07/07/2008 11:00PM

Cushion Track to get overhaul


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Hollywood Park will close its main track for up to three days in the coming weeks to conduct maintenance on the synthetic surface, track president Jack Liebau said on Tuesday.

Liebau said that 20 tons of fiber and rubber will be added to the Cushion Track brand synthetic surface sometime after the current meet ends on Sunday. The material is being shipped by boat from England, where the Cushion Track surface was manufactured.

Trainers based at Hollywood Park have been critical of the surface in recent weeks, noting a rising number of injuries.

"One injury is one injury too many," Liebau said. "The track is not performing as well as it did. We'll try to get it back as good as it was."

Liebau said the track may have to be closed "for two or three days" to complete the maintenance. The Cushion Track surface consists of wax, fiber, rubber, and silica sand. It was first installed in August 2006. The surface has undergone significant maintenance twice in the last year - wax was added in July 2007, after the spring-summer meeting, and again in April of this year, in advance of the current spring-summer meeting.

The maintenance could include an application of wax, Liebau said.

"We may re-wax; it depends on some tests this week or next," Liebau said.

The surfaces were expected to need less maintenance when they were introduced at four California tracks 2006 and 2007, but Liebau said that has not been the case.

"It's clear in my mind these synthetic track need maintenance," Liebau said. "The maintenance is probably more intense on these tracks than on a dirt track."

Two leading trainers at Hollywood Park - John Sadler and Jeff Mullins - said Tuesday that surface is badly in need of repair. Sadler is the leading trainer at the meeting with 27 wins.

"The track is a little worn out at the end of the meet," Sadler said. "It needs refreshing."

Mullins was a fan of the Cushion Track surface when it was installed in 2006, but his enthusiasm has waned, he said.

"It's a far cry from what it was when they put in," Mullins said. "We've had freakish kinds of injuries. I don't have the confidence in the track as I did when they first put it in."

Oceanside next for Dixie Chatter?

Dixie Chatter, the winner of the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes last September, is likely to pass Saturday's $350,000 Swaps Stakes in favor of Wednesday's $100,000 Oceanside Stakes on Del Mar's opening day, trainer Richard Mandella said.

Dixie Chatter, sidelined with an ankle injury last fall, is winless in two starts this year, with a third in the Grade 3 Laz Barrera Memorial Stakes on May 18 and a third in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap on June 15.

Mandella said the Oceanside Stakes, which is run at a mile on turf and is restricted to horses that have not won a first-place purse of $50,000 this year, is more appealing as an easier spot.

"I'm leaning more to going to the Oceanside," he said. "He's not won a stakes this year, and he's eligible. The Swaps is coming up pretty salty."

The Swaps field is led by Colonel John, the winner of the Santa Anita Derby, and Behindatthebar, the winner of the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland in April.

Mandella said that he has been somewhat disappointed with Dixie Chatter's performances this year.

"I'm not moving forward as fast as I thought I would," he said. "I'm not losing faith. With the Del Mar Derby coming up on the turf, I've got a little condition stakes in the Oceanside, and I can try to build on that."

Owned by breeder Herman Sarkowsky, Dixie Chatter has won 2 of 6 starts and $217,116. The colt has never run on turf.

Get Funky's stock keeps rising

Get Funky's win in Sunday's Robert Kerlan Handicap has left Sadler further convinced that the 5-year-old horse belongs in the newly created $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint on the hillside turf course at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting on Oct. 25.

Get Funky, undefeated in two starts on the hillside turf course, won the third stakes of his career in the Kerlan, which was run over six furlongs on turf. Ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr. Get Funky rallied from seventh to win by a head over Jungle Prince.

Get Funky won the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby over 1 1/8 miles on turf in 2006 and the Morvich Handicap on Santa Anita's hillside turf course last October.

"I think his best races have been down the hill," Sadler said.

Owned by Keith Abrahams, Get Funky is being considered for two turf stakes at Del Mar - the $85,000 Green Flash Handicap over five furlongs on turf on Aug. 13 or the $400,000 Del Mar Mile on Aug. 24.

"We'll consider going in the Del Mar Mile," Sadler said. "I might come back in the Green Flash, but it may be too short."

The Morvich Handicap, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 24, is likely to serve as a prep to the BC Turf Sprint.