03/02/2016 10:28PM

Santa Anita to suspend grass racing in June to replace course


ARCADIA, Calif. - Santa Anita will cease turf racing in early June on the hillside turf course and in mid-June on the oval portion of the turf course to replace the surface, track officials announced late Wednesday.

The track plans to install a Bermuda grass surface in advance of an autumn meeting highlighted by the Breeders’ Cup races on Nov. 4-5. The autumn meeting starts on Sept. 30.

Races on the hillside course will be conducted through June 5, and on the oval through June 19, three weeks before the end of the spring-summer meeting on July 10. The spring-summer meeting begins May 5.

Track officials said in late February that the turf course would be replaced this summer. Details were outlined on Wednesday.

The replacement of the turf course will affect the stakes schedule of the spring-summer meeting, which is expected to be announced in the next week.

Track officials said they decided to cease turf racing before the end of the spring-summer meeting to allow sufficient time to remove the existing course and replace it with sod currently being grown in La Quinta, Calif.

The new course will be Bermuda; the current surface is rye and Bermuda turf.

“Turf racing is extremely popular with our fans and horsemen,” track senior vice-president Joe Morris said in a statement on Wednesday. “With our expanded racing calendar, we are placing demands on the course that have never before existed.

“The new turf is designed to be robust enough to handle the additional use. The horsemen are fully supportive of this project, and together we look forward to its implementation.”

Since 2014, Santa Anita has run a spring-summer meeting from April through early July. Those dates were previously held by Hollywood Park, which closed in 2013. This year, Santa Anita will not run for most of April while Los Alamitos holds a three-week meeting.

Santa Anita has struggled to maintain its turf course in the last six months, since the autumn meeting last year. The course came under scrutiny last fall for producing more divots and kickback than usual. In November and December, maintenance crews cut the course short and essentially regrew the surface before the start of the current winter-spring meeting.

The course has not been used to the same extent this meet as in past years. Before the meet began, officials announced that no turf workouts would be held. Turf workouts were typically held two mornings per week in past meets.

When significant rain fell in early January, the course was not used the following week. In recent months, temporary rail settings have been altered as often as twice a week to allow runners to race on fresh ground and avoid deterioration of the grass.

The existing course will have a brief respite from racing this spring when Los Alamitos runs its spring meeting from April 14 to May 1. During that time, the Santa Anita course is expected to undergo a renovation that will include fertilizing, mowing and rolling the course in an effort to promote growth.