02/05/2011 2:56PM

Tinkering with dirt


Horsemen this winter have been unusually tight-lipped regarding the new main track at Santa Anita.

No one wants to knock the surface. Not publicly, at least.

But behind the scenes, many are frustrated. Some trainers said they were led to believe the new dirt surface would be 90 percent sand and 10 percent silt and clay.

Prior to the meet, track officials told Daily Racing Form the content would be 86 percent sand, 8 percent clay, and 6 percent silt.

Something went awry, somewhere along the way. Blame the wet weather early in the season, or a mixture miscalculation. Maybe the sand was no good to begin with.

Whatever the reason, laboratory analysis of the main track recently showed the track was more than 76 percent sand and 24 percent silt and clay.

Trainers said the percentages make a huge difference. They want it closer to the originally advertised premise – somewhere between 86 and 90 percent sand.

Some jockeys recently have worn plastic face shields during races to protect themselves from clods.

Everyone wants the new track at Santa Anita to work – horsemen, jockeys and handicappers.

Santa Anita officials have considered adding sand to the racetrack in an effort to bring the surface back to “normal.”

There was talk this week that natural sand from nearby San Clemente will be shipped up and added to the surface.

Meanwhile, the show continues – on the racetrack and behind the scenes.

The story is far from finished. Stay tuned.

Kent More than 1 year ago
Have to agree with (others) ... there has been a "conveyer belt" type inside bias the entire meet. How can it be that difficult to add some material (larger grain) which will not pack down so tightly? The track super stated that it was his goal to make the track even so that all horses had a chance. Six weeks into the meet, there are two words for that: epic fail.
jack ahler More than 1 year ago
Leave the Santa Anita track alone! "Let my speed horses do their thing." The $2 bettors can wait for Del Mar, and the madness will start with the goofball outcomes. We suffered with the "goo" for three years and that's long enough.
john henry More than 1 year ago
Sounds like too many chiefs and not enough Indians?
Ed Horton More than 1 year ago
Yesterday (Feb. 5) in an eight-furlong race, two of the best jockeys, Pat Valenzuela and Rafael Bejarano, dueled through fractions of :21.58 and 44.25 and 1:08.77. They lost by seven lengths and 23 lengths. Seems a tad fast for a mile. Something is truly amiss.
Dennis Pattersly More than 1 year ago
The track at Santa Anita is a joke. Yes we are seeing some terrific individual performances. But far too many races are a conveyor belt around the track and many races are boring to watch. I think the goal should be that races are won one-third by speed types, one-third midpack, and one-third off-the-pace closers. This track allows any uncontested speed horse to go all the way regardless of internal fractions. I don't understand why they are so unwilling to make adjusments. Last week it was announced there would be some changes to the mixture then a few days later it was determined the track was fine. The track is not fine. Chantal Sutherland looks like she is getting ready for a blizzard climb of Mt Everest. Many jocks wearing protective shields. The prior surface was fine for those who new how to train over it, All these guys who were crying about wanting dirt because they were not winning, Gary Stute, Headley, Guillot ... are still not winning. Why are trainers choosing to stay off the record? I don't get it.
Zenyatta John More than 1 year ago
How on God's green Earth could the proportions of sand to dirt/silt be so off? I guess good track supers are hard to come by.
John S More than 1 year ago
"No one wants to knock the surface (Santa Anita). Not publicly, at least." I have to ask who would be those who would complain? Certainly not John Sadler or Bob Baffert or Doug O'Neill or any other trainer who seems to be doing well. It must be the same losers who were losing on the previous synthetic surface. Lo and behold, maybe it had something to do with talent and quality instead of the surface. Unfortunately, the current sand-to-clay mixture is horribly off and another example of Santa Anita's lack of oversight over a major capital project. In spite of the problem, the solid trainers are still winning while those who griped about the previous surface ... are still losing. Months before he passed away, Robert Frankel responded to those who complained about the synthetic surface by saying there was nothing wrong with the track. No wonder he's in the Hall of Fame; may he rest in peace. Now that there really is something wrong with the track, let's hope Santa Anita will fix it in spite of those who complain whether they be trainers or DRF columnists.
ziels More than 1 year ago
Inconsistent track, takeout raise, and trainers still choosing to run healthy horses once every 45 days. Is it any wonder this meet has been a complete disaster with handle off about $20 million so far from last year. How far does California racing have to sink before someone attempts something other than keeping the status quo?
Ruben Flores More than 1 year ago
Maybe (Santa Anita) should get somebody who knew the track maintenence guy at Agua Caliente. The track was always in great shape and the horses ran for a long time without getting hurt. I remember a lot of horses with problems got healthy down here and continued their careers, and a lot of 2-year-olds got their training start there.