02/05/2008 1:00AM

Entries taken for Friday as project rolls on

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Santa Anita officials took entries on Tuesday for a hoped-for return to racing on Friday, but Ron Charles, Santa Anita's president, cautioned that while he hoped renovation of the beleaguered main track would be completed by Friday, he was willing to wait an extra day if necessary.

"We're certainly going to try to race on Friday," Charles said Tuesday afternoon, "but everyone agrees that the most important thing is to get it right. It's critical to take the time to have the surface consistent all the way around with the polymer and the fiber."

Polymer and fiber are being installed this week by the synthetic surface company Pro-Ride, whose founder, Ian Pearse, was brought in to try and solve the riddle of why the Cushion Track at Santa Anita was not draining properly. Santa Anita is usually dark on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and the track canceled racing on Monday and Thursday this week to do the work.

Charles said that Pearse and Santa Anita's track maintenance crew, headed by superintendent Richard Tedesco, worked on the surface until 1 a.m. on Tuesday, then resumed again shortly after 7 a.m. on Tuesday to take advantage of a warming sun.

On Monday afternoon, according to Charles, the distribution of the polymer over the surface took longer than expected, owing to inconsistency in the material of the original Cushion Track surface. As a result, in order to be certain the polymer was distributed evenly, tanker trucks had to make additional passes over the surface, which put the project a bit behind schedule, Charles said.

"But things have picked up today," Charles said Tuesday. "We're working just about around the clock. But we're not going to rush to get back to racing by a certain date. We want the surface to be consistent."

Including the cancellation of Thursday's card, Santa Anita has lost 10 of its first 32 scheduled days of racing this meet. Charles said he is willing to sacrifice one more day, Friday, if that means getting it right and not having to cancel again through the end of the meet, on April 20.

Charles gave the racing office the okay on Tuesday morning to take entries for Friday. Entries for Friday were scheduled to be taken on Monday, but were postponed so that track management would have a better line on the progress being made on the main track's renovation and whether racing Friday would be feasible.

Regardless of when racing resumes, there will be a pick-six carryover of $181,514 awaiting. No one hit the pick six on Saturday, the last day Santa Anita was able to race.