01/12/2017 2:30PM

Rain washes out Thursday's program

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ARCADIA, Calif. – A week of persistent rain, and the expectation of more wet weather, led Santa Anita officials to cancel an eight-race program on Thursday.

The decision was made before 9 a.m. Pacific as the Southern California area was hit with a strong rainstorm. Track senior vice president Joe Morris said “local weather conditions” were the primary reason for canceling.

Morris said Santa Anita has sustained seven inches of rain in the last “eight or nine days.”

“We’re getting another inch this afternoon,” he said.

Racing was scheduled to resume Friday through Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Morris said the expectation of dry conditions over the weekend, and racing through Monday, factored into the decision.

“We’ve got a Monday [program],” he said. “It’s going to be sunny. We think it’s the right thing to do.

“We could run. The track is good enough to run. It would be wet and sloppy.”

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The area around Santa Anita received more than an inch of rain, and as much as two inches, on Wednesday. Morris said it took him 30 minutes to drive three miles from his home to the racetrack on Thursday morning.

“We’ve got local flooding,” he said. “With it being the end of a long weather cycle, we think it’s the best thing to do for our employees and customers.”

Thursday’s program drew only 55 entries for eight races and did not include any stakes. Racing officials said substitute races will be offered in the coming days to accommodate horses who did not race on Thursday.

Trainer Jim Cassidy, the president of the California Thoroughbred Trainers association, said there was no opposition among trainers to missing Thursday’s program.

“Everyone is okay with it so far,” Cassidy said on Thursday. “The management was not blaming the racetrack.”

The main track was closed for training on Thursday morning, with activity limited to the infield training track. There has not been full training on the main track since Jan. 4.

Cassidy said he is hopeful the main track will be available for full use Saturday morning to allow horses to resume jogging, galloping, or workouts.

The cancellation is the first at Santa Anita in nearly a year since three races were lost last March 11 because of excessive water on the backstretch caused by two hours of rain.

The recent wet weather has been relatively kind to the racing schedule compared to an era nearly a decade ago when synthetic tracks failed to drain properly, leading to frequent cancellations. The track lost 11 days of racing because of poor drainage in the winter of 2007-08 and five days in early 2010.

The synthetic track was removed after the 2009-10 winter-spring meeting.