12/20/2010 3:05PM

Santa Anita reopens main track for training

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Benoit & Associates
Santa Anita's new dirt track, here earlier this month on the first day of training, is in good shape for Sunday's opener despite overnight rain.

Santa Anita opened its rain-deluged main track for training Monday for the first time since Friday, but track president George Haines said severe rainstorms expected through Wednesday could curtail training this week. The winter-spring meet opens Sunday.

Temporary cones were placed midway across the track to protect the inside of the surface Monday, and the track was open for jogging and galloping. There were three recorded works on the main track, which was listed as muddy.

The rainfall caused the first disruption to training for the sand and clay main track, which was installed in November and opened for use Dec. 6.

On Saturday and Sunday, the main track was closed, forcing horsemen to exercise their horses on the infield training track, which also was used extensively Monday.

The weather forecast is for rain through Wednesday.

“We’re looking at two inches of rain today,” Haines said Monday. “The weather reports say two inches of rain and a lull tomorrow and more coming back through Wednesday.”

Haines and other track officials were scheduled to meet with horsemen on Monday to brief them on the situation and the expected training schedule this week.

“We’ll go over the forecast, and when we can open the track and when they can resume their schedules,” Haines said. “It’s more for communication.”

Since Friday, Santa Anita has been hit with approximately six inches of rain as a series of Pacific storms has pelted Southern California. The deluge led to the cancellation of the final seven races of Hollywood Park’s Sunday program after jockeys expressed concern to track management about the condition of the Cushion Track surface on part of the backstretch.

Haines said that Santa Anita’s new surface has drained sufficiently in recent days, despite the high amount of rain. The track has been sealed to force water off the surface and not saturate the ground.

“We got a good response from the horsemen, even though they’re jogging and not working,” Haines said. “The seal is working as much as can be expected. We’re out there with steel floats that get the water out of the surface.”

The new track replaced a Pro-Ride synthetic surface that was plagued with drainage problems in wet weather for the last three years. The track lost 11 days of racing during the 2007-08 meeting, the first season with a synthetic surface, and five days of racing earlier this year because of poor drainage.

Darrell Vienna, the Southern California vice president of the California Thoroughbred Trainers, said he did not notice any major damage to the track on Sunday morning.

“I didn’t see any washouts or any rivulets,” he said. “It looks like it’s sealed.”

Friday through Wednesday, may drop as much as 10 inches, he said.Vienna said that Arcadia, Calif., where Santa Anita is located, gets approximately 17 to 18 inches of rain a year. The current rainstorm, from

“The main concern is not how quickly we can get the track open but that it’s good for opening day,” Vienna said. “That’s our primary concern. We’re in the midst of a huge rainfall. The issue isn’t synthetic or dirt. It’s substantial rainfall.”

The long-term forecast is favorable. There is no rain forecast beginning Thursday. That could lead to a resumption of normal training by the end of the week in advance of opening day. Sunday’s forecast is for a high temperature of 62 degrees and a 10 percent chance of rain.

“I’ll take it,” Haines said.