12/16/2008 12:00AM

Pro-Ride handles heavy rain

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Despite two inches of rain pummeling Santa Anita the previous day and a half, it was pretty much business as usual here on Tuesday morning, with horses galloping and working out over a synthetic Pro-Ride surface that trainers said passed its first major test of wet weather.

"In the past, we wouldn't even be training today," trainer Eoin Harty said. "They would have had to seal it."

Sealing is done on dirt to pack down the surface, preventing water from seeping in. Horses are kept off the main part of track to guard against water penetrating the surface. On Pro-Ride, the water drains vertically.

"If it was dirt, we'd be on a sealed track jogging around dogs," trainer Dan Hendricks said. "And over the weekend, you had hundreds of horses work. People forget, they have short-term memory, just how bad this track was when you had that many workers."

"The track is good. And it was good yesterday," said trainer Bobby Frankel, who worked several of his better horses on Tuesday.

A total of 24 horses recorded works at Santa Anita on Tuesday. There were four workers on Monday, following huge work days Saturday and Sunday in advance of the storm. Across town at Hollywood Park, there were no works on Monday, and four on Tuesday.

Harty said the Santa Anita track was "very good considering the amount of rain we had."

"You could work horses on it this morning," he said. "It's taken the rain very well."

Richard Tedesco, the track superintendent at Santa Anita, was grinning widely Tuesday morning, satisfied with the reaction he was getting.

"This is like heaven compared to last year," Tedesco said.

Santa Anita last winter lost 11 days of racing - three were subsequently made up - when its previous synthetic surface, Cushion Track, failed to properly drain.

"Last year, I'd drive through the gates and I feared what I'd find," Tedesco said.

Tedesco said there were still a couple of "little problem areas we're trying to correct."

"Some little drainage spots," he said. "We're catching them, and getting them out of the way."

Following training on Tuesday, track maintenance workers were seen addressing a spot on the main track near the 3 1/2-furlong pole, where the backstretch ends and the far turn begins.

Mr. Rod unlikely to run in Futurity

Hendricks on Tuesday said he was leaning against putting Mr. Rod in the Grade 1, $750,000 CashCall Futurity on Saturday at Hollywood, and would likely stick with his original plan to go next in the $75,000 Eddie Logan Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 27.

Mr. Rod most recently led from gate to wire in the Generous Stakes on the turf at Hollywood. By going in the Logan, he would remain on turf.

"The question is whether we stick to the original plan or get greedy," said Hendricks, who trains Mr. Rod for Cecil Peacock. "Plus, he'd have to supplement to the Futurity for $20,000. He's paid for himself, but it looks like it will be a big field with a lot of speed.

"I don't think we need to knock him out. We'll probably wait for the Eddie Logan."

The Futurity field is expected to include Axel Foley, Azul Leon, Backbackbackgone, Bittel Road, Chocolate Candy, Frumious, Hype, I Want Revenge, J P Jammer, Massone, Pioneerof the Nile, and Ventana.

Also Saturday is the Cat's Cradle Handicap, a 7 1/2-furlong race for California-bred fillies and mares. Bai and Bai was assigned top weight of 120 pounds, two more than Tiz a Blend.

Turf condition key for Valbenny

Frankel said the condition of Hollywood's turf course on closing day Sunday may determine whether he runs Valbenny in the Grade 2, $150,000 Dahlia Handicap, or awaits the Grade 2, $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap on Jan. 4 at Santa Anita. Both races are for older fillies and mares. The Dahlia is 1 1/16 miles, the San Gorgonio 1 1/8 miles.

"If it's soft, I might wait for the San Gorgonio," Frankel said after Valbenny worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 on Pro-Ride on Tuesday morning at Santa Anita. "Or if it's a big field and she draws bad, I might not run."

Valbenny closed furiously to finish fourth in the Las Palmas Handicap at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting on Oct. 24. She was assigned 117 pounds for the Dahlia, five fewer than the topweight, Vacare.

In addition to Vacare and Valbenny, others expected for the Dahlia include Belle Allure, Don't Forget Faith, Grace and Power, Green Lyons, I Can See, In My Glory, Lady Digby, Place de L'etoile, and Storybook.

Lady Digby also worked on Tuesday at Santa Anita. She went five furlongs in 1:04 for trainer Graham Motion.

Harty sad to see Shapiro step down

Harty has been a big supporter of California's move to synthetic surfaces, and was disappointed to learn of Monday's resignation of Richard Shapiro from the California Horse Racing Board. Shapiro, as chairman, quarterbacked legislation requiring all major tracks to switch to synthetic surfaces by the end of 2007.

"It's kind of a shame - he's been the most effective board chairman that I've seen since I've been here," said Harty, a native of Ireland who has lived in California for more than 20 years. "He was the first one who took some initiative. I think he'll be badly missed."

Star Nicholas may try Classic

Star Nicholas may have earned a spot in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic by virtue of his victory on Sunday in the On Trust Handicap for California-breds, trainer Peter Eurton said.

The Sunshine Millions Classic, for Cal-breds and Florida-breds, will be run this year at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 24. It is at 1 1/8 miles. The On Trust was 7 1/2 furlongs.

"I've always thought he was better at 7 1/2 furlongs or a mile, but maybe not," Eurton said. "I've thought a mile and an eighth is too far, but we'll have to see. He's getting better all the time. He's got a good turn of foot. He's not a typical late-closing sprinter."

Star Nicholas, 5, has made great progress in recent months.

"We've been able to keep him healthy," Eurton said. "He had a lot of issues early on, typical baby things like shins."