08/11/2010 4:14PM

Expert studying Santa Anita surface


Racing surface expert Mick Peterson began a study on the safety of Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride synthetic surface on Tuesday, and said Wednesday that he will present a preliminary report on his findings at the California Horse Racing Board’s monthly meeting in Del Mar on Aug. 19.

Peterson, a professor of engineering at the University of Maine, was hired by the racing board over the weekend to inspect the synthetic surface at Santa Anita, which has been the subject of criticism from horsemen’s groups concerned about the presence of rocks in the surface and drainage problems.

Santa Anita began a renovation to deal with the drainage problem in late July.

Peterson and racing board executive director Kirk Breed began their inspections of the surface on Tuesday and later that day met with representatives of the California Thoroughbred Trainers, Santa Anita, and the Oak Tree Racing Association, which is scheduled to host a five-week autumn meeting at Santa Anita starting on Sept. 29.

“I’ve still got to analyze [the data] and it will take me about a week,” Peterson said. “I’ll have a preliminary report at the racing board meeting and a final report not too long after that.”

Peterson did not elaborate on his early findings. “I’d heard about a shallow cushion and I’m not seeing that,” Peterson said. “There were so many rumors.”

Breed said no conclusions had been reached as of Wednesday.

“In terms of determining what is going on with the racetrack and what it needs to be race ready, I don’t think I’m ready to make a statement yet,” he said. “I think the problems the track has are in the process of being solved. The track has not been compromised to the point where it is beyond solution.

“The rock issue is a real issue and we have measured that to a certain extent and we know what needs to be done and we’ve told the operator what needs to be done.”

The Santa Anita synthetic surface has been troubled by poor drainage in recent years, particularly in an area near the finish line. Santa Anita lost five days of racing during the winter-spring meeting because of insufficient drainage earlier this year.