12/20/2007 12:00AM

Rain keeps Santa Anita track closed

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - Santa Anita's Cushion Track surface, which has been closed to training since Dec. 5, was hit by more than an inch of rain overnight on Tuesday and did not drain sufficiently to allow horses to resume training on Wednesday, as track officials had hoped.

Training has been postponed until at least Friday or Saturday, following the completion of additional maintenance procedures, track officials said. The winter-spring meeting starts on Wednesday.

The surface has been plagued by drainage problems since it was installed in August. The track was used for the first time during the Oak Tree meeting, which ended Nov. 4. Earlier this month, officials began testing for a mix of sand, wax, fiber, and rubber that would allow the track to drain properly.

The track had to be sealed before rain fell late Tuesday to prevent water from seeping into the surface. Water had pooled on the surface of the track early Wednesday. By mid-morning Wednesday, maintenance crews were "floating" the track to remove water from the top of the surface.

Mike Harlow, Santa Anita's director of racing, said the synthetic surface sustained 1 1/2 inches of rain.

"Obviously, it didn't do what they thought it would," Harlow said. "The weather changed the plans."

Harlow said that maintenance crews intended to add additional fiber and rubber to the existing sand and wax on Wednesday and Thursday after the surface dried. Adding fiber and rubber is the final element of the reconstruction project, which was expected to take a week but now has stretched on for more than two weeks.

"We'll dry it out and continue mixing," Harlow said. "We'll have a different sort of surface. It's still Cushion Track, but a different mixture."

Complicating matters was a weather forecast that called for more rain on Thursday. No additional rain was forecast between Friday and opening day.

Maintenance crews have been conducting tests in the seven-furlong chute of different blends of synthetic materials. Earlier this month, the asphalt base of the track was cleaned of fine sand and wax that was believed to have prevented the surface from draining properly after it was installed during the summer.