Turfway Park GM: Track moving up in class with renovation project

Turfway Park GM: Track moving up in class with renovation project
Photo: New Turfway Park
On a July 30 earnings call, Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen provided an update on the renovations at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky. Churchill Downs announced plans for $100 million in improvements when it agreed to acquire the track for $46 million in October. The improvements include a new clubhouse with historical racing machines and food and beverage venues, along with a new dirt track, a new synthetic track and updated barn areas.

“We anticipate that the additional interior construction will be completed by the end of September in preparation for a grand opening by early October,” Carstanjen said. “This timing will provide two months of operations to generate much-needed purse money for Turfway Park's December live Thoroughbred race meet.”

Chip Bach, general manager of Turfway Park, said the grandstand has been completely demolished, making way for a new facility with as many as 1,500 historic racing machines — which he expects will help raise purses at the track. And he hopes the new Tapeta synthetic track will help attract better quality racing and keep trainers in Kentucky for the winter months, when they might previously have left for warmer weather.

“We’ll have a very stable racing surface to compete on,” Bach said. “I think Tapeta, certainly the brand has earned the respect of every level of horsemen, and so I think that will certainly contribute to a decision to stay at Turfway. If trainers thought the old Polytrack was too beat up and worn out, that may have led to a decision not to race with us.”

Tapeta is a synthetic racing surface made of a mixture of rubber and and sand covered in wax. It is billed as an all-weather surface that keeps tracks functional year-round.

The surface also has been installed at Presque Isle Downs and Golden Gate Fields in the United States and at Woodbine in Canada. Turfway is one of three synthetic-surface tracks owned by CDI, along with Presque Isle Downs and Arlington Park.

Bach said he wasn’t directly involved with the decision to go with Tapeta but that CDI has had great success with the surface at other venues.

"I know they’ve had the direct feedback from the folks [at other CDI tracks],” Bach said. “So I don’t know the exact methodology they use, but I do know I’m very happy with the results of the decision.”

Bach said the renovations at Turfway Park show CDI making a commitment to the future of racing in Kentucky.

“They’ve done everything they said they were going to do and more,” Bach said. “Every expectation they set for us, they’ve met. They have high hopes for our racing becoming more in line with the top racetracks.”

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