New Polytrack used for Derby practice

It’s been a year since Barbaro blew away the competition at the Kentucky Derby, but his triumph was short lived. Just two weeks later he broke his leg while trying to win the triple crown. Now, one year later, a new track is being implemented at nearby Keeneland.

This weekend at the Derby there’ll be a special tribute to Barbaro, but some say the best tribute would be making sure that a safer track becomes the standard in horse racing. It is the new surface that is reducing the number of injuries and deaths in racing. It’s called Polytrack and it was installed at Keeneland race track in Kentucky last year.

“The Polytrack surface is a mixture or composition of silica sand, along with rubber as well as a synthetic fiber kinda like felt and then it’s coated with wax,” Keeneland Veterinarian Stuart Brown said.

The few tracks that have it say its reduced injuries. Horses land less heavily than on the traditional tracks like Churchill Downs where sand surfaces predominate.

“It’s kinda like running on tennis shoes. I mean you can tell a big difference as soon as you gallop the horse on it,” trainer Larry Jones said.

It also drains water easily so tracks are never sloppy. All of which bothers some racing fans who say it takes some of the fun out of an educated bet.

“The tracks is kinder to ‘em, but there’s something phony about it. It’s like playing on Astroturf,” horseplayer Bob Zanchelli said.

But the question is: Would it have saved Barbaro’s life?

“I don’t know the answer to that and I don’t think anybody will,” Barbaro’s trainer Michael Matz said, but Matz believes Polytrack is the future.