Toronto Star

New sur­face gets rave re­views

Demi Song gal­lops into record book as first win­ner ‘Wood­bine has made a great move:’ Ram­sammy

- JEN­NIFER MOR­RI­SON SPE­CIAL TO THE STAR Sports · Horse Racing · Horsekeeping · Pets · Hobbies · North America · United States of America · Kentucky · England · Horse Breeding · Derby · Florence

Demi Song bounced his way into Cana­dian thor­ough­bred record books last night at Wood­bine when the geld­ing won the first race over the track’s revo­lu­tion­ary new Poly­track sur­face.

Wood­bine is only the sec­ond track in North Amer­ica to hold a race meet­ing on the wax-coated sand, fi­bre and re­cy­cled ma­te­rial sur­face which of­fers a high and even ab­sorp­tion rate and a much safer and softer sur­face for race­horses.

Cer­tainly Demi Song, rid­den by long-time Wood­bine jockey Emile Ram­sammy, loved the spring to his step, win­ning by 10 3⁄4lengths over his five ri­vals. “From the mo­ment I heard about (Poly­track) and what it did as far as re­duc­tion of in­juries to horses, I was de­ter­mined that we had to do it,” said David Will­mot, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Wood­bine En­ter­tain­ment. “For some­one like me who has had two horses of the year de­stroyed on the race­track, we owe the horses this. We also owe the pub­lic who have had to watch Bar­baro (the Ken­tucky Derby win­ner who suf­fered a near-fa­tal break­down in the Preak­ness Stakes).”

In­cred­i­bly, it took just seven weeks to in­stall and re­place the old Wood­bine main track with Poly­track while the rac­ing meet con­tin­ued over the in­ner har­ness track.

Af­ter five train­ing days and the six races run over the sur­face last evening, it is vir­tu­ally unan­i­mous that it was worth the wait. “Wood­bine En­ter­tain­ment has made a great move,” said Ram­sammy.

“You can def­i­nitely feel the dif­fer­ence (rid­ing the horses). When there are horses around you, you don’t even hear them, you don’t even know they are there.

“That will help front-run­ning horses not be too ag­gres­sive and horses who need to be ag­gres­sive not worry about the click­ety-clack (of hooves) be­hind them.”

Poly­track, which cost Wood­bine $10 mil­lion to in­stall, is an in­ven­tion born in Eng­land by Martin Collins, who ad­dressed ea­ger Wood­bine horse­men ear­lier this week to an­swer ques­tions about the sur­face.

Will­mot said that Wood­bine should re­coup the cost of the new sur­face within five years through rev­enues gen­er­ated by big­ger fields. The track will also save $750,000 an­nu­ally in main­te­nance fees.

While Poly­track did yield some kick­back to trail­ing horses, a prob­lem that plagued Tur­fway this win­ter, rid­ers equated it to feel­ing like “snow” and not the painful dirt that hit horses and jock­eys in the face on the old track.

“I don’t think there will be any bias to the track,” said Ram­sammy. “I think the track is very fair. There is a lit­tle bit of kick­back but noth­ing com­pared to the orig­i­nal dirt track which stung and hurt.”

Trainer Vince Te­soro added: “It rev­o­lu­tion­izes horse rac­ing. This is a ge­nius move by Wood­bine.

“They have done it for the horses and, in turn, the horse­men and the fans. Ev­ery­one is in awe of the sur­face.” Tur­fway Park in Florence, Ken., is the only other track on the con­ti­nent to have a race meet­ing on Poly­track.

 ?? MICHAEL BURNS PHOTO ?? They’re off! Wood­bine’s main track had a new look to it last night for the first races on the $10 mil­lion Poly­track sur­face. It’s the sec­ond North Amer­i­can fa­cil­ity to have it.
MICHAEL BURNS PHOTO They’re off! Wood­bine’s main track had a new look to it last night for the first races on the $10 mil­lion Poly­track sur­face. It’s the sec­ond North Amer­i­can fa­cil­ity to have it.

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