11/26/2008 12:00AM

Pro-Ride holds up to soaking


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Santa Anita's Pro-Ride synthetic main track successfully withstood approximately two inches of rain late Tuesday and early Wednesday, the first significant rain to fall on the surface since it was installed in August.

Last winter, the track lost 11 days of racing when the Cushion Track synthetic surface then in place failed to drain sufficiently following several rainstorms. The poor drainage led officials to overhaul the surface during the summer, in time for the Breeders' Cup in October.

Wednesday morning, there were 46 recorded works on the main track, which was well received by trainers.

"It's in good shape," said trainer Jack Carava. "It looks exactly the same, normal. We got a decent amount of rain."

"I worked a couple, and it seemed to be pretty good," said trainer Clifford Sise. "I think there were a couple of soft spots, one near the three-quarter pole, but it seemed to be in good shape."

Santa Anita's track superintendent, Richard Tedesco, said the track was expecting an inch of rain early Wednesday and received double that.

"I'm very happy with the track," he said. "It's great. They were talking about an inch to an inch and a half."

Until Wednesday, the course had received minimal rainfall since it was installed.

Last Friday, Tedesco and his maintenance crew soaked the track with enough water to simulate more than an inch of rain as a way to check drainage. Tedesco had hoped to simulate two inches of rain, but ran out of time. He said the water drained without incident.

"We didn't quite get two inches on it because of darkness," Tedesco said. "We saw that it would drain."

Santa Anita's summertime refurbishment of its main track was the third major overhaul of the surface since a Cushion Track synthetic surface was installed in August 2007. An inspection of the base was conducted last December after it failed to drain properly last fall. The problem intensified in January and February, when elements of the Pro-Ride synthetic surface were added to the Cushion Track surface during a four-day renovation directed by Ian Pearse, the founder of Pro-Ride.

During that process, the sand that was hampering drainage was treated with fibers and polymer from the Pro-Ride surface. A more extensive renovation project began in mid-July and was completed in late August. More than 14,500 tons of sand was mixed with Pro-Ride polymer and fiber in Santa Anita's parking lot and then laid onto the racetrack.

Court Vision gunning for Grade 1 again

Court Vision has conquered every surface he has tried. He won a maiden race on a synthetic track at Keeneland in October 2007, won two stakes on the dirt main tracks at Churchill Downs and Aqueduct last fall, and won his first stakes on turf in the Grade 2 Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park last month.

Court Vision has yet to win a Grade 1, though it has not been for a lack of trying. He was third in the Wood Memorial in April, 13th in the Kentucky Derby in May, and sixth in the Travers Stakes in August. Sunday, Court Vision will start in a Grade 1 on turf for the first time in the $500,000 Hollywood Derby at Hollywood Park.

The distance of 1 1/4 miles and the surface could provide the colt with his biggest win.

"He's one of those unusual horse that does a little bit of everything," trainer Bill Mott said. "He's won graded stakes on dirt. I think he's certainly capable of good races on synthetic. He seems to have taken it to another level on the turf. You don't see that many that do all three."

Court Vision won the Jamaica Handicap over 1 1/8 miles by three-quarters of a length over Gio Ponti. The two finished in a reverse position in the Grade 2 Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs in July, with Gio Ponti winning by a nose.

The Virginia Derby proved that Court Vision could be effective over 1 1/4 miles. The colt did not have the same luck in his two other attempts at the distance - a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby and a wide trip in the Travers Stakes.

"It was a horror show," Mott said of the Travers.

In the Hollywood Derby, Court Vision is a leading contender in a race expected to draw at least eight other entrants: Albahri, Cowboy Cal, Dixie Chatter, Gio Ponti, Madeo, Midships, Muny, and Sailor's Cap. Madeo, winner of the Del Mar Derby and a troubled second in the Oak Tree Derby last month, will be well backed.

More turf stakes ahead

The Hollywood Derby is one of three Grade 1 races in the six-race Autumn Turf Festival, which is conducted from Friday through Sunday. The other Grade 1 races are Friday's $400,000 Citation Handicap for older horses and Sunday's $500,000 Matriarch Stakes for fillies and mares over a mile on turf.

There are two Grade 3 turf races on Saturday's program - the $100,000 Generous Stakes for 2-year-olds over a mile and the $150,000 Hollywood Turf Express over six furlongs.

The Generous is led by Bittel Road, who won two stakes earlier this year and was eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf on Oct. 25, and Battle of Hastings, the winner of two minor handicaps in England in late summer.

The Turf Express field includes California Flag, who won the Grade 3 Morvich Handicap at Santa Anita on Sept. 24 and was 10th in the BC Turf Sprint on Oct. 25.

* The rain that fell early Wednesday led to three turf races on the day's program to be shifted to the main track. That cost the first race two of its five starters. Silent Soul ($12.40) led throughout, winning an allowance race over 1 1/8 miles.

* Friday's program starts at 12:30 p.m. There are no more Friday evening program for the remainder of the meeting, which ends on Dec. 21.