“Track Chooses Quick Fix” for Beacon Media Newspapers

January 2008

The fate of Santa Anita’s new track and races were on a day-by-day basis until Monday night when Santa Anita decided to keep the Cushion Track and mix it with a material produced by Pro-Ride Racing Australia.

“We’re very confident it’s going to enable this Cushion Track to drain as it was designed,” said Santa Anita Publicity Director Mike Willman.

After three straight days of cancelled races due to rain flooding the new synthetic track, Santa Anita resumed racing last Thursday through Monday.

Encouraging results from testing at USC’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department coupled with extensive consultations with trainers, owners and jockeys who witnessed numerous demonstrations of the new product mixed with the Cushion Track influenced Santa Anita’s decision to renovate the track, which will cost a little over $1 million, according to Willman.

“We are now in the process of developing a timeline for acquiring the necessary polymer and fiber,” said Santa Anita President Ron Charles. “It is estimated that it will take 10 to 12 days to produce the binder. The material will be mixed into the track surface without having to remove or displace the track. It is our intent to schedule the application so as to minimize any disruption to training or racing.”

Cushion Track Footings, the company that installed the currently faulty track, agreed to pay for a new synthetic track if needed, which now will not be the case.

“They’ve acknowledged that they erred in choosing the silt, which is a very fine sand, that actually absorbs water which won’t allow it to drain,” said Charles on Friday. “We’ll be negotiating some sort of agreement with them hopefully next week.”

On a teleconference call last Tuesday the California Horse Racing Board voted 6-0 to allow Santa Anita to impend their license application and ship dates to Hollywood Park if needed.

“If we were to get hit with heavy storms during the period that we’re trying to remix the material, then Hollywood Park may become a more viable option,” said Willman.

Willman estimated that the three cancelled races caused a loss of $35 million in pari-mutuel handle (wagers), and a net loss of $1.3 million to Santa Anita.

This did not include the financial loss for the jockeys, who are independent contractors and do not get paid if a race is cancelled, as well as owners and trainers.

Opinions differed on the condition of the track on Thursday, which Willman said didn’t seem quite as fast (as before the rain), which was a good thing.

“It’s not the same as it was,” said jockey David Flores. “It feels like a combination of Hollywood and Del Mar. It’s compared to almost dirt, and there’s more sand on the track plus the cushion so it’s a combination. Personally, I don’t like it.”

On Monday morning, jockey Victor Espinoza said, “The surface was good,” but felt that it would be better to change the track. “They just need to know how to maintain it.”

The Cushion Track was installed over the summer to replace the dirt track because synthetic surfaces are thought of as safer for the horses and the jockeys, said Charles.

Stakes races that were missed during the three days of cancelled races were made up last weekend, said Willman, and each day had earlier first posting times to ensure all races had daylight.

Other races will have to be rescheduled, but the meet cannot extend its April 20th end date or it will conflict with Hollywood Park races.

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