01/28/2008 12:00AM

Santa Anita cancels till Thursday

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Santa Anita officials canceled Sunday’s nine-race program Sunday morning after overnight rains left standing water on the synthetic main track.

Through Sunday, Santa Anita has lost seven days of racing at the winter-spring meeting that began Dec. 26 because of drainage problems in its Cushion Track surface. Two more racing programs had been canceled -- Tuesday and Thursday -- in the hope of commencing a maintenance project that track officials believe will solve the drainage problem.

But the project, which is expected to take four days to complete, cannot begin until the track is relatively dry, according to track president Ron Charles, who said it was too wet to start the project on Sunday. The start of the project has now been postponed until the evening of Feb. 3.

Charles said that Santa Anita has amended its racing schedule over the next 10 days to accommodate the new timing for the project. Racing remains canceled for Monday but is scheduled for Thursday through Sunday this week, after which the maintenance will begin. There will be no racing Monday, Feb. 4 until the project is finished, which Charles said should be in time for racing to resume on Friday, Feb. 8. Charles said there was a slight possibility that racing could begin on Thursday, Feb. 7.

The project will add polymer and fibers made by the Pro-Ride Racing company to the Cushion Track surface, which consists of a mixture of sand, rubber, and natural and synthetic fibers. The Cushion Track mixture uses wax, instead of polymer, as a binding agent and has failed to drain properly when exposed to substantial rainfall.

Sunday’s program was cancelled at 7:30 am. Pacific time.

“There’s too much standing water,” Charles said shortly after the decision was made. “We couldn’t get the track in safe condition.”

Saturday’s Sunshine Millions program was the only day of racing conducted at Santa Anita over the weekend. Racing was canceled on Thursday and Friday after significant rain on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Maintenance crews worked overnight Friday to prepare the track for Saturday’s program, removing two inches of wet material from the surface and adding an inch of dry material that had been stored in a parking lot adjacent to the backstretch.

The track was described by jockeys as “hard” on Saturday and produced fast times throughout the day, including a six-furlong world record of 1:06.53 set by Bob Black Jack in the Sunshine Millions Dash.

Saturday’s program was run in dry conditions, but rain began falling on Saturday evening and continued through the night. The storm was not expected to end until Monday. “We’re looking at maybe an inch” of additional rain on Sunday, Charles said.

On Sunday, the main track was vacant, and the only training occurred on the infield training track.

The cancellation of Sunday’s program resulted in the postponement of the $250,000 Santa Monica Handicap, a Grade 1 for fillies and mares over seven furlongs. The race might be run on Saturday, a program that already features four stakes races, including the $300,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds and the $200,000 Robert Lewis Stakes for 3-year-olds.

Santa Anita will approach the California Horse Racing Board about a contingency plan to add racing dates or move some racing dates to Hollywood Park in the event of further washouts, Charles said on Sunday. The current meeting runs until April 20.

“We continue to talk to the CHRB about Hollywood Park” Charles said. “We’re hopeful we won’t have to go. We have to have that contingency plan in place.”

The upcoming maintenance project will be conducted around-the-clock to be completed in minimal time.

“Once we get it in, everyone is very confident that we won’t miss any more days for the rest of the meeting,” Charles said. “Hopefully, it will be in on Friday the 8th.”