Five grade I races at Oak Tree the weekend of Sept. 27-28 gave the Pro-Ride synthetic surface recently installed at Santa Anita a workout. Despite unusually hot temperatures well into the 90s during the entire first week of the meeting, reviews were optimistic and winners came from everywhere.
“It looks really good and felt good in the first race,” said jockey Rafael Bejarano, who won three races opening day, Sept. 24. Two of his wins came over the synthetic surface, including the first of the day aboard odds-on favorite Costa Marta. “It looks like it is very fair, and it’s consistent.
Jockey Aaron Gryder said he has been pleased with the spring the Pro-Ride track has.
“It comes back much quicker,” he said. “You can see it come back when you’re behind horses.”
On the main track, Favorites Zenyatta, Well Armed, and Stardom Bound won their Breeders’ Cup preps Sept. 27. Cost of Freedom the same day paid $13.60 in the Ancient Title Stakes, and Street Hero in the Sept. 28 Norfolk paid $14.20.
Ian Pearse of Pro-Ride Racing Australia spent much of the summer overseeing the extensive renovation project. He said the polymetric binder used in Pro-Ride has more temperature tolerance than synthetic tracks that are wax-based.
“We’re really happy with the way it’s handled the heat,” Pearse said Sept. 28, “because (the weather) has been extremely hot and the stability of the track has been excellent. The times have been good, and it’s held all the way through the day.”
Because of the temperatures and feedback from horsemen, Pearse slightly altered the maintenance program after the first two days of racing. However, he has said all along that the Pro-Ride track does not require a lot of maintenance. Water was not applied to the track.
“We don’t use water for stability or performance,” Pearse said. “We only use water—if at all—to lower temperature. But we haven’t been at the temperatures where it’s been necessary.”