Gulfstream Park officials are considering adding a synthetic Tapeta track to its dirt and turf courses, a move that would make the Florida track the first racecourse in North America to offer three different surfaces: dirt, turf, and synthetic.

Gulfstream Park-Synthetic
Gulfstream Park is pondering installing a synthetic track like this Polytrack Del Mar used from 2007-14. The new surface would take stress off Gulfstream Park’s turf course. (Image: San Diego Union-Tribune)

Aidan Butler, The Stronach Group’s COO, told Thoroughbred Daily News they are pondering the move to take stress off Gulfstream Park’s turf course. The Gulfstream Park turf course endured 10 months a year of near-constant use. The only break it received came during Gulfstream Park West’s two-month fall season.

TSG closed Gulfstream Park West – also known by its old name, Calder — after its last race on Nov. 28. That means Gulfstream Park’s turf course faces 12 months of use. Putting a turf course – any turf course – under that kind of beating chews up the grass and creates unsafe situations for horses. And that doesn’t even account for morning training sessions.

When you throw in inclement weather or poor turf, trainers of turf horses often scratch their charges to keep them away from potentially dangerous situations. This takes a toll on cards while denying horseplayers meaningful wagering opportunities. It’s hard to handicap turf races when half of an eight-horse field scratches from a race.

Turf Horses Primary Beneficiaries of Synthetic Surface

“Without Calder, the smart approach would be to put in a synthetic track at Gulfstream and have three surfaces,” Butler told TDN. “We are all aware that we have an amazing turf course, but, using it that much, it does get cut up. And should the weather change, which it often does in Florida, that could decimate a card. These cards can get blown apart. There’s now so many scratches that these cards become mediocre.”

Turf horses adapt better to synthetic than dirt horses. This explains how a Tapeta surface allows race secretaries to write turf-friendly races for grass-friendly horses. At the same time, it gives track officials another option when South Florida rains muck up the dirt. They can move dirt races to synthetic just as easily for the same reasons.

Butler said the idea came from Gulfstream executives Mike Lakow and Bill Badgett. The newly minted COO of the racing group prides himself on welcoming new ideas and different concepts.

Morning Workouts Often Overlooked as Turf Killers

“This was Billy and Mike’s idea, that we maybe could get a Tapeta track in there as part of the turf course,” Butler said. “You would then have the perfect three surfaces. That would rest up the turf a little bit. And should the weather change, it would give you a lot of options to keep turf races together. Also from a safety standpoint, it would be nice to have more than one surface for training in the mornings.”

Butler did not give a time frame for the new track’s installation at Gulfstream.

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