12/21/2010 12:55PM

Santa Anita track closed for training again, but should be ready for opening day

Barbara D. Livingston
Track superintendent Richard Tedesco said the total amount of rain from a series of Pacific storms could reach 11 or 12 inches.

Santa Anita’s new racing surface has sustained more than nine inches of rain from Friday through dawn on Tuesday, leading to the cancellation of main track training on Tuesday for the third time in four days.

With further rain expected through Wednesday, the rain total from a series of Pacific storms is likely to reach 11 or 12 inches, according to track superintendent Richard Tedesco, who closely monitors the weather.

Tedesco said if the forecast is accurate, and rain stops late Wednesday, that the sand and clay track should respond quickly to maintenance, allowing for limited training on Thursday and wider use on Friday. The Santa Anita meet begins on Sunday.

“They’re telling us two to three [inches of rain] could hit us from Tuesday night into Wednesday,” Tedesco said. “Thursday, we’re looking at the start of a clearing trend and that will bring us better weather on Friday. We should have sun. We’ll probably have a ton of works on Friday.”

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Tedesco anticipates no problems for the surface by opening day. He realizes that racing enthusiasts will be closely monitoring the new surface on Sunday and through the meeting.

“I’ve got to say the track has weathered the storm,” Tedesco said. “We’ll know more when we open it up to racing depth and see how the horses handle it. It will be wet but it won’t be mushy. I’m hoping that we have a tremendous opening day. The world is watching.”

The main track was closed last Saturday and Sunday and reopened for joggers on the outside part of the track on Monday morning. Significant rain on Monday night and early Tuesday prevented main track training on Tuesday.

The disruption has been a hindrance to trainers trying to prepare their runners for the winter-spring meeting. They have been forced to exercise horses on an infield training track in recent days.

Tedesco said he has arrived at Santa Anita at 2 a.m. the last few days to assess the condition of the surface and to what extent training can occur. Tuesday, he prepared to open the track for limited training, but reversed course when weather advisors said steady rain would fall through the morning and that any break in the weather would be later in the day.

“We said, ‘Let’s not roll the dice,’” Tedesco said. “The lull could be later this afternoon.”

In recent days, Tedesco and his crew have floated the track, compacting the surface to allow water to flow off the top and not saturate the ground.

“It packs it down and it keeps the water flowing across the track,” he said. “It doesn’t sit in puddles. I was on the tractor myself and we’re keeping the water moving. For nine inches this track is in pretty good shape.”

By Thursday, he said better weather will allow more training. “If we have a clear day, we’ll open it on for horses,” he said. “It’s going to be wet but it will be usable.

“The weather for the weekend is promising. We had another storm waiting out there, nothing big, but they're telling us it might stay north. Hopefully, we open on Sunday with clear weather.”

The surface was installed in November and opened for training on Dec. 6. The installation of the new surface ended a three-year run with synthetic tracks that were plagued by drainage problems during wet weather.

Tedesco said the track has a reserve of 2,500 to 3,000 cubic yards of new racetrack material on the property to replenish the surface, if necessary.

“We can go grab it and fix a hole or whatever,” he said.