12/03/2007 12:00AM

Rain delays Santa Anita track work

EmailINGLEWOOD, Calif. - Rainy weather last Friday forced Santa Anita officials to delay the start of a main-track renovation project until after training concluded on Tuesday.

The labor-intensive project is expected to take at least seven days and will require the removal of the synthetic main track for an inspection of the asphalt base, according to the track's president, Ron Charles.

The project is intended to solve a drainage problem that has plagued the Cushion Track brand synthetic surface since it was installed last summer. The renovation was supposed to start on Monday, but was pushed back a day after rain on Friday left trainers in need of additional time to work their horses.

Santa Anita's main track was not used for workouts on Saturday and Sunday because of drainage problems.

Charles said the renovation will focus on removing a fine sand from the asphalt base. The sand has prevented water from draining through the asphalt, he said. Once the fine sand is removed from the asphalt, an inch of a coarser type of sand will be installed above the asphalt to aid drainage.

Charles described the current track condition as a "nightmare," saying that fine sand had settled in the asphalt.

"With wax on top of that, it made a very good seal," Charles said.

"We'll strip [the track] and go down to the asphalt and clean it out in preparation of making sure the asphalt drains properly," Charles said, explaining the renovation project. "There is so much of [the base] that has sealed and is not draining. Right now, we're looking to add an inch of new sand above the asphalt and mixing in additional sand with the synthetic material."

Tests have been conducted with the coarser sand added to the asphalt base in the seven-eighths backstretch chute, and the project was successful. The water in the chute "went straight through after the last rain," Charles said. "It's been in the last couple of days that we've felt comfortable with how we're moving forward."

There is some urgency to the project. While the track is closed, trainers will be forced to exercise their horses on Santa Anita's training track while the renovation is completed. A few trainers even sent horses to Hollywood Park for workouts over the weekend.

In addition, Santa Anita needs to complete the renovation to allow full training in the weeks before the start of the track's winter-spring meeting on Dec. 26.

"We're doing everything we can," Charles said. "We're certainly hoping to get done in seven days. The critical part is to get the sand very consistent."

Hollywood has some work done, too

Hollywood Park's Cushion Track synthetic surface required renovation on Sunday morning after an uneven area developed near the six-furlong pole on the backstretch.

Hollywood's track superintendent, Dennis Moore, and his staff worked on the surface during the regularly scheduled renovation during morning training hours. It was unclear what caused the uneven area, but Moore said, "We may have lost some material there."

Moore said that Hollywood Park received 0.80 of an inch of rain on Friday and had otherwise experienced no problems from the wet weather.

"I think the rain may make it better than it is," Moore said. "These courses are designed to take rain."

A recent spell of fast times, including a track record of 1:40.90 for 1 1/16 miles by Romance Is Diane in Saturday's Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap, was not a surprise, Moore said.

"I think a track with life to it will produce fast times," Moore said. "It comes back to horses better."

There were 176 recorded works on the main track at Hollywood Park on Sunday morning. The morning workouts were marred by the death of Coastal Eddy, the winner of a maiden claimer at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting in October. Trained by Eoin Harty, Coastal Eddy was euthanized after suffering a knee injury following a five-furlong workout.

Sugar Shake off to the farm

Sugar Shake, who finished last of five in the Bayakoa Handicap, has been retired and will be bred in 2008. She will be sent to owner Frank Stronach's farm in Kentucky this week, trainer Bobby Frankel said.

Sugar Shake was scheduled to be retired after the Bayakoa regardless of the outcome, Frankel said. Sugar Shake was racing just behind pacesetter and eventual winner Romance Is Diane until the end of the backstretch when she faded from contention.

"We scoped her, and she was fine," Frankel said.

Bred by Stronach, Sugar Shake won 6 of 16 starts and $500,636. She won three stakes in 2007 - the Gradeo2 El Encino Stakes in January, the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap in February, and the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm Handicap in November.

Three head Turf Cup

Sunriver, the winner of the Bowling Green Handicap in July; the European import Champs Elysees; and the Santa Anita stakes winner Spring House are the leading contenders for Saturday's $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup.

Run at 1 1/2 miles on turf, the Grade 1 Turf Cup is also expected to include Heroi Do Bafra, Isipingo, Obrigado, Runaway Dancer, and Sudan.

Spring House won the Grade 3 Carleton Burke Handicap against Isipingo and Runaway Dancer at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting on Oct. 28.

Cerin fined, but ban is stayed

Trainer Vladimir Cerin has been fined $7,500 and had a 15-day suspension stayed after two of his starters at the 2006 Fairplex Park meeting tested positive for the banned medications norpseudoephedrine and phenylpropanolamine, according to a ruling issued by Hollywood Park stewards Friday.

The penalties were part of a stipulated agreement between Cerin and the California Horse Racing Board, according to the ruling. The suspension is stayed if Cerin has no further violations in drug classes 1, 2, or 3 through Aug. 31, 2008.

Positive tests for norpseudoephedrine and phenylpropanolamine are classified as Class 3 violations. The two medications can be found in urine after the ingestion of herbal products containing ephedra.

In a separate ruling, the stewards ordered that Off the Richter's owner, Dante Racing Stable, his trainer, Cerin, and jockey Martin Pedroza forfeit the $7,800 earned from a third-place finish in the fifth race on Sept.o10, 2006, the $65,000 E.B. Johnston Stakes. The prize money was ordered redistributed to Redmeansgo and Fortunate Event, the original fourth- and fifth-place finishers in the stakes for fillies and mares.

Trainer Paul Assinesi has been fined $750 after Missing Treasure, the runner-up in the second race at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting on Oct. 12, tested positive for the diuretic trichlormethiazide, a Class 6 medication. Purses are not redistributed for medication violations in Class 6.

McCutcheon, onetime trainer, dies

Former trainer J.R. McCutcheon, better known by his nickname, "Coach," in honor of his previous career as a football coach, died Friday after a long battle with Lou Gehrig's Disease. He was 83.

McCutcheon is survived by two daughters, including Sally Valenti, the widow of one of California's most prominent owners and breeders in the 1980s, Pete Valenti. McCutcheon's wife, Dorothy, died earlier this year.

McCutcheon, who served in the Army during World War II, owned and trained for 39 years after an accomplished career as a head football coach at the high school and college levels in California. He won four California Interscholastic Federation championships and was a longtime coach at Antelope Valley (Calif.) Junior College.

As a trainer, McCutcheon won 319 races.

According to Valenti, a memorial service for McCutcheon will be held Dec. 11 at 11 a.m. at The Fountains Mobile Home Park, 3530 Damien Ave., La Verne, Calif. Handicapper and journalist Gordon Jones will deliver the eulogy.

In lieu of flowers, Valenti requested that donations be made to the Antelope Valley College Foundation, 6215 Edna Road, San Luis Obispo, CA 93402.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman