01/19/2017 2:40PM

As more rain falls, so do bettors' hopes for turf racing

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John Bambury
Recent wet weather has affected turf racing at Santa Anita, officials expect field sizes to increase with drier weather.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Fans of turf racing are suffering under their umbrellas in Southern California this winter.

While much-needed rain continues to aid the environment and fill the state’s reservoirs, turf racing at Santa Anita has been a victim of the conditions. There are no turf races at Santa Anita on Saturday, and wet weather over the weekend makes turf racing doubtful for Sunday.

The last few weeks have seen persistent rain throughout the state.

“We didn’t expect this much weather,” said track senior vice president Joe Morris.

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There was no racing Jan. 12 because of heavy rain that morning and no turf racing Jan. 13-15. There were four turf races on Monday’s 10-race program.

Morris estimated that eight of the last 10 racing days through Monday had been affected by wet weather. The situation has hurt field sizes. Through Monday, fields averaged 7.86 runners per race since the meeting began Dec. 26, compared with 8.45 in a similar period at the start of the 2015-16 winter-spring meeting.

Morris and other track officials expect field sizes to rise with dry weather and greater use of the turf course. Before the meeting began, the track planned two three-day weekends without turf races in April duringthe opening weeks of the spring-summer meeting.

Now, Santa Anita might race on turf those days.

“If it’s in good shape, we will use it during that period,” Morris said.

Morris said business has been relatively steady in the first three weeks of the meeting, with ontrack handle even with the 2015-16 season and a 2 percent decline in all-sources handle, including simulcast and account wagering.

“With all the rain, that’s a moral victory when you look at the scratches due to weather and track conditions,” he said. “We got off to a heck of a good start.”

After Monday, the forecast brightens in the final days of the month, leading to optimism that the Jan. 28 California Cup program will be run in fine weather. The program will have five stakes for California-breds, including two $250,000 races. Morris said that with favorable weather, the track could draw a crowd of 15,000 to 18,000. The corresponding day in 2016 had a crowd of 11,133.

The lost day Jan. 12 will be made up on a date to be determined.