01/09/2008 1:00AM

Santa Anita resumes training


ARCADIA, Calif. - Track president Ron Charles confirmed on Wednesday that Santa Anita officials are strongly considering replacing the Cushion Track synthetic surface with a dirt course for the remainder of the meeting, which runs through April 20.

"We are considering a dirt surface to get us through this meeting," he said after meeting with approximately 85 owners and trainers to discuss methods of repairing the synthetic main track. "We've been looking into it for a number of days."

Wednesday was the first day of full training on the main track since Friday, with 116 horses working at distances ranging from three to seven furlongs.

The track failed to drain sufficiently during last weekend's heavy rain, and Santa Anita did not race from Saturday through Monday. The track sustained more than seven inches of rain from late Friday to early Monday, according to track superintendent Richard Tedesco.

Racing was scheduled to resume on Thursday, the same day that the track was expected to announce its plans for repairing the main track.

"We think we have a program that will allow us to continue racing," Charles said.

Santa Anita would need 10 days of "perfect weather" to replace its existing synthetic main track with a dirt course, according to Tedesco.

"We'd have to work around the clock," he said.

Tedesco said the transition to a dirt track would require 20,000 tons of material. Track officials were searching nationwide for that material on Wednesday, according to Charles and Tedesco.

The racing board is scheduled to meet on Jan. 17 to discuss whether to allow Santa Anita to install a dirt course. The waiver has the support of racing board chairman Richard Shapiro. "We've got to get racing going," he said.

In the short term, the weather is expected to be favorable. As of Wednesday, there was no rain forecast for Southern California through Jan. 18.

Santa Anita also is considering running some all-turf cards, Charles said.

In order to prepare the main track for training, Tedesco said that one inch of Cushion Track material was bladed off the track earlier in the week. The material was stored in a three-foot pile along the outside rail of the backstretch and final turn until Wednesday, when it was hauled to a backstretch parking lot, where it will be allowed to dry.

Tedesco said that at noon on Tuesday he walked to the inside rail, grabbed a handful of synthetic material from below the surface, and "squeezed the water out." But the track had dried out some by Wednesday, he said.

"We did get some sun yesterday and it started to come around," he said.

Charles told horsemen at the Wednesday meeting that Santa Anita was consulting with a synthetic-track expert from Australia on how to drain the surface.

The California Horse Racing Board on Tuesday granted Santa Anita a waiver to conduct racing at Hollywood Park if necessary.

Santa Anita installed its synthetic track last August, but the surface has been plagued with drainage problems since the first rainstorm of the fall in late September.

Santa Anita no longer has all the material used in the old dirt track. Some of it was divided into paperweight-sized portions and given away as a promotion last fall during the Oak Tree meeting.