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Arlington Park

Arlington Park Barn Notes (4/25/08)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


A hard rain fell Friday at Arlington Park, one week prior to the Chicago Thoroughbred oval’s 2008 opening day on Friday, May 2.

However, as the storm approached mid-morning, the only concern track superintendent Javier Barajas had was a couple of furlongs to the northwest.

“I told one of my assistants to hurry over to the training track and get it sealed up,” said Barajas of Arlington’s alternate morning exercise oval – still a traditional dirt surface.

Arlington’s main course was rebuilt a year ago as a state-of-the-art synthetic surface known as Polytrack – comprised of sand, synthetic fibers and recycled rubber that are combined and coated with a microcrystalline wax. 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 result: there is no such thing as a “sloppy” track at Arlington anymore. No need for water trucks, harrows, or floaters. The track is always “fast.”

It’s also been easier to recondition in time for Arlington’s upcoming meeting, which runs from May 2 until Sept. 21 – despite an unusually harsh Chicago winter.

“A process that used to take more than two weeks now takes two days,” said Barajas, 45, who has been Arlington’s track superintendent since 1997 but began his local career as a teenage employee making $2.50 an hour.

“Last fall we put the surface to bed by leveling it down with a double drum roller,” said Barajas, who was born in Mexico but grew up in Chicago. “This spring all we’ve had to do was power-harrow the surface and roto-till it one day and then get it loose the next day with the gallop master. In the old days we would have had to add a new mixture of dirt to the surface over a period of days, and then would have had to grade that added material for stones. We were fortunate we had Polytrack in place after the cold winter we’ve had this year, because we wouldn’t have been able to work on the old dirt surface until a couple of weeks ago.”

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