HALLANDALE BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - In the Sport of Kings, horse racing tracks traditionally have two racing surfaces – dirt and turf – but after some new changes, Gulfstream Park is now the first in the United States to offer an all-weather synthetic option.
At Gulfstream Park, they are racing on a track designed for the safety of the horses and their jockey.
“The sponginess and that bounce that you get on the Tapeta creates less concussion for the horses,” said jockey Chantal Sutherland.
Sutherland has over 1,100 career wins, including several on the new Tapeta track. The new surface is a blend of fine sand and wax-covered rubber fibers, designed to simulate the root structure of turf.
“Safety of it is it’s always fast and firm, regardless of how much water you get,” said Bill Badget, Director of Florida Horse Operations. “It could rain three or four inches and with the drainage system we have, the surface stays the same, exactly the same, all the time. It never changes.”
On dirt and turf tracks, water causes sloppy conditions which would prompt a trainer to pull their horse from a race to prevent injury.
“First day that we ran and I was riding the Tapeta, I was like ‘Wow!’,” said jockey Edgard Zayas. “I just wish you could move all the races into Tapeta now. The Tapeta is just amazing. When it rains, it just gets better. It’s so much safer for the horse. It’s amazing.”
Other tracks in the U.S. offer Tapeta, but Gulfstream is the first to have a synthetic course alongside the dirt and turf ovals.
Tapeta will give trainers an option on wet days when it isn’t safe or advisable to run on the turf course.
“Not only does the field size hold together, but the opportunity for that horse pointing for that particular race for that day, he’s able to run,” said Badget. “He doesn’t have to scratch and wait for another three to four weeks for another race.”
A worldwide television audience will get their first look at the Tapeta track on January 29.
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