Lexington, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - Another major racetrack is replacing its synthetic main track with a dirt one.
Keeneland announced Wednesday that it will be replacing its synthetic Polytrack surface with a a state-of-the-art dirt track.
"Keeneland's mission is to provide the highest level of racing possible, and in order to accomplish that goal going forward, a dirt surface is preferable," Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. "This dirt track will be a 'next-generation' surface, the most extensively researched and most sophisticated in North America. We believe that with the new materials and research available to us today we can build a world-class dirt track that is as safe as our synthetic surface for horses and riders. Their safety absolutely remains our top priority."
The track, home to the Blue Grass Stakes, will make the conversion during the summer beginning Monday, May 19 and be completed Friday, Aug. 15. Its spring meet begins this Friday and continues through April 25.
Keeneland installed the synthetic track in 2006, but is now following other racetracks that are reverting back to dirt surfaces.
"This is not a decision that we have undertaken lightly," Thomason said. "From the outset of the synthetic surface installation in 2006, we have always said that this is a journey and not a destination. The racing landscape has changed, and for that reason we have an obligation to our horsemen and to our fans to evaluate where the industry is going."
Keeneland's five-eighths mile training track will remain a Polytrack surface and be open during the summer months.
"We are proud of our Polytrack surface; it has set the standard for safety in the industry," Thomason said. "The amount of science and research that has been conducted with regard to synthetic surfaces around the country has helped elevate all racing surfaces."
Turfway Park will be the lone track in Kentucky to still have a synthetic main surface once Keeneland makes the conversion. Churchill Downs never changed its main track from dirt to synthetic.