12/15/2007 12:00AM

Drainage woes lead to more delays

EmailSanta Anita has further delayed the opening of its synthetic main track for training until Wednesday at the earliest as tests continue on solutions to a drainage problem that has plagued the surface in recent months.

Track president Ron Charles told the California Horse Racing Board at a meeting on Friday that track officials continue to test different blends of wax, sand, rubber, and fiber to solve a drainage problem that has prevented training on the surface since Dec. 5.

The problem has plagued the Cushion Track brand synthetic surface through the fall. The course was installed last summer. There is an urgency to the renovation since Santa Anita begins its winter-spring meeting on Dec. 26.

"We're hoping to have horses on the track by Wednesday," Charles told the racing board. "We'll know more on Sunday and Monday. We're not going to put them on something that isn't safe."

After the meeting, Charles said that renovation will not disrupt the opening of the winter-spring meeting. "We will be racing on the 26th, that's for sure," he said.

Tests are being conducted this weekend in the seven-furlong chute using several different plots of synthetic material, Charles said. "We have areas with more rubber, less rubber, and more sand and less sand," he said.

Charles said that the drainage capability of the synthetic surface "has definitely improved" in recent tests. "We feel we need to continue looking," he said. "We did a test last night and we're doing a number of tests" on Friday.

Two additional types of sand are being tested this weekend, with a decision expected by Sunday on what blend of material will be used, Charles said.

"Over the weekend, we'll be working, putting back the surface that we have and adding what we think will drain," he said.

There is an added concern in coming days because the threat of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday could lead to further delays in the renovation.

The current renovation project began earlier this month when the synthetic surface was stripped to its asphalt base and washed of fine sand and wax that was preventing water from flowing through the asphalt and into a drainage system.

The renovation was expected to take one week, but will be closer to 2o1/2 weeks if training resumes in the middle of the coming week.

To accommodate trainers based at Santa Anita, the track has extended training hours on its infield training track and subsidized horsemen who send horses to Hollywood Park for workouts.