Racing was canceled once again at Santa Anita Park Jan. 6.

Racing was canceled once again at Santa Anita Park Jan. 6.


Rain Shuts Down Santa Anita Racing

Drainage problems that have plagued the track since December are to blame.

Santa Anita officials canceled racing for Jan. 5 after Southern California was hit with the first of a series of rainstorms the previous evening. The Cushion Track synthetic surface, installed at Santa Anita this past summer to replace its main dirt track, has not drained properly despite an extensive renovation project in December, prompting the cancellation.

The track made the decision in the interest of safety after consulting with maintenance personnel, jockeys and horsemen early in the morning, according to George Haines, Santa Anita’s general manager. No decision has been made on live racing for the remainder of the weekend.

“We received more than five inches of rain last night,” Haines said. “This morning with (track superintendent) Richard Tedesco, Aaron Gryder, and some of the horsemen, we decided that the best course of action was to cancel live racing today.”

The Los Angeles area is expected to receive more rain over the weekend. Haines said that they will reevaluate the situation the morning of Jan. 6 and make a decision then on whether to cancel that program as well.

“By closing today, that gives us the chance to save the racetrack for later,” said Haines. “We’re trying to get the moisture out of it, then reseal it. It’s all about safety for the horses and the riders. This is a new surface, and we want to be cautious.”

Ron Charles, president of Santa Anita, was at Gulfstream Park for meetings Jan. 5. Reached by phone, he echoed Haines' remarks.

“We want to err on the side of caution,” Charles said. “We just don't want to take a chance.”

Charles said that the worst part of the track appears to be the area around the three-quarter pole.

“If we run tomorrow, we might look at shortening the sprints to 5 1/2 furlongs,” Charles said Jan. 5.

Santa Anita’s sand-based training track will remain open for workouts. Santa Anita will also be open to the public for simulcast wagering. There is free general admission.

The drainage issue may jeopardize Santa Anita’s 85-day meet, which runs through April 20.

Among the races canceled Jan. 5 were the $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap (gr. II) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles, featuring a field that was to include Molengao, and the $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies, also at 1 1/16 miles. Haines said that the stakes would be rescheduled, and the Santa Anita racing office reported that the current plan is to run the San Pasqual and Santa Ysabel sometime during the weekend of Jan. 12-13. A decision is expected Jan. 6 on which day those races will be run.

The Jan. 6 card includes the $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap (gr. IIT) for older distaffers at 1 1/8 miles on the turf, which is headed by Wait a While. Santa Anita is also scheduled to run Jan. 7, part of its experiment with a Thursday-through-Monday week instead of the traditional Wednesday through Sunday. Santa Anita is slated to be dark Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 8-9.

Charles said that Santa Anita officials plan to meet next week to evaluate the track and to decide about approaching the California Horse Racing Board regarding the lost overnight races.