Santa Anita Park will begin training on its new, all-natural dirt main track on Monday, Dec. 6 in advance of its traditional opener on Dec. 26. The main track was comprised of synthetic material from September, 2007 through Oct. 11 when construction began on the new surface.
“We’re elated to be able to welcome everyone back,” said Santa Anita president George Haines. “We’re ready to get back to business. We expect the stable area to begin filling up over the weekend and we’ll have horses back on the main track on Monday morning.
“We’re not only offering our fans and horsemen a new track, but we’re also going to be offering huge purses, which will be for everyone’s benefit. We expect that our purses are going to be 25% higher than they were a year ago and this should result in larger, more competitive fields which will provide better wagering opportunities.”
Haines also said that although recent rains resulted in a few weather-related delays, the main track project has remained on schedule.
“We’ll begin grooming the surface Wednesday and we’ll take the next five days to work with the material,” he said. “With any project of this magnitude, there’s going to be some settling of the dirt and we’ll need to work with and monitor that.
“I think everyone understands that as the track will change some in the first week or so. We’ve asked the horsemen to take their time and jog their horses and let them get comfortable with it initially. It’s important that we open for training on Monday and that we have three weeks before opening day to make any adjustments, if necessary.”
As a result of live racing being transferred to Hollywood Park this fall, live racing at Santa Anita has been idle since April, the longest such extended period of time since 1968.
The Dec. 26 opener will feature three graded stakes including a pair of grade I sprints, the La Brea and Malibu stakes.
Santa Anita’s new main track, which consists of 90% sand and 10% clay, will be maintained by track superintendent Richard Tedesco. The track’s base and upper layers will have a depth of 15 to 17 inches.