Following an afternoon of inconsistencies in Santa Anita’s reconstituted racing surface, the main track appeared to be back in shape the morning of Feb. 14. Trainers went from scratching horses late in the card Feb. 13 because of their concern to commenting that the track was the best it has been so far the next morning.
“We had some inconsistent spots that kind of caught everyone by surprise,” said Santa Anita president Ron Charles.
The synthetic track, which underwent an involved application of material from Pro-Ride Racing Australia the week of Feb. 3 in an effort to solve the drainage problems, had opened to good reviews in its first three days, Feb. 9-11. However, following a dark day Feb. 12, the track caused concern both on the morning and afternoon of Feb. 13.
Times had been unbelievably fast over the damaged Cushion Track, and they slowed down to more normal ranges Feb. 9. They quickened the next day, and by Feb. 13 $16,000 claimer Trail Mix won the fourth race at six furlongs in 1:07.61.
In the third race, a maiden special weight for older fillies and mares, Hilogold broke down in her hind legs at the top of the stretch with Joe Talamo aboard and had to be euthanized. Talamo was unhurt and rode in the next race.
The fifth race was on the turf, and management power harrowed the track before the sixth, the next scheduled main-track event, after consulting with Ian Pearse of Pro-Ride by phone in Australia. The card then continued following a delay of about 20 minutes, during which Charles and other Santa Anita officials consulted with the jockeys. Claimers ran 1:23.30 for seven furlongs in the sixth, race after the harrowing, and 1:09.81 in the final race at six furlongs.
Several trainers elected to scratch their horses late in the card. Santa Anita’s maintenance crew worked the track following the races to try and bring it back to a consistent surface.
“We had to power harrow it last night and went down 3 1/4 inches,” said Charles.
An unexpected rain hit Santa Anita the morning of Feb. 14. Charles and several trainers said that the reconstituted surface drained well, and horses continued to train over the main track once it opened at 5 a.m. despite the rain, which ended a couple of hours later. While the main track had no standing water on it and looked relatively dry, the dirt training track appeared much wetter.
“Trainers have said this morning that this is the best track we’ve had,” Charles said. “This is a learning process, and it’s understandably frustrated everybody. We know this is a very good surface, but it does have elements of the original Cushion Track in it. We need to learn how to maintain it on a daily and consistent basis.”