Hunter to provide irrigation for Thoroughbred race course

October 18, 2013  - By

Hunter Industries will provide irrigation for the new turf course at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Del Mar, Calif., which is situated about 20 miles north of San Diego.

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club selected Hunter Industries to provide irrigation for its new turf course.

The turf course was designed by Steve Baker, Independent Irrigation Consultants, Oceanside, Calif. It will feature Hunter’s I-90 and I-40 rotors, IBV valves and Pilot central control system. Additional grounds areas featuring native plant material will be watered using the MP Rotator, Hunter’s multi-stream, multi-trajectory nozzle.

“Hunter’s Pilot control system allows for custom scheduling to meet the precise irrigation needs during the peak of the racing season,” said Troy Leezy, Hunter’s marketing manager. “Its real time water monitoring capabilities as well as remote log in to its software platform make it a great choice for the track.”

Replacing the old turf course, which was installed in 1960, will allow for a wider turf course ideal for large racing events. It should be finished by opening day of the 2014 race season.

Plans call for widening the turf course to 80 ft. from its previous width, which ranged from 63 ft. to 52 ft. on the straightaways and to 56 ft. and 54 ft. on the turns.

“Giving uniformity to the course–with a good irrigation system and the ability for multiple rail movement–is the No. 1 thing we’re doing,” Leif Dickinson, turf superintendent, said.

Prior to the project, three rail movements helped minimize wear on the inside paths on the course. “But with the new course we have the capacity to do as many as six moves,” Dickinson said.

The chute from where races at 1-1/16 and 1-1/8 miles start will be widened from 60 ft. to 65 ft., which will allow for 12 contestants. Previously, only 10 runners were permitted for safety purposes.

An 80-ft.-wide oval is large enough for a Breeders’ Cup race, where as many as 14 horses compete. “But since the Breeders’ Cup doesn’t run any grass races at 1-1/8 or 1-1/16 miles, the chute will not be a factor,” Dickinon said. “However, we could even put 14 in the gate if we had to in the chute.”

The wider chute offers a major change for the better. “The turn [onto the main part of the course] is very sharp now, but it will be significantly softer,” Dickinson said. “That was one of our prime directives – to soften that turn.”

The project began October 1, 2012 with the planting of vegetative sprigs of grass in a 12-acre plot in the Coachella Valley, east of Del Mar. “The GN-1 [Greg Norman-1] Bermuda [grass] likes hot weather,” Dickinson said. “It grows better there and we can grow a thicker, stronger turf, so that when we bring it over we’ll have a better course to start.”

The Pacific Sod Company is overseeing the project and growing the new turf under Del Mar’s mowing and fertility program.

“What we want is a thick, dense grass, as tight as possible,” he said. “The first line of defense in such a project is to keep the hoof from penetrating the turf.” The tougher the turf, the better chance of that happening, he said.

Bermuda grass was chosen because Del Mar uses reclaimed water, which has a salt content that many other grasses cannot tolerate.

Dickinson said 12 acres of grass is being grown in Coachella and he will select the best 10.5 acres for use at Del Mar. The remaining grass will be sold to other users.

The widening will expand Del Mar’s turf course from 7.7 acres to 10.5 acres.

To allow access to the track’s infield, pathways that are 16-ft. wide and 14-in. deep will be poured near the track’s seven-eighths and half-mile poles. When racing takes place, the 8-ft. by 8-ft. and 14 in. deep turf trays will interlock on top of the pathways for seamless grass racing.

“I believe we’ll definitely have the area ready for turf installation by the beginning of the year,” Dickinson said. “That’s not to say the grass will go in then. It could be that we choose to leave that grass out in the desert for a bit longer to grow, but that will be a call we’ll make when the time is upon us.”

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