Inch by 2-inch layer inch, the past few months have steadily seen Keeneland Race Course get back to its roots.
Since mid-May, Keeneland has been replacing the synthetic Polytrack on its main racing surface with dirt in preparation for the 2014 Fall Meet, which runs Oct. 3-25. An estimated 19,000 tons of sand, silt and clay are being put down atop a limestone base. Keeneland has raced on Polytrack since fall 2006, so both the decision to return to dirt and the process to create that reality has been carefully crafted and scrutinized in an effort to produce what the track hopes will be a world-class surface. The track has been chosen to host its first Breeders' Cup World Championships in 2015.
A state-of-the-art drainage system comprised of recycled tires has been implemented, and when the project is completed this month, a 6-inch depth of dirt will be in place.
All those tons of dirt have come from a quarry in Northern Kentucky, the product of six to seven months of research to find just the right composition for the noted track.
As the tracks project manager, John Howard has monitored the 1,895 truckloads needed to import the sand and other materials to the track.
Just days from the final layer of dirt going down, Howard talked to the Herald-Leader about the process behind what will be one of the most closely monitored surfaces in North America.
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.