06/29/2016 12:56PM

Sod laid for new turf course


ARCADIA, Calif. – Installation of new sod on the oval portion of the turf course at Santa Anita was scheduled to be completed Wednesday, June 29, a track official said.

Santa Anita is replacing its turf course after widespread complaints about the level of wear and tear and the number of divots being kicked up.

The new turf, called Bandera Bermuda, must be mature enough to sustain racing starting with the opening day of the track’s autumn meeting on Sept. 30. Santa Anita hosts the Breeders’ Cup races on Nov. 4-5.

The course will need a lot of water and sun, according to Santa Anita senior vice president Joe Morris.

“The experts said it will need 45 days to be rooted and ready,” Morris said. “We’re giving it 90. It likes the 100-degree weather. It’s a newer strain that does fairly well in these conditions.”

Sod installed on the hillside turf course in early June had showed sufficient growth that it was scheduled to be mowed Wednesday, Morris said.

Morris described the hillside course as “looking good.”

“I pulled a piece of it up, and it’s really rooted,” he said.

There was no training on the main track from Monday through Wednesday to allow maintenance crews greater access to the turf oval to install the sod. Training was restricted to the infield training track.

Morris declined to reveal the price tag of the new course but said the track hopes the surface will last 20 to 30 years.

“It’s a significant investment,” he said. “We race in winter, spring, summer, and fall. We have to have a surface for year-round.”

Morris said three crews worked on the installation of the nine-acre oval portion of the course. Each crew was able to install an acre each day. Some trainers expressed disappointment on Wednesday morning that the project was not completed in two days, in time to allow main-track training on Wednesday.

Morris said the extra day was needed in case of delays.

“You don’t know what we’ll get into when you get going,” he said.

Racing ceased on the hillside turf course June 5 and on the oval course June 19. Over the next month, as the grass grows, the turf courses will be rolled for consistency, aerated in late July, and treated with fertilizer.

Horses will be allowed to exercise on the surface after the conclusion of the Del Mar summer meeting on Sept. 5.