01/29/2008 1:00AM

Santa Anita revises repair schedule


ARCADIA, Calif. - The work that will be needed to repair Santa Anita's soggy main track will now have to be done in two steps because of recent wet weather, and will not be completed until the end of next week, according to both Ron Charles, the president and chief executive officer of Santa Anita, and Ian Pearse, the founder of the synthetic surface Pro-Ride.

Pearse said he would need two days this week to make the track level again before adding his polymers and fibers next week.

Pearse has been brought in by Charles to help reconstitute the current main track, which was installed last summer at a cost of more than $10 million by another synthetic surface company, Cushion Track. The track has not drained properly, which has resulted in seven canceled race cards, including Sunday and Monday, through the first 26 scheduled days of a meet that began Dec. 26.

Under a revised schedule, Santa Anita intends to race this week from Thursday through Sunday, then take four days next week for the final work to be done by Pearse. If that schedule holds, Santa Anita would lose two more previously scheduled racing days, Feb. 4 and 7. The first day of racing on the revised surface would be Feb. 8. The meet is scheduled to end April 20.

"We can't do it half-assed, with everything at stake," Charles said this past weekend. "It's important to get this surface down right, get us through the meet, and have something hopefully the whole industry will embrace. What we've got now is chaos. This is the only chance we have, plus it's a long-term solution."

The track was installed level from the inside rail to the outside rail by Cushion Track because the surface was supposed to drain vertically. But because it did not, Santa Anita in recent weeks has created a gradual incline, as with a traditional dirt track, to try and get the water to run off to the sides.

"We have to regulate the track, make sure the depth is consistent," said Pearse, a native of Australia. "Then we can add the polymetric binder. The plan is to regulate the track Tuesday and Wednesday, race Thursday through Sunday, then apply the binders and the fibers next week."

The binders, or polymers, were developed by Pro-Ride. In lab experiments earlier this month with the University of Southern California's school of civil engineering, the polymers allowed the track to drain vertically.

Pearse said the polymers and fibers would be mixed into what's left of the current Cushion Track surface, which is a mixture of sand, rubber, and fibers, all coated in wax. Pearse said spray trucks would be filled with the binder, then would circle the surface. The application of the binder over the surface would be evenly distributed through computer calculations, Pearse said.

"The trucks will be followed by power harrows to mix in the binder," Pearse said. "We will do three applications. It will take two days to put down the binder, then two days to put down the fiber. It's a lot of equipment, and we're on a tight schedule."

Pearse said 125,000 gallons of binder would be needed, and at least 480 tons of fiber.

"Ian is taking a failed product and is fixing it," said Charles, who said he has not had any recent contact with any representatives of Cushion Track.

The schedule outlined by Pearse presupposes cooperation from the weather. The long-range forecast for this week from Weather.com calls for dry conditions until at least Sunday following a storm that was expected to clear out here Monday afternoon. If heavy rain returns this weekend, that would jeopardize the intended timetable.

"Once we get it in, everyone is very confident that we won't miss any more days for the rest of the meeting," Charles said of the maintenance project. "Hopefully, it will be in on Friday the eighth."

This past week, Santa Anita was able to conduct only one of its scheduled five race cards, the Saturday program that included the Sunshine Millions. The track played extraordinarily fast on Saturday, with Bob Black Jack setting a world record of 1:06.53 for six furlongs in the Sunshine Millions Dash and Go Between setting a track record of 1:45.64 for 1 1/8 miles in the Classic.

Racing was canceled Thursday and Friday, and then again Sunday and Monday after a severe storm hit Saturday night and Sunday morning. For the past week, training at Santa Anita has been confined to the infield training track, with the exception of a brief window on Saturday morning. Only eight horses worked on the sloppy training track on Sunday, and eight more on Monday.

At Hollywood Park, no horses worked on its Cushion Track surface on Friday or Sunday, and just one horse worked on Monday.

Entries for Thursday and Friday of this week were taken Monday. This Saturday's card, which already included the Grade 2, $300,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds and the Grade 2, $200,000 Robert Lewis Stakes for 3-year-olds, will also now include the Grade 1, $250,000 Santa Monica Handicap for female sprinters, which was postponed when Sunday's card was canceled.

Charles said Santa Anita will petition the California Horse Racing Board to add make-up dates on previously scheduled dark days in coming weeks. This season, Santa Anita is scheduled to be dark on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Charles said he also has spoken to the racing board about moving some dates to Hollywood Park.

"We continue to talk to the CHRB about Hollywood Park," Charles said. "We're hopeful we won't have to go. We have to have that contingency plan in place."

- additional reporting

by Steve Andersen