05/02/2016 9:06AM

Color early portion of Santa Anita meet green

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Susie Raisher
In order renovate the turf courses before the autumn meeting, Santa Anita will run on the main track only from June 23 through July 10.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Live racing resumes at Santa Anita on Thursday for a 40-day spring-summer meeting that by necessity will emphasize turf racing during the early weeks.

The meeting runs through July 10, but turf racing will cease on the hillside course after June 5 and on the oval portion of the turf course after June 19 to allow for a much-needed renovation prior to the autumn meeting in late September. The autumn meeting includes the Breeders’ Cup races on Nov. 4-5.

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Racing will be conducted exclusively on the main track from June 23 to July 10.

“We’ll have to be a little creative in the last three weeks and try to keep the quality up,” said Rick Hammerle, the track’s vice president of racing.

Thursday’s program will be the first at Santa Anita since the conclusion of the winter-spring meeting on April 10.

“It was a good chance to give the turf course a break,” Hammerle said.

The spring-summer meeting has 34 stakes –18 on the main track and 16 on turf. There are five Grade 1 races, including two on turf – the Gamely Stakes for fillies and mares May 30 and the Shoemaker Mile on June 4. The three Grade 1 races on the main track are the Vanity Mile for fillies and mares June 4 and the Triple Bend Stakes for sprinters and the Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles, both on June 25.

Since the end of the winter-spring meeting, the turf course has undergone maintenance to aerate the surface and patch some areas, Hammerle said.

There are three turf races Thursday, including the Grade 2 Royal Heroine Stakes, and three on Friday. First post is 2 p.m. Pacific on most days.

Hammerle said the course will be used extensively in the coming weeks to give owners and trainers opportunities to run turf horses before the surface is renovated.

“There will be more opportunities than we normally would have,” Hammerle said.

This year, Santa Anita has had a different schedule than in 2014 and 2015, the first two seasons following the closure of Hollywood Park at the end of 2013. In the last two years, Santa Anita ran a marathon six-month meeting from Dec. 26 to late June, followed by a two-week meeting at Los Alamitos in early July.

This year, Los Alamitos ran a three-week meeting in April that divided the Santa Anita winter-spring and spring-summer meetings. The winter-spring meet ended April 10, a day after the Santa Anita Derby.

“This is the first time we’ve ever had a break in April,” Hammerle said. “It came at a perfect time, ending on a high with the [Santa Anita] Derby.”

Three of the last four winners of the Kentucky Derby – I’ll Have Another (2012), California Chrome (2014), and American Pharoah (2015) – were based in Southern California. California-based runners Exaggerator, who won the Santa Anita Derby, and Nyquist, the undefeated champion 2-year-old male of 2015, are top contenders for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

Should one of them win, Hammerle thinks it could spur greater fan interest at the Santa Anita meet.

“It could help build enthusiasm,” Hammerle said.