06/22/2008 11:00PM

Santa Anita finalizes renovation plans

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Santa Anita will renovate its troubled synthetic main track beginning July 14, adding extensive material from the synthetic surface Pro-Ride in an effort to solve a year-old drainage problem, track president Ron Charles said Monday.

This will be the third time in the last seven months that the surface will be renovated. Work will last until late August or early September, and will be completed less than two months before the Breeders’ Cup races will be run at Santa Anita on Oct. 24-25.

Charles said that the existing asphalt base will be removed and replaced by a gravel base. He said the existing surface, which is made up of the original Cushion Track and the Pro-Ride material from previous renovations, will be mixed with polymers and fibers from the Pro-Ride surface and then reapplied. The Cushion Track surface was installed last summer and has been widely blamed for failing to drain properly last winter.

In early February, the track underwent a similar four-day renovation after Santa Anita lost 11 days of racing in the first five weeks of the year because water failed to drain through the track. The renovation improved drainage through the end of the meeting on April 20, but the track did not drain well again after two inches of rain fell in May.

Ian Pearse, the managing director of Pro-Ride, located in Melbourne, directed the four-day renovation and will oversee the upcoming project. The Cushion Track surface is a mixture of sand, rubber, and natural and synthetic fibers.

“We’re going to totally upgrade the racing surface with Pro-Ride,” Charles said. “We’ll take up all of the asphalt and put in a new base. We’ll be treating the entire surface with Pro-Ride from rail to rail.”

Charles said that some portions of the track were not treated during the February renovation because Pearse concentrated “on the racing lanes.”

“We need to get him to do the entire track and remove the sand that was causing us the problem,” Charles said. “We’re really hoping to get out the parts that have the bad sand that wouldn’t allow it to drain.”

Pearse advised Santa Anita last month to replace the asphalt base in an effort to improve drainage.

Charles said that he has been in contact with Breeders’ Cup officials, informing them of the track’s status.

“I’ve told them what we’re doing and they’re very supportive,” he said.

The Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting will host Breeders’ Cup in 2008 and 2009. The 2008 meeting begins on Sept. 24.

Santa Anita had considered replacing the current surface with a different synthetic surface or even reinstalling a conventional dirt surface before deciding on the current plan.

During the project, Santa Anita will close its barn area and will not conduct training. Hollywood Park officials said last week their racetrack will remain open for stables that do not ship to Del Mar for that track’s meeting, which runs from July 16 to Sept. 3.