01/18/2011 9:30AM

Santa Anita adding sand to racing surface


ARCADIA, Calif. – Santa Anita began adding sand to its main track last weekend, a procedure that was scheduled to conclude on Tuesday and one designed to replace material lost during severe rainstorms in the last month, track president George Haines said.

The track sustained 15 inches of rain in late December and early January. No rain has fallen since Jan. 3.

“Because of the heavy rains, some of the sand has washed way and we’ll replace it,” Haines said on Monday. “I do think this is extraordinary because of the amount of rain that we had in the surface. That much rain is going to accelerate your maintenance program. We want to get it back where it was.”

The decision to add sand was made after track officials consulted with horsemen. Haines said that the amount of sand added to the sand-and-clay surface would range from 300 to 500 tons, depending on advice from Michael DePew, a soil scientist advising track officials.

The procedure began last weekend each evening after the races when sand was added with a spreader. Track maintenance superintendent Richard Tedesco said the new material would add as much as a quarter-inch of depth to the surface.

“It’s not a huge amount of sand,” Tedesco said on Monday. “If you add all that once, it’s less than a quarter of an inch.”

Haines said the additional sand could slow race times. There have been three track records – at 6, 6 1/2 and 7 furlongs – since the surface was first used on the opening day of the winter-spring meeting on Dec. 26.

The surface was installed in November and early December, and was first used for training on Dec. 6. The surface replaced a synthetic track that was in use for three years, but was plagued by drainage problems in wet weather.

Aside from the additional sand, the surface will be roto-tilled on Tuesday, a process that mixes the upper layer of the surface to avoid compaction.

“It’s not compacting too much,” Tedesco said. “If you stick a probe in it, it’s going in.”

Tedesco said the roto-tilling procedure will be conducted on a weekly basis, often on Monday afternoons, which will give the maintenance staff time to alter the track, if necessary, before racing resumes on Thursdays.

“That gives us two days to regulate the track,” Tedesco said.