02/22/2016 12:20PM

Santa Anita to replace turf course this summer

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Susie Raisher
Santa Anita Park will replace its turf course with Bermuda grass ahead of this fall's Breeders' Cup.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Santa Anita will replace its turf course with a Bermuda grass surface this summer in advance of an autumn meeting highlighted by the Breeders’ Cup races on Nov. 4-5, track senior vice president Joe Morris said on Sunday.

The transition is scheduled to begin in July following the conclusion of the spring-summer meeting July 10. The track’s autumn meeting starts Sept. 29.

Morris said meetings are taking place this month to organize the change.

“We’ll probably look at laying down some Bermuda,” Morris said. “We’re meeting this week on what we’ll do.”

He said the break between the spring-summer meeting and the autumn meeting allows sufficient time to replace the existing surface, which is rye and Bermuda turf.

“It gives us close to three months,” he said.

The course has been used sparingly in some ways during the current winter-spring meeting. Before the season began Dec. 26, the track announced that there would be no turf workouts, which were typically held twice a week in good weather.

The course was not used for racing Jan. 7-10 after approximately five inches of rain fell Jan. 5-7. Morris said the course took an inch of rain Wednesday and early Thursday, leading to the removal of races from the hillside turf course from Friday through Sunday. There was no turf racing Friday, but races were run on the oval portion of the course Saturday and Sunday.

Morris emphasized that track policy is to take a cautious approach to running races on the hillside following wet weather to ensure adequate footing. Over the weekend, the hillside portion of the turf course underwent renovation that included fertilizing, mowing, and rolling the course in an effort to promote growth, Morris said.

The entire course will be renovated in a similar fashion in April during the Los Alamitos spring meeting, in advance of the spring-summer meeting May 5.

“In April, we’ll continue the same maintenance,” Morris said.

The existing course came under scrutiny last autumn for producing more divots and kickback than usual. In November and December, maintenance crews cut the course to a low level and essentially regrew the surface before the start of the winter-spring meeting.

In recent months, the temporary rail settings have been altered as often as twice a week to allow runners to race on ground that was as fresh as possible and to avoid deterioration.

There are two turf races scheduled for Thursday and Friday, including a sprint on the hillside course Friday.

Jockeys have said that the kickback is not as severe at the current meeting as it was last fall, but that the condition of the course remains an issue.

“It’s still a little loose,” jockey Joe Talamo said.

Talamo said the course was once in “unbelievable” condition, and he’s hopeful that it can be restored to better condition.

“When they get it right, it will be good,” he said.

Steve Guise More than 1 year ago
The turf course was designed as an all weather track, built of Silica Sand and Peat moss and reinforced with "Turfgrid" two dimensional fibers. The sand sizing, inclusion rate of the fiber, and selection of the Tifway 2 Bermuda grass were all completed after many years of testing. Each year the surface was stripped off and regrown to provide a level and with well rooted turf. In the winter it was overseeded with specific Perennial ryegrasses selected from Turf Trials done at UC Riverside to protect the Bermuda base. Agronomists were on staff or consulted to oversee the course on a daily basis and the turf agronomic program was passed down within the Gardening and Turfcourse management for many years. Basic principles in Agronomic cultural practices were followed with testing done daily to know the moisture content and hardness of the surface. We seem to have gotten away from managing the Turf Course using technical expertise and turfgrass experts. Gulfstream Park is even worse! Don't reinvent the wheel, just go back to the original recipe and management practices.
John More than 1 year ago
Hummm, if Santa Anita is so bad, Im wondering why the Breeders Cup is so excited to return at least every other year ! Its not Santa Anita's fault with the turf course. The track is a ONE MILE OVAL.......so, ??? California has had a terrible drought. Water has been limited and the on again, off again rains , with heat in the winter is throwing all plants, trees and grass into turmoil. Ill bet come Breeders Cup, it will be racings highlighted day of racing !
Frank More than 1 year ago
they need to just turn SA into a dog track -- the racing oval is to small and needs to be reconfigured like Gulfstream park did. I refuse to bet at santa anita. The track is not fair and the turf course is just awful.
Vince Piscitelli More than 1 year ago
Rumor has it that Dog racing starts THIS Thursday. Can someone please verify? Vince P
RingForFrodo More than 1 year ago
At least a Dog Track has at least 8 betting interests per race. Santa Anita had only 58 starters last Friday. Barely seven per race. (Oaklawn Park had 87, almost 10 per race).
Marty More than 1 year ago
California racing has gone to hell with everything else in the state. What a horrible shame. I have followed and supported T-bred racing here for 40 plus years. I won't touch them now and it's only going to get worse. Very sad!