06/23/2011 7:36PM

Santa Anita to close track for two weeks in July for surface renovation

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Santa Anita will close its main track for as long as two weeks next month to correct an imbalance in the sand and clay content, track officials told the California Horse Racing Board on Thursday.

Track president George Haines said the main track is tentatively scheduled to close on July 11 for 10 to 14 days to allow a renovation that will remove the top part of the cushion and replace it with sand that will be blended into the remaining cushion.

The project has an estimated cost of $300,000, and will involve removing 7,500 tons of material and adding 7,500 tons of sand, Haines said.

“The end result is we want to reduce 50 percent of the existing cushion, replace it with clean sand and reduce the clay content,” Haines said after the racing board meeting.

The surface was installed last fall to replace a synthetic track, and it was first used for racing during the winter-spring meeting from late December to late April.

“We started off with a great track and unfortunately it changed,” Haines told the racing board. “We know the composition has too much clay, and the way to solve that problem is to dilute that with clean sand.”

The issue is foremost for track management, the racing board was told.

“We take this issue very seriously,” Greg Avioli, the president of the Stronach Racing Group, told the racing board.

Stronach Racing is scheduled to take control of Santa Anita and Frank Stronach’s other North American racing entities from another Stronach-led company, MI Developments, at the end of June.

Ted Malloy, track consultant for Stronach’s tracks, will oversee the project, Haines said.

Haines said it was unclear when horsemen would be able to resume training on Santa Anita’s main track, but said a target date of the final days of July was likely. During the closure of the main track, the infield training track will remain open.

“We hope it will settle quickly,” he said of the racing surface. “We have to blend it thoroughly.”

Hollywood Park is expected to keep its barn area open for a few weeks after the end of its spring-summer meeting on July 17 to accommodate Los Angeles-area horsemen wanting to work horses in the second half of July. Santa Anita’s main track is scheduled to be open for training through August.

Del Mar opens on July 20 and officials with that track expressed concern at Thursday’s meeting that the closure of Santa Anita’s main track in July would affect the ability of horses to be ready for that meeting.

Santa Anita recently launched a test renovation in part of the seven-furlong chute. Haines said a simulation of two inches of rain in a 24-hour period will be conducted on the test area in coming days to see how the new material responds.

Racing board executive director Kirk Breed said main-track renovations are likely to be frequent in the future. “Every racetrack, whether it’s synthetic or dirt, has to be augmented on a periodic basis,” Breed said. “Some material lasts longer.”

Haines said the sand to be used for the renovation is at Santa Anita and available for installation. The track is aiming for a composition of 87.5 percent sand, 8 percent silt and 4.5 percent clay. Studies conducted at various times during the race meeting revealed that the sand content ranged from 76.8 to 79.2 percent, silt content was as high as 15.8 and as low as 13.1 percent and that clay content ranged from 6 to 8.7 percent.
Of the tests conducted on Santa Anita’s track this year, Breed said, “We’ve learned a lot from the experience. These tracks can be safer. These tracks can be better.”