By Bill Finley
Looking for ways to avoid overusing the turf course at Gulfstream Park, The Stronach Group may install a synthetic Tapeta surface at the South Florida track. The news was revealed by Stronach Group COO Aidan Butler during his appearance on this week's TDN Writers' Room, presented by Keeneland. Butler said that The Stronach Group is looking into the possibility of having three tracks at Gulfstream, dirt, turf and synthetic.
The grass course at Gulfstream is under heavy use throughout the year, but it had been getting a two-month break while racing shifted across town to Gulfstream Park West/Calder. With Gulfstream Park West having run its last race Nov. 28, Gulfstream officials were faced with either trying to race over the turf course 12 months a year or finding some other alternative. With turf horses tending to run well on synthetic surfaces, a Tapeta track could be used to complement the regular diet of grass racing. It could also be used as an alternate surface when inclement weather would mean a sloppy dirt surface, which often brings about a number of scratches.
“Without Calder, the smart approach would be to put in a synthetic track at Gulfstream and have three surfaces,” said Butler, who was this week's Green Group Guest of the Week. “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 can decimate a card. These cards can get blown apart. There's now so many scratches that these cards can become mediocre.”
Butler, who had been working primarily at Santa Anita, recently took on the added role of overseeing the operation at Gulfstream. He said the idea to put in a Tapeta surface was first raised by Gulfstream executives Mike Lakow and Billy Badgett.
“This was Billy and Mike's idea, that we maybe could get a Tapeta track in there as part of the turf course,” he 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. This would be a way of approaching the needs that have arisen with the closing of Calder. Calder gave us a break because it gave the turf at Gulfstream Park a rest.”
Gulfstream would become the first North American track to have all three types of racing surfaces–dirt, turf, synthetic–in use at one time.
During his appearance, Butler touched on a number of subjects, including the widely-praised decision to end the post time drag at Gulfstream.
“We all understand that on certain days, on certain races, on certain betting events, like a mandatory payout day on the Pick Six, having a drag gives people more time to get their bets in, and that's a good thing,” he said. “It can help the handle. There are people who have really studied this. When the drag becomes the norm, it removes any upside or positivity. In the end, I thought all it was doing was to make us look unprofessional. How can you be Gulfstream, in my estimation a track that is as good as any in the world, and not even get the fundamentals of running on time down right?”
In the West Point Thoroughbreds news segment, the writers reviewed last week's major races, including the GI Cigar Mile, weighed in Chad Brown posting comments on Twitter criticizing Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey and addressed the latest problems with the Gmax timing system.