12/20/2007 1:00AM

Santa Anita may reopen for training Saturday

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - Santa Anita officials on Thursday were hopeful that training on the main track could resume Saturday for the first time since Dec. 5, but some Santa Anita-based trainers said the absence of main-track training for more than two weeks has left some of their horses behind schedule. That may have an effect on entries during the first few days of the winter-spring meeting that begins on Wednesday.

Santa Anita has been renovating its Cushion Track synthetic surface, which has been plagued by significant drainage problems since being installed in August. Earlier this week, the track failed to drain properly after more than an inch of rain fell.

On Thursday morning, maintenance crews were adding rubber and fiber to the surface in hopes that they will improve drainage.

Some trainers say they want to exercise their horses on the track for a day or two when it reopens before placing entries. Entries for the first two days of the meeting - Wednesday and Friday - will be taken on Sunday.

Like many trainers based at Santa Anita, Jack Carava has worked horses on the infield training track in recent weeks to keep them fit, but said that "some of my horses don't take their work as seriously" on the training track.

"I'll probably have to run less, because the ones I worked, they didn't work well enough on the training track to warrant running them," he said. "The horses that ran three weeks ago and had a few easy works, they can run. Horses that are coming back from longer layoffs, I'll need a little longer and need more time to know where I'm at with them. It's hard to say what the track will be like. It could be terrific."

Trainer Dan Hendricks said that he is most concerned with the condition of younger horses.

"I think it hurts with the maidens and the non-starters," he said. "I don't see any problems for horses that ran at Hollywood. They've kept their fitness and may be sharper."

Crews began spreading small pieces of rubber into the synthetic track Thursday at 8:30 a.m. and were still doing so at noon.

"We're trying to get that rubber in as consistently as possible," the track's president, Ron Charles, said. "It looks like we'll have horses on it on Saturday."

With a full barn area, racing officials are hoping there will be big fields for Wednesday, which draws one of the largest crowds of the meeting.

"I still think there are enough [horses] out there that are ready to go," said Mike Harlow, Santa Anita's director of racing.