01/27/2008 12:00AM

Rain may delay Santa Anita track repairs


ARCADIA, Calif. - After nearly 24 hours of maintenance on a soaked synthetic main track, Santa Anita salvaged its 11-race program for Saturday, but the weather forecast for coming days was bleak and could disrupt an overhaul of the surface scheduled for Monday.

Beginning Friday afternoon, track maintenance crews removed approximately two inches from the top of the Cushion Track synthetic surface and worked through the night to replace it with an inch of dry material stored in a parking lot near the backstretch, according to track president Ron Charles.

The maintenance allowed racing to go ahead Saturday, but the forecast for Saturday and Sunday was grim, with as much as four inches of rain expected in a 24-hour period.

Charles said that much rain would likely doom Sunday's program and could lead to a one-week postponement of a four-day maintenance project scheduled to start Monday. The project will add fibers and a polymer binding to the Cushion Track surface, which is a mixture of sand, rubber, and natural and synthetic fibers.

Charles said the maintenance project could be postponed until Feb. 4, at the earliest, if the track is too wet for work to start on Sunday evening.

"We'd probably have to put it off," he said. "If we're going to do this, we have to do it right."

Santa Anita officials are banking that the maintenance project will eliminate the ongoing drainage problems and allow the winter-spring meeting to continue without further interruptions.

As of Saturday, five days of racing have been lost to wet conditions - Jan. 5-7 and Thursday and Friday of last week. In addition, racing has been canceled for Monday and Thursday of this week, meaning that Santa Anita will have lost at least seven days from its 85-day meeting.

Jockeys that rode the first race, a sprint for maiden claimers, did not speak highly of the track. The race was won by Hecouldgoalltheway, who ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.55.

Martin Garcia, who rode third-place finisher Der Van, said the course "was too hard."

Joe Talamo, who rode runner-up Lardog, said the course was "a little too fast. There's no give to it."

Michael Baze finished sixth aboard Chicago Storm.

"It feels like sand," he said. "They go over it kind of weird. I would say it's not bad, just different the way they travel over it."

Saturday's 11-race program was plagued by 15 late scratches, including Georgie Boy from the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Dash. Georgie Boy has not started since winning the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity last September.