Replacement of the asphalt base is likely the next step in the ongoing efforts to improve Santa Anita Park’s synthetic surface.
Ian Pearse of Pro-Ride Racing Australia arrived at the track May 27 and determined through preliminary tests that the asphalt base continues to drain ineffectually. Originally, track management had scheduled a four-inch flooding of the Santa Anita surface May 29 as a final drainage test before deciding upon a course of action. However, Pearse said such a test “would be a total waste of time.”
“I dug quite a few holes in the profile (surface) and filled them up with water,” Pearse said. “Eighty to ninety percent of them didn’t drain at all, and the other 10% drained slowly. I could see that the asphalt layer wasn’t draining.”
Santa Anita received two inches of rain May 21-22 that acted as an unintentional test. While the track did not close and a few horses continued to work daily, soft spots were detected and several trainers curtailed or reduced their use of the main track for several days.
“It actually was a good thing that they got those rains,” Pearse said, “because it showed that the base doesn’t drain. If it couldn’t handle two inches, it won’t handle four inches.”
Pearse will be spending a couple of days consulting with Santa Anita management.
“I’m recommending removing the surface and putting in a brand new base,” he said. “The options (for replacement) would be a porous asphalt base or a specialized grid layer.”
Pearse said he also discovered areas where the bottom two inches had been missed in the treatment he performed earlier in the year. Santa Anita lost several days of racing in January because the original Cushion Track didn’t drain properly. Pearse was called in to treat the track with Pro-Ride materials in an effort to repair the surface and get Santa Anita through its winter meet. Following that work, the meet continued without further cancellations.
“We can re-treat the surface given the right time frame,” Pearse said. “We only had four days before, but this time having a two- to three-week period, there is every assurance that everything will be treated.”
Santa Anita president Ron Charles will be meeting extensively with Pearse and then discussing the recommendations with Frank Stronach, chairman of Magna Entertainment Corp., before a final decision is made.
“If we go with Ian’s recommendations,” Charles said, “we would probably close the track for three weeks at the beginning of the Del Mar meeting.”
Santa Anita and Hollywood Park alternate as the off-site stabling for the Del Mar meet, which this year begins July 16. Santa Anita is scheduled to be open this summer, but Charles said Santa Anita would negotiate with Hollywood so horses could train there for the first three weeks of the Del Mar meet and then move back to Santa Anita.