Golden Gate Fields’ New Track Surface

The California Horse Racing Board has demanded that its five biggest horse racing tracks have synthetic track surfaces installed before the end of 2007 if they want to continue racing at their establishments. To adhere to the new ruling, $10 million has been spent on the Golden Gate Fields’ new track surface, a revolutionary surface that has already proved its worth at international racecourses such as in Hong Kong, England and Dubai. But it is the first time the Tapeta Footings surface has been installed at a racecourse in Northern California, and it is going to have to make believers out of the critics.

Synthetic surfaces have been used in many sports, but are something completely new for the horse racing industry. Rulings to make synthetic surfaces mandatory for racecourses were not made lightly, and the surfaces were first tested to see how they would affect racehorses. Racecourses such as Arlington Park, Del Mar, Hollywood Park and Turfway Park have already starting using suitable forms of synthetic surfaces, with Presque Isle Downs also opting for Tapeta Footings surface.

Tapeta Footings surface was designed by a professional horse trainer, Michael Dickinson. It took Dickinson four years to develop the correct mixture to create the surface on which he trains his horses. The product is a mixture of rubber, fibers and sand that are wax coated. Racecourses that have installed synthetic surfaces have reported a significant reduction in injuries and fatalities, cutting these unfortunate incidents by between fifty to eighty percent. The surface is a lot softer for the horses and does not put as much strain on the horses as a hard, unforgiving surface would. It also cuts out horses being forced to run on wet, muddy and slippery surfaces when it rains, which are very dangerous conditions for horses to run in. Synthetic surfaces are not affected by weather conditions. Maintenance and water usage to upkeep the condition of the surface has also been reduced to almost nothing.

Jockeys who have started to train their horses on the Golden Gate Fields’ new track surface have only had positive comments to make. Some have found their horses to be livelier, even after a workout, and that the horses seem more comfortable. Of course, reducing risks of accidents also creates a safer working environment for the jockeys. Some skeptics have growing concerns on how the surface will affect the performance of the horses on race day, fearing it might slow them down. But they will have to wait until the first race has been run at Golden Gate Fields. Then again, would it really make so much difference if making them a little slower saves the lives of racehorses and their jockeys? No matter what is said about the track, there is a change coming in horse racing, and not even the critics will be able to stop it.