Moisture Said to Help Santa Anita Racing Surface

by Jack Shinar

A little rain and a new approach to help retain moisture in the main track at Santa Anita Park seems to have addressed some gripes aired the week of Feb. 11 by jockeys about conditions at the Arcadia, Calif., facility.

Santa Anita track superintendent Steve Wood said his staff has essentially doubled the amount of water used on the main track following races.

"We're watering, then harrowing the track, and then watering again," he said. "It seems to be working. The track has just been too dry. What we're doing is something tracks in the East do, but it's the first time I've tried it. In fact, to my knowledge, I don't think it has ever been done on the West Coast."

The second watering allows the moisture to seep deeper into the track in order to break up some of the hard ground that was being churned up by horses in the form of flying dirt clods, Wood said. Rain over the weekend following a month-long winter drought also helped ease concerns over the dry conditions, he said.

In a meeting of horsemen and track maintenance personnel, jockeys complained about the track's consistency. Luis Jauregui, Jockey's Guild representative at Santa Anita, said clods have struck horses and jockeys and contributed to a dangerous situation. It was agreed during the meeting that a new approach to moisturizing the track would be tried, Wood said.

Jockey Gary Stevens told Daily Racing Form he sustained a bloodied nose after he was struck by a dirt clod. He likened it to getting "hit by a 90-mile-per-hour fastball." He said horses have been forced to race wide in order to avoid getting hit.

"They've been doing (the additional watering) for four days, and it really seems to have helped," Wood said. "Gary Stevens, Alex Solis, Kent Desormeaux, and Luis Jauregui have all told me that the track is much better."