02/08/2008 12:00AM

Horsemen frustrated by lost races


ARCADIA, Calif. - A return to a normal racing schedule cannot happen soon enough for many stables based in Southern California.

Santa Anita lost 11 of the first 33 days of its winter-spring meeting after the synthetic surface failed to drain following two major rainstorms in January and a four-day renovation project that began last Sunday and was expected to be completed late Friday.

Racing was scheduled to resume Saturday, with full main-track training scheduled for Saturday morning.

The cancellations have led to frustrations for owners and trainers, who have seen racing plans for horses badly disrupted. In some cases, owners have received bills for the care and training of horses that have been unable to race because of cancellations.

"We're losing time and losing money and we won't get it back," trainer Bill Spawr said. "I don't see how we'll get it back."

Spawr said the cancellations last month cost some owners "$150 to $200" per missed start for medications such as Lasix and Bute. The medications must be given several hours before a race and were administered before the cancellations were announced.

"I've had two horses treated at 10 a.m. and then they decided they wouldn't run," Spawr said.

As he spoke, Spawr looked over the newly-renovated Santa Anita main track.

"What about this?" he said. "We don't know."

Earlier this week, a polymer and binder from the Australian synthetic surface company Pro-Ride was added to the existing Cushion Track surface in an effort to aid drainage.

Trainer Mike Machowsky said he recently fielded a phone call from a frustrated owner who received a $15,000 training bill for a three-horse stable.

"He hasn't been able to run a horse at the meeting," Machowsky said.

Machowsky has had seven starters at the meeting, with one victory, and said he would have "seven or eight more" starters if cancellations had not occurred.

"It's starting to hurt me," he said. "I'll make it up, but you only have so many good races at a certain time for horses. You get geared up for a meeting and you're in a hovering mode.

"We're trying to maintain a fitness edge, keep them happy. I hope it all works out."

Machowsky suggested that the racetrack run as many as 13 races a day, but track officials said that is not practical.

As an alternative, Santa Anita will race this Wednesday, carding the races that were canceled Friday, according to track president Ron Charles. Friday was the fourth consecutive racing day lost. Races were run on Feb. 2, but the Feb. 3 program was canceled because of rain. Racing was not held last Monday, Thursday, or Friday because of the renovation.

Charles said Santa Anita is likely to approach the California Horse Racing Board with a request to add racing on three additional Wednesdays - Feb. 20 and 27 and March 5. He said more Wednesdays may be added in March and April, depending on the availability of horses.

To further make up for lost racing, Santa Anita will add a race on weekdays, going from eight races to nine; and is likely add a race on weekends, going to an 11-race program effective Feb. 16-17.

La Tee aims to learn from last trip

La Tee appeared on her way to victory in an allowance race on the hillside turf course last month when the act of crossing from the hillside turf to the main oval appeared to take her by surprise. She faded through the stretch to finish fifth as the 6-5 favorite.

The incident was not a negative experience, from the perspective of trainer Mark Glatt. He expects La Tee to benefit from that race when she starts in the $75,000 Wishing Well II Handicap for fillies and mares on the hillside turf course Sunday.

"She had a little trouble crossing the dirt," Glatt said. "I'm hoping she handles the crossing this time, a lot of horses do when they have experience.

"She was cruising right along until she hit the dirt. By the time the others had gotten to her, it got a little tight. A filly came over and bumped her. I think that was enough excuse there."

Owned by Allen and Susan Branch, La Tee has won 2 of 4 starts. The recent allowance race was her first start since a ninth-place finish in the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap at Del Mar last July. Glatt believes La Tee will thrive in longer races as her career develops.

"I still think her best will be going around two turns, but this is a good spot," he said.

There are 13 fillies and mares in the Wishing Well II Handicap, but the race will have a safety limit of 12 starters.

The 118-pound highweight is Foxysox, a four-time stakes winner. Trained by Carla Gaines, Foxysox was third in the Paseana Handicap here Jan. 14, her second start following a layoff of nearly nine months.

Spring at Last likely to skip Big Cap

Spring at Last, winner of the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park last weekend, is unlikely to start before the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 29, trainer Doug O'Neill said.

Even though Spring at Last has returned to O'Neill's base in Southern California, the 5-year-old horse is not considered a candidate for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 1.

"We're thinking Dubai World Cup if we can keep him going the way he's going right now," O'Neill said. "We want him full tilt for the World Cup."

Owned by Paul Reddam and WinStar Farm, Spring at Last has won 5 of 11 starts and $1,137,650. He won the Godolphin Mile in Dubai in 2007 in his first start overseas.

Moss reappointed to CHRB

Jerry Moss, the prominent owner-breeder, has been reappointed to the California Horse Racing Board by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Moss, 72, has served on the racing board since 2004. Along with his wife, Ann, Moss is the owner of such prominent horses as Giacomo, the winner of the 2005 Kentucky Derby; and Tiago, the winner of the 2007 Santa Anita Derby.