The drainage problems of Santa Anita’s Cushion Track coupled with two inches of hail that fell at 5 a.m. Jan. 24 has put the West Coast half of Sunshine Millions in serious doubt. Santa Anita had to cancel its Jan. 24 card, and track president Ron Charles, hopeful that a window of good weather would allow Sunshine Millions to proceed on schedule, nevertheless discussed other options he and his management team are considering.
“The frustrating part is that it looks like there is a window in the weather of Friday night through Saturday afternoon where we thought we could make it,” Charles said. “We’re at the mercy of the weatherman right now.”
If the break in the weather occurs, Charles explained that track superintendent Richard Tedesco said they could scrape off the top two inches of the Cushion Track and have a safe surface on which to race. However, the rain and hail that has fallen already puts the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf in doubt.
Charles and George Haines, Santa Anita’s vice president and general manager, both said that they are discussing all options if Sunshine Millions cannot proceed as scheduled, from relocating the races to Golden Gate Fields or Hollywood Park to rescheduling the races. Changing venues creates new problems, though, from moving horses 500 miles north to moving tote equipment across town.
“Moving to Hollywood Park on a moment’s notice is a logistical nightmare,” said Haines, who added that moving tote equipment without sufficient time to check everything could jeopardize the ability of the track to take wagering. Southern California tracks share in the ownership of the primary tote board, which is moved from meeting to meeting and would have to be shipped to Hollywood Park and then returned.
“It’s doubtful we could get the tote board across town on one day’s notice,” Haines said. “The funds to operate a mutuel department are astronomical, and to move that money across town, which is insured at Santa Anita but may not be insured at Hollywood, is a very big risk for us.”
Charles said that if Santa Anita’s Sunshine Millions races have to be postponed, they would discuss possible make-up dates with the horsemen to make it easiest for owners, trainers, and their horses. About 12 horses have already arrived from Florida. The Sunshine Millions program pays travel expenses, and Charles said that those expenses would be paid regardless of whether the horsemen choose to stay and run in rescheduled races or return to Florida.
Santa Anita management is deciding day-to-day on future cancellations and has not yet canceled the Jan. 25 card. The track was sealed the night of Jan. 23, with the expectation that the track could run Jan. 24. However, the unexpected hail made running Jan. 24 impossible.
Charles said he expected the Jan. 28 and 31 cards to be canceled so that the new liquid binding material could be added over a four-day period. Ian Pearse of Pro-Ride Racing, which is providing the material, is on site and feels confident that the material can be applied next week, which is scheduled to have little or no rain.
“At the first break in the weather, we will begin to fix this track,” Charles said. “There have been a lot of discussions about trying to just weather out the rest of the meet. I think this is a perfect indication that just won’t suffice. We’ve got to address the racetrack. It needs to be repaired, and people have to have confidence that not only will it drain, but that it’s going to be much kinder and safer for horses.”