Actually Flores, who serves as Turf Paradise’s track and turf course superintendent, takes his job super seriously. He’s not given to romanticizing the importance and responsibility of what he does.
“The goal of everything we do is to keep the dirt and grass courses safe for the horses that race over them,” said Flores. “A good day of racing for us is when horses and riders get around safely.”
Right now it’s all hands on deck for Flores and his dirt and turf crews of eight persons each, what with Turf Paradise’s 63rd racing season scheduled to open October 13. The track is set to receive 1,800 horses into its 68 stables, so both the dirt and grass courses must be ready not only for the 131 days of racing but for the additional 100 days of training that go on daily, which begin September 15.
“Every year we replace the dirt course with fresh sand and the grass course is reseeded,” said Flores, who prior to Turf Paradise served as track superintendent at Evangeline Downs in Louisiana for a year. “It’s a science, a precise balance between sand and water for the dirt course and the right seed, water and aeration for the turf course.”
Flores’ “Tonka” equipment of the trade are tractors, a blade, water trucks and scrapper and two harrows. Each piece of equipment performs a particular function, with each function complementing the other. Each harrow, pulled around the one mile dirt oval by a tractor, is 18’ x 7’ in dimension and each contains 128, three-foot long, 5/8th inch steel teeth.
“The harrows groom the track,” said Flores. “They keep the dirt surface smooth, even and safe for the next race and for training in the morning.”
The one mile, 90-foot wide dirt course receives 1,500 tons of #10 mesh sand and then 480 cubic yards of bark before being mixed together multiple times.
“The #10 mesh is a superfine grain sand, not coarse, to prevent horses from running down on their feet and ankles,” said Flores. “The bark is mixed in, allowing the surface to retain moisture and to give the sand bounce.”
The seven-furlong, 70’ foot wide turf course with its one mile and an eighth chute requires a different process and a lot of TLC.
“Seed and plenty of water and constant attention to replacing divots after each race is essential to maintaining the turf year long,” said Flores. “And periodic aeration to allow the earth to breathe causing the grass to deep root, is a must.”
The turf course receives 200 tons of sand which serves to breakdown the organic material so that the 3,000 pound of rye grass seed has every chance to germinate and thrive, making it appear that horses and jockeys are gliding quietly, as if sound has been muted, over a green carpet.
“Both surfaces require daily attention and repair because of the wear and tear,” said Flores. “Each and every horse getting around safe and sound is a win for us.”