02/21/2008 1:00AM

Santa Anita to install new surface

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Santa Anita will replace its synthetic main track following the conclusion of the winter-spring meeting on April 20, the track's president, Ron Charles, said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a daylong panel on synthetic tracks convened by the California Horse Racing Board, Charles said a decision has not been made on what surface will be installed.

The decision to replace the surface will mark the end of a tumultuous eight-month period. Last summer, Santa Anita installed a Cushion Track surface which failed to drain, leading to the cancellation of 11 days of racing in January and early February. Following a five-day renovation in early February, which incorporated polymers and fibers from the Australian synthetic surface Pro-Ride, the track has drained well after two minor rainstorms.

"This is a surface that will only last us until the end of the meet," Charles said. "We'll have to make a major change at the end of this meeting. It's going to be critical.

"We're at a crisis. We've got to get it right."

Santa Anita is open for training year-round, but there will be no live racing after the end of the current meeting until the start of the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting Sept. 24. Santa Anita will host the Breeders' Cup in late October, the first time the event will be held on a synthetic surface. Greg Avioli, the president of the Breeders' Cup, did not return calls Thursday seeking comment on Santa Anita's plans to change its synthetic surface.

The state racing board has mandated that all major tracks in California race on a synthetic surface. There are currently three brands in use in California: Cushion Track at Hollywood Park, Polytrack at Del Mar and Tapeta Footings at Golden Gate Fields.

"I've got an open mind," Charles told the racing board. "We're going to go back out and weigh everything. Hopefully, we'll make the best decision possible."

Santa Anita installed the Cushion Track surface last summer. A mix of sand, rubber, and fibers coated in wax, the Santa Anita surface differs in composition from the Cushion Track surface at Hollywood Park. The Hollywood Park Cushion Track was blended in England and shipped to the United States. The Santa Anita surface was mixed in the United States and used U.S. sand.

At Wednesday's meeting, officials from Del Mar and Hollywood Park said they will be making changes to their racetracks before their next race meets.

Hollywood Park, which opens a meeting in April, will add wax to its surface, and may add more rubber and fiber, pending the results of an analysis, according to the track's general manager, Eual Wyatt.

Del Mar, which starts a summer meet in July, plans to conduct tests on whether it should water its Polytrack surface, according to Martin Collins, a developer of Polytrack. There were complaints last summer that Del Mar's racetrack changed over the course of a day - producing quick times during morning workouts but slower conditions in the afternoon.

"We'll try to make it resemble the track in the morning," Collins said. "We think it will probably solve the biggest part of the issue. If that doesn't get the track where we want it, we will apply another coat of wax to it."