With a Tapeta course under construction, Gulfstream Park soon will be able to offer something that no other North American racetrack can: three racing surfaces.
Construction on the track began on Monday, and it is expected to be ready for action in September.
Horse Racing Nation talked about the changes with Gulfstream's vice president of racing operations, Mike Lakow. Here is a lightly edited version of that conversation.
Q. Why was there a need for a Tapeta surface?
A. We race year-round at Gulfstream, and we have to give our turf course a break at some point. So this is a perfect opportunity to allow horses that like the turf to have an option. Of course, we have rainy season here, which, luckily, we haven't had yet. But we take a lot of races off the turf, usually. And again, this offers the owners and trainers the opportunity to run their horses on a surface that they should feel comfortable with.
(In the past), there wasn't a demand because we ran at Calder, or Gulfstream Park West, for two months out of the year. But we no longer have Gulfstream Park West.
Q. What distances will be run on the new surface?
A. We'll be able to run a mile 70 – I think that's what we came up with – a mile and a 16th, a mile and an eighth, a mile and 5/8. And we also have an extra sprint distance – we have 5/8 and 5 1/2 (furlongs) We've never been able to run five and a half.
Q. Do you have any idea how many races per day will be run on the Tapeta?
A. It's so hard to say. I mean, we're going in without any history. We're going to be on it September, October, November. In October and November, for those two months, we can run as many as we want. During the championship meet (which begins in December), we're still going to offer three, four or five turf races a day. And then we decided – this can change, but we've decided that normally the cheaper races that we card on in the turf, such as maiden claiming $16,000s or never won two claiming $12,500, we plan to just write for Tapeta. And this is our thought going in. Certainly they can change – we're going to change with what the horsemen need and what the fans appreciate.
Q. Do you expect to offer stakes on the surface?
A. I don't think so because we don't have the population, the Tapeta population right now. Now, with that being said, this again gives us the opportunity for stakes carded on the turf – if it starts raining hard, we'll move it to Tapeta. So no, I don't think we're going to write them. But again, we're still two, three months away. And there's still a lot more thought going into what we're doing.