Mowing. Spiking. Watering. Tamping. And don't forget worrying. Leif Dickinson, turf course superintendent at Santa Anita, has been doing all of those things to ready the grass for the Oct. 25 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.
Well, not really worrying. Dickinson had done everything in his power to have the Bermuda grass course in top shape for racing's biggest day. He is not worried about the course will fare, but rather how it will be perceived by horsemen who have not run over it before.
On Oct. 20, Dickinson ordered his staff to spike the entire course, a process that took about 14 hours. Two machines move very slowly on the grass, pushing star-shaped tines down 4 ¼ inches. As the tines pull up, they spread the grass, which aerates it.
The effect of the process, as well as some other things, will slow the course by about one second by Breeders' Cup day, Dickinson said. "That will get it where it should be for the Oak Tree meet," Dickinson said. "We would normally do this two to three weeks into the Oak Tree meet."
It has been very hot in Southern California and Dickinson has been watering the course as much as he can.
"It is very hard right now to keep moisture in the track," he said.
Dickinson will also be adjusting the rail on Friday and Saturday, and has the grass cut as high as he can.
"We have the mowers cutting at 1 ¾ inches, but with the cushion, it is like the grass is 2 ¼ inches. The mowers are set on the highest setting they have."
Dickinson believes the turf might not be the biggest factor involving the European runners. The weather forecast is for 91 degrees Saturday in the Los Angeles area. "If it is 91 in downtown, then it will be even hotter here," Dickinson said. "That will affect all the horses."