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Keeneland surface conversion to dirt has begun

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 20, 2014) – Keeneland on Monday began the conversion of its main race track from a synthetic Polytrack material to a state-of-the-art dirt surface, with a drainage system that will be the first of its kind in North America.

Keeneland surface conversion underway

During the next two weeks, 16,000 tons of Polytrack will be removed from the main track as the first step in the renovation process.

Construction is scheduled to be completed Aug. 15. The track will reopen for training Sept. 1. The Fall Meet begins Oct. 3.

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,” said Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason. “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.”

Keeneland, along with a team of experts who consulted with noted track specialist Dr. Mick Peterson, executive director of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, has been working for more than a year to conduct testing on materials, water drainage systems and race track design. Officials have learned from research that proper maintenance of the surface is just as important as the selection of materials from a safety and consistency perspective.

“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.”

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