01/21/2010 1:00AM

Santa Anita hopes to resume racing Saturday


By Steve Andersen

ARCADIA, Calif. - After losing three weekday programs because of continued drainage problems with its synthetic main track, with the most recent the loss of Friday's card, Santa Anita officials are hoping to salvage racing on Saturday and Sunday.

Track officials made the decision to cancel Friday's program on Thursday morning as rain continued to pelt the racetrack. Earlier in the week, the Monday and Thursday programs were canceled because of wet conditions.

The track absorbed approximately 5 1/2 inches of rain from Sunday through Thursday morning. Rain was falling at lunchtime on Thursday, with an additional 1 1/2 to 2 inches of rain expected until midday Friday, when the last of the storms are expected to clear the area, according to track superintendent Richard Tedesco.

"We'll get 6 1/2 or 7 before this is over," Tedesco said.

The Pro-Ride synthetic surface has been unable to withstand the significant rain that has hit Southern California this week.

"Richard seems to have a good feeling that we can race on Saturday," track president Ron Charles said after announcing Friday's cancellation.

Tedesco said an aeration process has aided drainage, but that an area past the finish line, near the winner's circle on the outside part of the track, remains a major concern. He said extensive renovations would be needed in that area to promote drainage before racing could resume.

Tedesco said his crew planned to replace the material in that section of the track when a break in the rain occurs.

"I've got a spot at the winner's circle that's really bad," Tedesco said Thursday morning. "The whole track is raceable, but that spot has gone far into the middle of the racetrack. I've got to take that out and I've got some [material] I can put back in."

There was no standing water on the track early Thursday, but surface water was visible by late morning after steady rain.

Another rainstorm, which forecasters have told Tedesco will drop a half-inch to three-quarters of an inch of rain, is expected on Tuesday. He said the current aeration procedure should be able to withstand that amount of rain.

"It will work with that," he said. "It's a learning process. I've learned what to do. If I know rain is coming, I'll aerate all night so I'll get it so it can drain."

Santa Anita has had drainage trouble at times with its synthetic track since such a surface was installed in August 2007. The original Cushion Track surface installed in 2007 failed to drain properly, leading to the cancellation of 11 days of racing in the winter of 2007-08. The poor drainage led officials to overhaul the surface with Pro-Ride synthetic material in February 2008 and more extensively in the summer of 2008.

No racing days were lost during the 2008-09 meeting.

The conditions that led to Santa Anita's cancellations have not affected training at Hollywood Park this week, with a limited number of workouts in recent days.

Track president Jack Liebau said Santa Anita's surface woes have not influenced Hollywood Park's decision to retain its Cushion Track synthetic surface.

"I think that the problems that are being encountered at Santa Anita do not relate to their synthetic surface but to their drainage systems," he said. "It's far different from what Hollywood Park and other tracks across the nation have installed. Unfortunately, it didn't work.

"I think it's a bad rap. They have an all-weather track that is not working. I don't think it's fair to blame the synthetic surface. We had horses on our track this morning. So far, we haven't encountered any trouble."

Del Mar officials said Thursday they have no plans to replace their Polytrack surface.

"Our track is draining, so is Golden Gate and so is Hollywood Park," said director of racing Tom Robbins.

"I go back to the days when I was at Santa Anita," said Robbins, noting that when it rained, "we didn't have days of training every day and we lost days of racing on occasion. We still believe in this thing. Ours is draining and it's doing what it designed to do."P