11/20/2011 8:25PM

Hollywood Park: Jockeys refuse to ride last three races because of unsafe track conditions


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Hollywood Park canceled the final three races of its nine-race Sunday program after jockeys deemed that the Cushion Track surface, primarily areas on the backstretch, was unsafe after sustaining an estimated inch of rain.

As a result, a pick six pool of $356,005 was refunded in full after three of the six races had been run. Thursday’s eight-race program will begin with a pick six carryover of $62,888, which had carried over from Saturday into Sunday.

Wagers were refunded on the late pick four and a pick three, both of which began in the sixth race. Consolation payoffs were distributed on the daily double that began in the sixth race, worth $5.40, and the pick three that began in the fifth race ($106.70). The consolation payoff in the place pick paid $235.60.

Jockeys Martin Pedroza, Mike Smith, and Joe Talamo said there were areas on the backstretch that failed to drain sufficiently after four hours of rain. Smith said that areas near inclines used in the morning as paths for horses to travel to and from the backstretch to the barns were the areas of greatest concern.

“It wasn’t draining on the backstretch at all,” Smith said. “The same thing happened last year by the gap areas. The riders didn’t feel comfortable.”

Smith rode the first race but did not ride again until the sixth race. By then, he said, riders were not happy with the condition of the backstretch.

“We felt it wasn’t safe in that area,” he said. “The front side was fine.”

Talamo rode the second through sixth races, five of which were on the main track.

“It was pretty deep,” he said. “It just got deeper and deeper. We wanted [to ride], but I don’t think the horses would get over it.”

Pedroza rode the first and sixth races on the main track, and said, “The front side was not that bad, but the backside was uneven.”

Light rain began falling in late morning, and intensified after lunch. Rain stopped after 3:30 p.m., but by then the last three races were lost. Track surface consultant Dennis Moore estimated that the track sustained an inch of rain, and track general manager Eual Wyatt Jr. said that three-tenths of an inch fell following the fourth race.

This is the second time in the last year that Hollywood Park has canceled racing because of poor drainage after rain. Following two days of rain, racing was canceled after two races last Dec. 19, the final day of the winter meeting.

Sunday’s situation marked a rare occasion when the pick six was canceled during the races.

According to Hollywood Park mutuel department officials, California Horse Racing Board rules state that the pick six is to be refunded if only three or fewer races are contested. If a fourth or fifth race of the bet had been completed, but later races canceled, then the pool wagered on Sunday would have distributed and any carryover amount would not have been distributed, but held over to the next day of racing.