|Lone Star Park's Racing Surface
Drawing Rave Reviews From Horsemen
(April 10, 2006)
- Lone Star Park's main track is in its best condition ever, according
to several horsemen who have been stabled in Grand Prairie, Texas
for several weeks.
The 10th annual 66-date Spring Thoroughbred Season commences Thursday
night at 6:35 p.m. for an action-packed 15-week run through Sunday,
"We really like what we've seen so far," said Bret Calhoun,
the second-leading trainer at last year's meet. "You can walk
across it and tell it's a complete different track this year. You
can pick up the soil in your hand, squeeze it, and it binds."
Calhoun was especially impressed with the track's recovery from
a late-March deluge.
"It already passed a pretty good acid test a few weeks ago
when we had that nine inches of rain," he said. "Within
two days it was in perfect condition. In past years it might have
been in poor condition for a week."
The high marks must come as a relief, but probably not a surprise,
to Lone Star's new director of track maintenance, George McDermott,
who was hired in October for one purpose-to develop the fairest
and safest surface in racing.
McDermott came to Lone Star from Harrah's Louisiana Downs, where
he spent 30 years developing what was then regarded as one of the
best dirt tracks in the nation. He started at the Bossier City,
La., oval in 1975, became assistant track superintendent in 1978
and assumed chief duties there in 1991.
Proper management of a one-mile dirt course takes far more than
just driving tractors and water trucks around in a circle. It's
not rocket science, but when a guy like McDermott's tilling your
land, it's pretty close.
McDermott has amended the soils to bring silt and clay composition
back to ideal levels. He has also begun implementing organics, such
as choice sand, when called for. In addition, he re-graded the main
track and brought it back to optimum angles for drainage and racing.
"That guy's always up there working on it and asking you what
you think of it," said Cody Autrey, who finished fifth in the
2005 trainer standings. "I think he's got it going in the right
McDermott also fine-tuned the 7/8-mile turf course, which gets
more use over four months than nearly any other sod in the country.
Last season, 28-percent of all races at Lone Star were run over
the turf. McDermott implemented an aggressive aerification program
in the off-season and purchased state-of-the-art maintenance equipment.
For the first time, Lone Star will race at zero, 10 and 20 feet
on the turf course this season, as opposed to zero and 20 feet in
the past. The new techniques are designed to help the course maintain
its health throughout the entire season.
Keeping Horses Sounder, Longer
Top-notch racing surfaces are imperative for several reasons, the
first of which is safety. With the lives of jockeys and horses at
stake, anything less than the best could have dire consequences.
Veteran horsemen have long said that a new surface takes a few
years to settle and it appears that Lone Star's main track, entering
its 10th year of use, has finally found its groove.
"Everybody seems to be of pretty much the same opinion; everyone
thinks it's a little softer and has a little more bounce to it,"
said Jack Bruner, who has been stabled here since December. "My
horses are coming back from their works better and that's the main
That sentiment was echoed by Autrey, who has been working horses
over the Lone Star track for nearly three weeks.
"It's got more bounce," Autrey said. "You can't
even hear the horses go around it. Instead of being hard and fast,
it's deeper. It's not a slow track, though, just deeper. I don't
think you'll find anybody complaining about it."
In theory, a forgiving racetrack should translate to more starts
per horse, as the recovery time necessary between races should be
shorter. That, of course, means more opportunities for everyone-owners,
trainers, jockeys and handicappers-to earn additional money.
"It's definitely what we needed," Autrey said.
DOWN THE STRETCH: Autrey is hoping to
get off to another fast start this season. He won four races on
opening weekend last year and said he has 12 horses ready to run
in the first four days of the 2006 meeting...Entries for Thursday
night's 10-race opening night program will be drawn Tuesday morning...As
usual, the first race of the season will be the $50,000 Premiere
Stakes for older Texas-breds at one mile. According to stakes coordinator
Mike Shamburg, probable starters (with trainer) include two-time
Premiere winner Agrivating General (Danny Pish), Andanight (Juan
Rivera), Corpus Sand (Gerald Romero), Lightsnatcher (Cole Norman),
defending champ Rare Cure (Joe Petalino) and Senor Amigo (Steve
Asmussen)... Saturday's feature race is the $75,000 Irving Distaff
for older fillies and mares at 7 1/2-furlongs on turf - the traditional
local prep for the Grade III, $200,000 WinStar Distaff on May 29.
Beautiful Bay (Petalino), Comalagold (Larry Robideaux Jr.), D Fine
Okie (Donnie K. Von Hemel), Equestrian Girls (Kelly Broussard),
Homemaker (Bill Leach), Paz Ciudadana (Asmussen), Rose Hunter (Tony
Richey) and Stela (Cole Norman) are the early probables. Hall of
Fame trainer Bobby Frankel's Elisa's Energy is possible, depending
on flight availability. Entries for the Irving Distaff will be drawn
Thursday...Grandstand gates will open early at 4:30 p.m. on opening
night. All fans will receive an entry blank for a chance to win
a $250 dinner for two at Bob's Steak & Chop House if they can
correctly select the Premiere Stakes winner (entries must be in
by 6:15 p.m.)...ESPN 103.3 FM's Galloway & Co. will broadcast
live from Lone Star's East Gate entrance from 3-6 p.m. Thursday...The
Project will perform live music between races Thursday night in
the Courtyard of Champions from 7-11 p.m...Two country artists will
help celebrate the start of the season with post-race concerts on
Friday and Saturday nights. Two-time Grammy winner Lee Ann Womack
with special guests Jason Boland & The Stragglers will perform
after the horse races on Saturday (approximately 6:30 p.m.). Chris
Cagle, who recently notched his eighth hit single with "Miss
Me Baby," will take the stage the night before on Friday (approximately
11 p.m.). General admission for each concert is just $3 for those
who arrive early for live racing. However, the price will increase
to $15 after 9 p.m. Friday and after 5 p.m. Saturday...Friday is
the first Party at the Park of the season with live music by Zane
Lewis and $1.75 Bud Light cans in the Courtyard. Party at the Park
will take place every Friday (except June 16) throughout the season...Fans
who come through the gates Saturday and Sunday will receive a free
Lone Star Park magnetic schedule, presented by Budweiser, while
supplies last...Lone Star Park will host an Easter Egg Hunt on Sunday
with more than 30,000 eggs filled with candy, toys, Six Flags Over
Texas tickets and even iPod Shuffles. There will be three hunts
for children 10 and under (ages 5 and under, 6-8 and 9-10). Festivities
include bounce houses, balloon animals, games and appearances by
The Easter Bunny, Tommy Pickles and Angelica of the Rugrats and
clowns..."Inside Lone Star Park" will air Saturdays from
9-10 a.m. on ESPN 103.3 FM throughout the Spring Thoroughbred Season.
The show will be hosted by Lone Star Park's Darren Rogers and track
announcer John Lies...Saturday's featured simulcast races are the
Grade I Blue Grass Stakes and Grade II Arkansas Derby, the final
two major prep races for the May 6 Kentucky Derby...One of the new
enhancements to lonestarpark.com for the upcoming season is the
"Lone Star Park Press Box Blog." News items, observations
and handicapping information will be updated on a regular basis.
To access the blog, drag your arrow over the "News Center"
icon on the left side of the homepage and click "Press Box
Blog." It can also be accessed at the following address: http://www.lonestarpark.com/Media+Center/Blog.