06/11/2006 11:00PM

Santa Anita to close main track for inspection


Santa Anita will interrupt training on its main track for as long as two weeks in the next month to inspect the base of the racetrack, track president Ron Charles said over the weekend.

"What we're looking to do is open the track up and look at the base, have the base examined, and make sure it's 100 percent," Charles said.

He said the project would likely take 10 days.

"If we did find problems, it could be longer," he said. "It could go to 14 days."

The inspection comes at a time when some trainers are expressing concern about the condition of the track. Charles said he has not heard significant criticism in recent weeks.

"It's still a concern," he said. "In talking to the experts, I'm trying to have the safest surface coming up for Oak Tree."

The next live race season at Santa Anita is the Oak Tree meeting from Sept. 27 to Oct. 29.

The starting date for the inspection is not clear, pending discussions with horsemen stabled at the track. Santa Anita currently has a full backstretch of horses that will be forced to train only on the track's half-mile training track during the interrupted period. Charles said training hours will be extended to accommodate horsemen. Some trainers say that is little consolation because of warm weather at Santa Anita and the likelihood that more hours will result in overtime pay for stable help. Santa Anita is scheduled to be open for training during the Del Mar meeting this summer. Otherwise, the inspection could be handled during that period.

"We're talking to trainers to see how it would be least disruptive and when to work it out," Charles said. "We'd like to give them a 10-day warning so they can work it out."

The inspection comes at a time when California's Thoroughbred tracks have been ordered to install synthetic surfaces by the end of 2007. Santa Anita is expected to install a synthetic surface next summer.

The inspection has the support of top trainer Richard Mandella, who said his stable has suffered more injuries than normal in recent months.

"We've had a lot of little injuries," he said. "Maybe it's me or (the track), but I'm for looking. They must have some reason for looking" at the base.

Trainer Bill Spawr said his stable has been hit with injuries in recent weeks. He said that the inspection will disrupt preparations for the Del Mar meeting, which begins July 19.

Spawr expressed concern about the amount of time needed for the Santa Anita track to settle after it is rebuilt and how difficult it will be for an entire barn area to train on a small training track.

"You'll have all those horses on a little teacup with all those green horses and all those 2-year-olds," he said of the training track. "One of the main issues is safety."