05/23/2007 12:00AM

Santa Anita chooses Cushion Track


Santa Anita will install a Cushion Track synthetic surface this summer, track president Ron Charles said on Wednesday.

As a result of the track's long-awaited decision, the two major Los Angeles racetracks will have the same type of synthetic surface. Hollywood Park installed a Cushion Track in September 2006, the first California track to install a synthetic surface.

The Santa Anita synthetic track will be used for the first time at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting that begins on Sept. 26. The project has an estimated cost of $8 million.

Santa Anita officials had been considering four surfaces – Cushion Track, Polytrack, Tapeta Footings and Pro-Ride, a material used at training centers in Australia.

Charles said that popularity of the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park was a major factor in Santa Anita’s decision. "It is impossible to ignore how well horsemen have received" the Cushion Track," he said.

"We’re installing these surfaces for one reason to keep horses safer and sounder and protect our inventory. The other thing is this will be a terrific way to attract horses from other states."

Santa Anita track officials visited racetracks throughout the world, inspecting synthetic surfaces. "We believe that we have done very thorough due diligence," Charles said.

The California Horse Racing Board mandated in 2006 that all California tracks that run at least four consecutive weeks of Thoroughbred racing must installs a ynthetic track by the end of 2007 or risk losing racing dates in 2008.

Del Mar installed a Polytrack surface this spring, which will be used for the first time this summer. Golden Gate Fields will install a Tapeta Footings surface this summer, which will debut in the fall. Bay Meadows has not installed a synthetic surface, and has sought a waiver to allow it to race in 2008 on a conventional dirt surface.

The installation of a synthetic track will begin shortly after the Del Mar meeting begins on July 17. The backstretch at Santa Anita will be closed for training from late July to early September, allowing work crews to remove the existing track and begin installation of a Cushion Track. The project is expected to be completed by the end of the Del Mar meeting on Sept. 5.

Cushion Track is manufactured by Equestrian Surfaces of Burnley, England. The material consists of silica sand mixed with synthetic fibers, elastic fiber and granulated rubber. The material is coated with a blend of wax.