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Arlington Park

Arlington Park Barn Notes (5/2/07)

Contact: Graham Ross
graham.ross@arlingtonpark.com

In today's notes:

ARLINGTON ACQUAINTS CHICAGO WITH STATE-OF-THE-ART SURFACE

Arlington Park, the Chicago Thoroughbred oval that introduced Illinois horseracing fans to turf racing in 1934, the photofinish camera in 1936, and a color, closed-circuit television network in 1967, has broken new ground again. This time literally.

When Arlington’s 80th racing season gets underway Friday, its Thoroughbred racing athletes will be competing over a new, state-of-the-art synthetic racing surface – known as Polytrack – comprised of sand, synthetic fibers and recycled rubber that are combined and coated with a microcrystalline wax.

The safety of horses and riders is the goal, and $11 million was the cost, but among the other attributes of Polytrack is a consistent surface in all types of weather.

Polytrack’s drainage system is designed to move water vertically and immediately through the seven-inch synthetic surface on top, subsequently through a two-inch layer of porous asphalt below that, then through a four-inch layer of drainage stone below that, and finally into a perforated drainage pipe system.

“The first time we were scheduled to have an overnight rain, I got up in the middle of the night thinking I had to go seal the track,” said Arlington’s track superintendent Javier Barajas with a smile. “Sometimes, old habits are hard to break.”

In other words, there will be no such thing as a “sloppy” track anymore – and for that matter – no need for water trucks, harrows, or floaters.

Instead of all that, what Arlington’s guests will see between the races are “gallop masters” – with both teeth to loosen up the top surface and rollers to settle it back down at an even level. Oh, and prior to that, a small vehicle carrying members of the maintenance crew whose assignment will be to make sure that the occasional droppings of horse manure do not contaminate the synthetic materials of the top surface.

Horsemen have offered some first impressions of Polytrack.

“It’s great. It’s like riding on cotton,” said trainer Steve Hobby, who gallops most of the horses in his shed row. “You can’t even feel them touch the ground.”

“I just love it,” said jockey Jesse Campbell. “Horses seem to warm up faster on it, although there may be a little bit of a learning process involved for all of us.”

That learning process will also involve new parameters for Arlington’s more serious handicappers. One rule of thumb that most handicappers have adopted: horses that are generally considered to be “grass” horses seem to run well over the synthetic surface. Beyond that, class begins on Friday for a 94-day race meeting that will conclude Sept. 16.

SIR FIVE STAR HEADS FRIDAY’S FEATURED $47,100 SHECKY GREENE STAKES

Gus King’s Sir Five Star, a close third in Prairie Meadows’ Golden Circle Stakes at last asking April 21, should rule the choice when he heads a field of seven named to Friday’s $47,100 Shecky Greene Stakes – Arlington’s opening day featured event.

In his recent Iowa outing, Sir Five Star was forced wide entering the lane but was only beaten a length and three-quarters at the wire. Previously, the Steve Asmussen trainee was second by a neck in a sprint stakes at Sunland Park March 31 but had won Oaklawn’s Mountain Valley by eight and a half lengths Feb. 24. Chris Emigh, Arlington’s defending jockey champion, has been named to handle the reins aboard Sir Five Star.

Penelope and Frank St. Charles’ Awesome Hero, winner of Turfway’s Hansel Stakes March 24 and third in Fair Grounds’ Mardi Gras Stakes before that Feb. 26, is capable of providing strong competition for Sir Five Star. James Graham is slated for the saddle.

Completing the field is the Estate of Anthony Zuppardo’s Who Let the Cat In, Trey Agilar aboard; Richard Glantz’ Pirate Saint, Jose Ferrer astride; Steve Mongerson and Castle Rock Racing’s Front Court, Jesse Campbell up; Kalarikkai and Vilasini Jayaraman’s Irish Dreamer, Eddie Razo listed to ride; and Dare to Dream Stable LLC’s Thatsalottabull, E. T. Baird in the irons.

First race post time for Friday’s Miller Lite Party in the Park 10-race program is 3 p.m.

In contrast to Friday’s twilight racing program, Saturday’s 12-race program, which also allows fans to watch and wager on a live simulcast of the Kentucky Derby late in the afternoon, will begin at 1 p.m.

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