After eight years on a state-mandated synthetic surface, in this case the Polytrack brand, Del Mar returns to dirt for the 76th summer racing season which starts Thursday.
Not plain, old dirt. “El Segundo sand,” a soil found in the area around Los Angeles International Airport which Santa Anita also extricated for its racing surface two years ago.
“Having a uniform racing surface on the Southern California circuit is very important,” said Del Mar Thoroughbred Club President and CEO Joe Harper. “The reason we went back to dirt was the same reason we went to synthetics –safety of the horses and riders.”           
The conversion began on December 8, 2014, eight days after the close of the inaugural Bing Crosby fall meeting. Crews began removing the 15,000 tons of Polytrack, a process which took over two weeks. Offered free to those who would haul it away, all 15,000 tons were recycled to 35 different equine facilities.
From January to March of this year the sub-base was removed, recycled and mostly re-used. In the same period irrigation and drainage systems were updated and the main track compacted preparatory to rebuilding. In March and April 30,000 tons of decomposed granite went into the sub-base and 31,000 tons of El Segundo sand was put down for a 10" deep cushion. On May 14 an unnamed 2-year-old to be sold at the Barretts sale two weeks later became the first racehorse to test the track.
The track was sealed on May 29 and turned over to the Fairgrounds for the duration of the Del Mar Fair, returned to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club on July 6. Horses began shipping into the facility on July 8 and training last Friday.
Twenty-five horses worked out on the main track Sunday morning and approximately 80 on Monday morning, clocker John Malone reported.
“The new track is settling in,” veteran trainer Eddie Truman said Monday. “It will take a little time but (track superintendent) Richard Tedesco does such a great job, he’ll get it just right.”

Del Mar has been Bruce Headley’s summer residence since 1950 and he’s been part of the trainer contingent since taking out his license in 1959.
But Headley, 81, has been notable by his absence since shortly after the main track was changed from dirt to Polytrack, a surface the old-school Headley could not abide, in 2007.
With the return to dirt, Headley is back in force. There are 30 horses behind yellow-webbed stalls at Barn TT, where Headley has been headquartered for decades. “We hope to run as many as we can, all of them if we can,” Headley said.
Through the past eight years Headley regularly made the trek from his nearby house to the track on Del Mar racing days. But he had very few starters at a place where he had won 12 stakes, with horses like Bertrando, Tiffany Diamond, Son of a Pistol and Kona Gold, from 1991 through 2005.
Street Boss provided Headley with his fourth Bing Crosby win in 2008 and M One Rifle took the 2009 Real Good Deal for his only stakes scores of the Polytrack era.
“I’ve learned over the years to not get overly emotional and to stay cool. There’s no reason to fret if you can’t race or bet,” Headley said of the last years spent more in the grandstand than the stable area. “I’m glad to be back. This is a great place to be.”
Track President and CEO Joe Harper let the racing world know of the return to dirt when he presented Headley with a Tiffany box full of the stuff on the occasion of Headley’s 80th birthday on Valentine’s Day, 2014. So far, Headley likes what he has seen of the full one-mile oval of the stuff.

“The track seems very good, the horses are just gliding over it and they’re not slipping and sliding so Mr. (Richard) Tedesco has done a good job with it.” Headley said.

Source: Del Mar Thoroughbred Club


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