Following reports that Santa Anita might request more time before installing a synthetic main-track surface, Santa Anita President Ron Charles announced Feb. 21 that Magna Entertainment Corp. is committed to installing such a surface this year.
“(MEC Chairman) Frank Stronach and I understand and share the concerns of horsemen regarding the importance of racing-surface safety and agree that installing a synthetic surface at Santa Anita is the right thing to do for our industry,” Charles said. “We feel that it’s important that horsemen in California and across the country are aware that we are going to install the new surface during the upcoming Del Mar meeting.”
The California Horse Racing Board has required all major California tracks to have a synthetic surface by 2008. Hollywood Park has Cushion Track in place, and Del Mar is currently installing Polytrack. Magna’s Golden Gate Fields in Northern California is slated to install Tapeta this year.
Northern California’s other major track, Bay Meadows, has not chosen a synthetic surface, and late last year officials indicated that they might apply for an extension. Bay Meadows has been under threat of development for several years.
Charles said that Magna is considering Cushion Track, Polytrack, Pro-Ride, and Tapeta for Santa Anita’s synthetic surface and that a decision would be made in time to have it installed for the Oak Tree meeting, scheduled to open Sept. 26. MEC track consultants have visited England, Australia, and Dubai to investigate synthetic surfaces in those countries, and Charles said that they will make further trips to Dubai as the weather heats up to see how the surfaces react.
“We’ve been trying to ensure that any surface we install can stand up to the extreme heat that we can experience here at Santa Anita during the Oak Tree race meeting,” Charles said.
Charles noted that temperatures at Santa Anita vary from 30 to 105 degrees. On Jan. 14, workouts had to be canceled at Santa Anita due to frozen track conditions. In addition, Santa Anita and Hollywood alternate as training centers during Del Mar’s summer meeting, when the weather at Santa Anita often reaches 100 degrees or more.