Glimmer of hope for racing at Santa Anita on Saturday

Updated: January 25, 2008, 5:37 PM ET
By Jay Privman | Daily Racing Form

ARCADIA, Calif. -- There was no racing again at Santa Anita on Friday, the prospects for Sunday were grim, and track management had already decided to cancel racing on Monday and Thursday of next week in order to reconstitute the synthetic Cushion Track surface whose draining problems have caused repeated cancellations and headaches at this meet.

But as of late Friday morning, Santa Anita officials were still holding out hope of racing on Saturday, a card that featured four Sunshine Millions races, including the $1 million Classic.

"There's a window of opportunity where it looks like we're going to get 24 hours of good weather beginning at 5 o'clock tonight," said George Haines, the vice president and general manager of Santa Anita, on Friday. "We're going full-speed ahead. We expect to race [Saturday]."

Haines said track superintendent Richard Tedesco was preparing to work all night with his crew to blade away the top two inches of the water-logged surface, still leaving six inches of material.

"He'll move the material on top to the side," Haines said.

In addition to the Classic, the other Sunshine Millions race of significance scheduled here was the Filly and Mare Turf, featuring the once-beaten Nashoba's Key. That race was to be run at 1 1/8 miles, with the first few yards on the main track before horses reach the inner turf course.

"We hope to run that on the grass," Haines said.

According to Haines, boards might be used to help position the starting gate, which would minimize any compromising of the main track.

Santa Anita has been pounded by rain. The main track and turf course endured a little less than an inch of rain on Thursday. That, combined with rain and hail from midweek, left standing water on many portions of the main track Friday morning. As a result, Santa Anita canceled Friday afternoon's race card by 8:30 a.m. Pacific. That marked the second straight and fifth overall cancellation of the meet, including Jan. 5-7, all because Cushion Track has not drained properly.

More cancellations are coming. With the track scheduled to be closed for its regular Tuesday and Wednesday off, track officials already decided to cancel racing Monday and Thursday in order to treat the main track with fibers and polymers from another synthetic surface manufacturer, Pro-Ride. That material allowed the track surface to drain properly in lab tests held earlier this month at the University of Southern California.

But Sunday's card, featuring the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap, remains in jeopardy. A storm was set to pummel Southern California beginning Saturday night. Weather.com was reporting the chance of rain Sunday at "100 percent."

"It looks like we'll get a severe storm Saturday night," Haines said. "It's very doubtful we could race Sunday if we got another four inches of rain."

Cushion Track initially cost more than $10 million to install last summer. Haines said he has not yet made an official accounting of the additional costs in treating the surface or the economic impact on handle from lost days.

Across town at Hollywood Park, which has a different surface mixture for its synthetic Cushion Track main strip, a heavy rain shower Friday morning left standing water that eventually drained, according to Martin Panza, the track's racing secretary. However, no horses recorded workouts at Hollywood on Friday.