ARCADIA, Calif. -- For the second time in three weeks, Santa Anita on Saturday was forced to cancel a key Saturday race card, one that included a prep for the Kentucky Derby, owing to a main track that again was unable to sufficiently drain.
Santa Anita was hit with approximately 1 1/2 inches of rain late Friday night into early Saturday morning, but successive downpours between 6:30 a.m. and 9:45 Pacific, plus a grim forecast for the next several hours, forced the track to call off the day's racing less than three hours before the scheduled first post of 12:30 p.m.
"The track just has not dried sufficiently to have the kind of racing we want to put on today," said Allen Gutterman, Santa Anita's vice president of marketing, shortly after the cancellation was announced. "We're anticipating another downpour." Sure enough, 45 minutes later, it was pouring.
Saturday's nine-race card included the Grade 3 Sham Stakes, a prep for the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby. When racing was canceled on Feb. 6 because of a soggy track, that day's stakes races, including the Robert Lewis Stakes for 3-year-olds, were brought back one week later.
Santa Anita will do the same thing this time, according to racing secretary Rick Hammerle. The Sham will be brought back next Saturday, March 6, and be part of a card that already includes the Santa Anita Handicap, Kilroe Mile, and Santa Anita Oaks.
Eoin Harty, the trainer of Sham entrant Kettle River, said he would run next Saturday in the re-scheduled Sham.
Santa Anita's surface, largely made of Pro-Ride material, has had problems draining since its initial installation, when it was made of Cushion Track. Two years ago, 11 days were lost -- with three eventually made up - because of poor drainage. Saturday's cancellation brought to four the number of cancellations this season.
Frank Stronach, the chairman of Magna International, which owns Santa Anita, has been at the track in recent days. Ron Charles, Santa Anita's president, has said the current surface will be replaced after the meet ends in April, but no decision has yet been made on what type of surface will be installed.