12/18/2015 2:06PM

Santa Anita prohibits turf workouts to preserve grass course

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Santa Anita has suspended turf workouts for the start of the winter-spring meeting on Dec. 26, racing officials said on Thursday.

Rick Hammerle, Santa Anita’s vice president of racing, said the use of the turf course for workouts “will be evaluated as we go.”

Hammerle said the track is seeking to avoid wear and tear on a section of the course where the hillside turf course joins the main oval at the top of the stretch. Turf workouts are conducted on the outside half of the course. Horses running in hillside races briefly race across the outside of the turf course before running down the stretch.

“As always, we’re more concerned with the crossover,” he said. “If we don’t have the hill, they could run around the outside all they want.”

Hammerle said the tentative plan is for the course to be used for three races on the first two days of the meeting Dec. 26-27.

The course was the subject of widespread concern at the autumn meeting when it produced an uneven surface and more divots than at past meetings. In the days after the autumn meeting in late October, the course was cut to a low level, or “scalped,” and essentially regrown in recent months in advance of the winter-spring meeting.

One wild card for future use is the weather. California is expected to have a wet winter because of an El Niño weather system that produces more rainfall from Pacific Ocean storms than in most years. December has been a relatively dry month, but rain is expected early in 2016.