02/15/2011 12:18PM

Santa Anita seeks to cut four Wednesday cards in March

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ARCADIA, Calif. – Santa Anita is tentatively scheduled to eliminate racing on the first four Wednesdays of March and run three five-day weeks, on a Wednesday-through-Sunday basis, beginning March 30 through the end of the meeting on April 17, according to track president George Haines.

The plan is subject to further discussion among Santa Anita officials and the approval of the California Horse Racing Board, Haines emphasized.

“The question is what we will do in March,” Haines said. “We’re still talking. We have to talk to the racing board.”

Santa Anita has run primarily four-day racing weeks since the meeting began Dec. 26 and originally scheduled to run five-day racing weeks in March and April. But with concern over field sizes and an overall drop in the Thoroughbred population in Southern California, the track is looking to reduce its schedule.

Through Sunday, fields have averaged 7.76 runners per race, compared to an average of 7.99 runners during a similar time period at the 2009-10 meeting. For the entire 2009-10 meeting, fields averaged 7.81 starters per race.

This week, the track is running five days, from Thursday through Monday, and will be dark on Tuesday and Wednesday before resuming racing for four days, beginning Feb. 24.

The tentative plan for March would eliminate racing on March 2, 9, 16, and 23, and begin five-day weeks on Wednesday, March 30. Haines said the track would reinstitute a promotion on Fridays during the five-day racing week, offering free general admission on April 1, 8, and 15.

“Our thinking is that we’ll go to free Fridays on a five-day week,” Haines said.